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Bayern Munich v Barcelona – live Champions League

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LIVE: Bayern Munich v Barcelona – as it happens from the Allianz Arena

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25min: GOAL! BAYERN MUNICH 1-0 Barcelona

It's been coming and finally the German side's pressure pays off. A corner eventually finds Dante inside the area and his headed effort back across goal is powerfully nodded home by Thomas Muller.

22min: Bayern are slightly fortunate to win a corner as Jordi Alba was adjudged to have failed in keeping the ball in play, but Robben's set-piece is punched clear by Valdes before the visitors win a free-kick for an infringement inside the box.

19min: The home side continue to look dangerous as they go forward but whether it's by handball or other means, the Barcelona back-four isn't struggling too much to cope with the German side. Going forward though it's a different story as Lionel Messi and Co have yet to get into the game.

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

16min: A strong penalty claim from Bayern Munich, as Philipp Lahm's shot is clearly blocked from a raised Pique arm. It's very subtle from the defender but he is very fortunate to get away with that.

14min: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern have never lost a CL semifinal match at home (5W – 1D). Their only draw was in April 1995: 0-0 against Ajax.

11min: A very even opening to a game which neither side has yet to take control of. Barcelona's passing looks better at this stage but it's Valdes who has had to make the only save of the match so far.

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

8min: In fact one or two players are slipping on other areas of the watered pitch as Barcelona win their first corner, which is headed wide by Gerard Pique.

5min: The home side have settled now but we have the bizarre case of a waterlogged pitch.

There's been no rain in Munich today but the centre-circle is holding standing water from what is most likely from the sprinklers that watered the pitch before the game.

2min: It takes nearly 80 seconds for Bayern to touch the ball but they carve out the first opportunity. Arjen Robben's through pass feeds in Javi Martinez, and after the forward returns the favour with a cut-back, the winger's low shot is well blocked by Victor Valdes.

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Kick-off: Away we go at the Allianz Arena as Barcelona possession is immediately jeered by the home crowd.

19.41: Both sets of teams are on the field, as the home fans raise red and white cards to represent Bayern Munich's colours.

19.36: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern are the first German team to play two consecutive Champions League semifinals since 1998/1999, 1999/2000 and 2000/2001, when they themselves achieved this feat.

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

19.31: Viktor Kassai is in charge of tonight's game – with the Hungarian a lucky charm of some sort for Barcelona.

He oversaw their 4-0 win over AC Milan at the Nou Camp earlier this year and was also in charge of the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley where the Spanish side defeated Manchester United 3-1.

Bayern Munich last had the official in their 2-1 defeat at Real Madrid in last year's semi-final.

19.26: They may be stars everyone wants to see but Barcelona were greeted by jeers from the home fans as they took to the pitch for their warm-up.

19.23: Whatever you think of this current Bayern Munich team there is no denying how impressive their current form is. They have won 19 of their last 20 matches in all competitions – with that one blemish being the second-leg defeat against Arsenal in the last 16.

Jupp Heynckes' team have won all 13 Bundesliga games this year and are on course for the treble having reached the final of the German cup following a 6-1 semi-final win over Wolfsburg.

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

19.18: From InfostradaLive:

Victor Valdes plays his 48th CL KO match, overtaking Ryan Giggs (47) as player with most CL KO appearances.

19.13: Full line-ups from the Allianz Arena:

Bayern Munich v Barcelona
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez. Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Shaqiri, Rafinha, Pizarro, Gustavo, Tymoschuk.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi, Pedro. Subs: Pinto, Fabregas, Villa, Thiago, Montoya, Abidal, Song.

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

19.08: From OptaPaolo:

25 – Bayern have always scored at home in the Champions League against Spanish opposition (13 games), scoring 25 goals in total. Assurance.

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

19.05: Bayern Munich won two Champions League group stage meetings in 1998, but Barcelona finally triumphed over the German side when they strolled to a 5-1 aggregate victory in the Champions League quarter-finals four years ago.

In fact they effectively won the tie by half-time of the first leg at the Nou Camp, following a brace from Lionel Messi and strikes from Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o.

19.00: Despite their regular participation in Europe's top competition – these sides have only clashed in three previous seasons.

The first was in the 1996 UEFA Cup semi-final when Bayern edged through 4-3 on aggregate – a tie where in the clash at the Nou Camp, Sergio Busquets' (who starts tonight) father Carles featured – as did Pep Guardiola.

18.55: Mario Mandzukic is suspended for Bayern, so therefore Mario Gomez plays up top. The more agile Jerome Boateng starts in front of Daniel van Buyten.

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

18.50: So Messi returns for Barcleona and will lead an attack along with Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez. Marc Bartra starts in defence in place of injured pair Javier Mascherano, Carlos Puyol and the suspended Adriano.

18.45: Barcelona starting XI:

Valdes, Alves, Bartra, Pique, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Alexis.

18.40: Bayern Munich starting XI:

Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez.

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

18.35: Bayern Munich have already been making headlines today, after it emerged Mario Gotze will join the club from Borussia Dortmund for 32m in what will be Pep Guardiola's first signing when he takes over at Munich this summer.

A huge statement of intent that, with the 20-year-old midfielder one of Europe's most highly sought after players.

18.30: From OptaJean:

1 – Barcelona have only won one of their 6 competitive encounters with Bayern Munich (D2, L3). Stress.

18.25: The fact that Barcelona are not huge favourites (if they are favourites at all) to win tonight shows just how far Bayern Munich have come this season.

They continue to shine in Europe of course but their domestic form has been nothing short of devastating – it should be quite a contest.

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

18.20: It's been a lovely sunny St. George's Day in the UK, and the weather is looking good in Munich too ahead of tonight's game. It's 16 degrees at the Allianz Arena where fans are already arriving.

18.15: No full team news yet but it seems Lionel Messi is fully fit for Barcelona, having not featured since coming off the bench in the quarter-final win against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round. That's a big boost for Barca who have stuttered at times on their travels around the continent this term.

18.10: There may be no English teams left but what a final four we have in this season's Champions League!

As it turns out it will be a double dose of Spain v Germany, and while Real Madrid are favourites to edge past Borussia Dortmund, it appears much closer between Bayern Munich and Barcelona – the latter of course, the main event this evening.

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On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

PSG 2 Barcelona 2 – match report: Lionel Messi and Dani Alves goals canceled out by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Blaise Matuidi

PSG 2 Barcelona 2: Late Matuidi goal gives French side hope as Messi and Co are held in Paris

PUBLISHED:

20:43 GMT, 2 April 2013

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UPDATED:

21:16 GMT, 2 April 2013

Barcelona scored two away goals but were twice pegged back in a dramatic Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Parc des Princes.

Lionel Messi gave Barca a half-time lead, a goal owing much to Dani Alves' vision, before departing with a hamstring injury at the interval.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic controversially equalised against his former club and though Xavi's late penalty looked to have ensured a first-leg lead for Barca, Blaise Matuidi made it 2-2 with a deflected last kick of the match.

On target - again: Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona

On target – again: Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona

MATCH FACTS

PSG: Sirigu, Jallet, Alex, Thiago Silva, Maxwell, Beckham (Verratti 70), Matuidi, Lucas Moura, Pastore (Gameiro 76), Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi (Menez 66).

Subs not used: Douchez, Sakho, Chantome, Van Der Wiel.

Booked: Matuidi, Beckham, Ibrahimovic, Sirigu.

Goals: Ibrahimovic 79, Matuidi 90.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Bartra 84), Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi (Fabregas 46), Villa (Tello 81).

Subs not used: Pinto, Thiago, Montoya, Song.

Booked: Pique, Jordi Alba, Mascherano, Dani Alves.

Goals: Messi 38, Xavi 89 pen.

Attendance: 45,000

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Ergolding)

The first chance fell to PSG with less than five minutes played. Ezequiel Lavezzi cut inside, sending Gerard Pique sliding the wrong way, and Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets stuck out a foot to stab the ball against the frame of his own goal.

Alex climbed highest to meet David Beckham's corner but headed well wide, and Victor Valdes then dived to save Javier Pastore's low drive and had to scramble to recover the loose ball ahead of the onrushing Alex.

It added up to an opening 15 minutes of Parisian dominance, though Andres Iniesta soon curled just wide at the other end.

PSG pressed again and when Pique flattened Ibrahimovic just outside the 'D' and was booked, Valdes had to push the Swede's fierce low free-kick around the post.

Ibrahimovic dragged a shot wide after a driving run from Lucas Moura but Barca began to make better use of their possession, with Alexis Sanchez's shot deflected wide before Messi opened the scoring eight minutes before half-time.

Alves curled a staggering pass into the box with the outside of his right foot and Messi ran on to the ball and fired first time inside the far post.

Easy does it: Messi runs off in celebration after making it 1-0

Easy does it: Messi runs off in celebration after making it 1-0

Celebration time: Messi celebrates with Daniel Alves and Xavi Hernandez after his goal against PSG

Celebration time: Messi celebrates with Daniel Alves and Xavi Hernandez after his goal against PSG

The Argentinian curled another effort millimetres over the bar but appeared to tweak his right hamstring in the process and was a passenger as half-time approached.

He was replaced by Cesc Fabregas upon the restart, and a Barca statement released during the second half confirmed he will undergo tests tomorrow to determine the extent of his injury.

Matuidi, impressive defensively in the first half, showed up in attack but was blocked off by Javier Mascherano as he pursued his own heavy touch into the penalty area, though no foul was given. Pique then prevented the all-action Matuidi from reaching Ibrahimovic's pass.

Not going to plan: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham look dejected as Barcelona celebrate

Not going to plan: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham look dejected as Barcelona celebrate

Beckham

David Beckham heads the ball

Getting stuck in: Beckham started for PSG and played for 70minutes before being replaced by Marco Verratti

Stars of the show: Messi is tracked by Beckham

Stars of the show: Messi is tracked by Beckham

Battle for the ball: Messi holds off the challenge of Beckham

Battle for the ball: Messi holds off the challenge of Beckham

Going in for the tackle: Beckham brings down Cesc Fabregas

Going in for the tackle: Beckham brings down Cesc Fabregas

In the book: Beckham is shown a yellow card by Referee Wolfgang Stark

In the book: Beckham is shown a yellow card by Referee Wolfgang Stark

The imperious Thiago Silva's clearance
denied Barca a second goal and Sanchez could not connect properly with
Fabregas' deep cross, shooting weakly at Sirigu.

Matuidi was booked for fouling Iniesta, ruling him out of the return leg, before Lavezzi was replaced by Jeremy Menez.

Alves
went close to a goal of his own when he curled a free-kick just wide
before Mascherano chopped down Menez to also earn himself a ban.

Take Zlat! Ibrahimovic makes it 1-1 with close range finish

Take Zlat! Ibrahimovic makes it 1-1 with close range finish

Eyes on the ball: Ibrahimovic made it 1-1 with his goal

Eyes on the ball: Ibrahimovic made it 1-1 with his goal

Menez's free-kick was deflected behind
and the resulting corner caused chaos. Jordi Alba and Mascherano
collided and were both prone in the six-yard box, playing three PSG
players onside as the half-cleared set-piece was returned into the box,
and Valdes was forced into a point-blank save from Ibrahimovic's shinned
effort.

Barca had to defend the next corner
with nine men and the controversy continued even after the pair
returned, Thiago Silva heading Menez's free-kick against the post before
the rebound was jabbed home by an offside Ibrahimovic.

Going down: Alexis Sanchez falls under the challenge of PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu

Going down: Alexis Sanchez falls under the challenge of PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu

Spot on: Xavi scores his side's second goal from the penalty spot

Spot on: Xavi scores his side's second goal from the penalty spot

Substitute
Kevin Gameiro was almost sent through by Ibrahimovic's flick-on, only
for the bounce to deceive the diminutive France international.

With a minute remaining, though, a penalty handed Barca the advantage in the tie once more.

Last kick of the game: Blaise Matuidi scores his side's second equalising goal late on

Last kick of the game: Blaise Matuidi scores his side's second equalising goal late on

Happy ending: Matuidi celebrates his goal late goal

Happy ending: Matuidi celebrates his goal late goal

Sirigu was booked for pulling down Sanchez and Xavi sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
Ibrahimovic
lashed another effort into Valdes' net but this time was correctly
flagged offside – but there was still late drama to come.

Ibrahimovic nodded the ball back and
Matuidi's shot was squeezed between the legs of substitute Marc Bartra,
wrong-footing Valdes and levelling the scores.

Gerard Pique: I want Manchester United to beat Real Madrid in Champions League

United old boy Pique desperate to see former club KO Real Madrid in Champions League

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

11:35 GMT, 11 February 2013

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UPDATED:

11:38 GMT, 11 February 2013

Barcelona and Spain star Gerard Pique will be rooting for Manchester United when they take on Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Champions League this week.

Pique has more than one reason to support United. He played for the club between 2004 and 2008 and still has many friends from his time at Old Trafford, while Real, of course, are Barca's arch rivals.

The 26-year-old, who plays in the Champions League himself next week when Barca travel to AC Milan, also told Spanish newspaper Marca that he has spoken to former defensive partner and United stalwart Rio Ferdinand about Wednesday night's game.

Hope: Gerard Pique (right) wants Manchester United to beat Real Madrid

Hope: Gerard Pique (right) wants Manchester United to beat Real Madrid

'I'd like United to go through because of my history,' Pique told Marca. 'I spoke to Ferdinand and the team's in great shape.'

Former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored the winner when United won the European Cup in 1999, is also backing Sir Alex Ferguson's side, though he has wished former United team-mate and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo luck ahead of the clash.

'I want Manchester United to win but, for the first time, I really don't know what's going to happen,' said the Norwegian, who is currently managing Molde in his homeland.

Playing days: Pique enjoyed a stint at United before moving back to Barcelona

Playing days: Pique enjoyed a stint at United before moving back to Barcelona

'I'd like a 4-3, with Cristiano scoring three goals. He was 17 when he went to United, he's a great lad. I watched him become a man.

'If I could sign just one player, I'd sign Cristiano. Yes, Messi is fantastic, but I'd take CR7.'

Solskjaer added: 'Both managers know each other well and the teams are very evenly matched. I think it will be decided by a moment of genius from Van Persie or Cristiano.'

Jamie Carragher can stand alongside Tony Adams and John Terry – Jamie Redknapp

I wasn't sure about Carra at first. In training, we all wanted to face him… but he's turned into a great player and can stand alongside Adams and Terry as a defensive giant

– it will almost certainly be his last domestic trophy” class=”blkBorder” />

Silver lining: Jamie Carragher lifted the League Cup in 2012 – it will almost certainly be his last domestic trophy

Warrior: A brave defender, Carragher would put his body on the line for Liverpool

Warrior: A brave defender, Carragher would always put his body on the line for Liverpool

Of all of my team-mates, nobody has worked harder than Carra to become the player he is. He deserves everything he has achieved in an age when young players are too quick to leave the training ground and shy away from the work required to master their art.

When he first came into the Liverpool squad, I wasn't sure. In training, Gerard Houllier would set us up one-on-ones – attack versus defence – and we all wanted to face Carra.

Passion: Carragher in action against Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Passion: Carragher in action against Manchester United's Wayne Rooney

Strength: Carragher was a regular for England during his earlier years

Strength: Carragher was a regular for England during his peak

But after one summer, he came back with a
different approach – and began to stop everyone who tried to go past
him. He was fitter, faster, stronger. Since then, he has enjoyed a
wonderful career and can stand alongside Tony Adams and John Terry as a
defensive giant.

I would advise any young defender to travel to Liverpool and watch him play while you still can. The way he leads, the way he reads the game, the way he defends.

In quieter moments at a packed Anfield, you can hear his voice as he organises and manages on the pitch. In a time when players move from club to club like mercenaries chasing the money, Carragher has stayed loyal to one club.

Tony Adams

John Terry

Leaders: Carragher can claim to be among defensive greats such as Tony Adams (left) and John Terry

He could have finished in America or China, but it means more to him to be a one-club man for Liverpool than it does to grab a few more quid from the game.

He's a funny man, a magnificent defender and a great friend.

Pep Guardiola must win Champions League with Bayern Munich – Jamie Carragher

No easy life for Pep at Bayern… he must deliver Holy Grail

Champions League final on their own turf” class=”blkBorder” />

Beaten: Bayern lost the 2012 Champions League final on their own turf

Arjen Robben

Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philip Lahm

It is a shame he is not coming to the Premier League but he is not shying away from a challenge and he will be aware of the scrutiny. He will have to enter the transfer market more than he did at Barcelona. Bayern’s academy cannot rival Barcelona’s La Masia and so he will be forced to look elsewhere to recruit more often than in the past. But his buying record isn’t flawless.

True, he turned Gerard Pique into one of the best defenders in the world after plucking him from Manchester United’s reserves but there were expensive blemishes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for starters, at €49.5million (41m), was not a success coming from Inter Milan in 2009. And Alexis Sanchez, at €26m (22m), has not justified such a huge fee since joining from Udinese.

Missing link Barca boss Tito Vilanova will not be able to assist Guardiola

Missing link Barca boss Tito Vilanova will not be able to assist Guardiola

Another problem will be working without Tito Vilanova. Guardiola would be the first to acknowledge the support Vilanova has provided down the years. He will surely bring his own people in but he enjoyed a special rapport with Vilanova.

He is not, however, going into a club with huge problems. Bayern have Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, two of the world’s best wingers, who will be perfect fits for Guardiola’s 4-3-3.

Borussia Dortmund will be formidable domestic opponents, but it would be no surprise if Guardiola adds a couple of Bundesliga titles to his CV before coming to England. Can he deliver the big one Whatever happens, it won’t be easy.

Where do Aston Villa and Paul Lambert go from here?

After their drubbing by Wigan, where do Aston Villa and Lambert go from here

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 December 2012

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There would be few prizes for guessing the topic of conversation as Aston Villa’s decision makers gathered for a summit meeting yesterday.

Owner Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert would have but one subject in mind: where on earth do we go from here

Oh, to have been a fly-on-the-wall at Lerner’s converted farmhouse in the north Warwickshire countryside as the latest depressing episode in Villa’s history was dissected.

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

Fifteen goals conceded in three matches. The heaviest defeat in the club’s history at Chelsea. Back-to-back home reversals to Spurs on Boxing Day and relegation rivals Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

In 2010, as Gerard Houllier fought with Villa’s senior players, Lerner was backed into a corner and stumped up 18million with 6m add-ons to purchase Darren Bent and guarantee Premier League survival.

Twelve months ago the situation was not as desperate. But Alex McLeish still asked for, and received, temporary assistance in the shape of Robbie Keane. Villa limped over the line to safety, the club damaged by the bitterness surrounding a misguided managerial appointment.

After a change of policy to bringing in young and hungry players under Lambert, the club once more find themselves at a crossroads.

Several senior players are currently sidelined through injury. Another clutch of first-teamers have been marginalised at the manager’s discretion and there is a third group whose top-flight experience extends to half a season. The situation is crying out for decisive action.

Rock bottom: Villa's Stephen Ireland (left) and Chris Herd don't know where to look as Wigan take control of the match

Rock bottom: Villa's Stephen Ireland (left) and Chris Herd don't know where to look as Wigan take control of the match

Bizarrely, it is little more than two weeks since Villa won 3-1 at Anfield. It was in the week building up to that game that Lambert’s team defeated Norwich City to confirm a spot in the League Cup semi-finals against Bradford City. Incredibly, Wembley beckons.

But so, on the form of the past week, does relegation.

Of course, Lambert can do little about the series of injuries that have befallen key players.

Ron Vlaar, Gabby Agbonlahor, Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent are all on the treatment table.

The problem for Lambert is that these absences are recent. Villa were hardly pulling up any trees in the Premier League with their help.

And Bent finds himself in two groups. First, among those senior players who are missing through injury. However, he can also count himself among those who have been marginalised. When Lambert arrived, he did so with a promise to get the club’s star striker firing again.

Grim outlook: Some embarrassed faces on the Villa bench as they lose to Wigan

Grim outlook: Some embarrassed faces on the Villa bench as they lose to Wigan

He promptly made him captain.

Suddenly, Bent was dropped. Not just from the team, but from the squad. What happened

Lambert had tried to replicate what he had done with his previous club, Norwich City. When the former Champions League winner (as a midfielder with Borussia Dortmund) arrived at Carrow Road, he identified Grant Holt as the man who could keep order in the dressing room and set a good example.

When Lambert asked Bent to do the same at Villa, the club’s manager was disappointed with the response.

He was then faced with a dilemma. Should he allow the England international to continue in a role to which he clearly wasn’t suited Or does he exert his managerial authority and teach Bent a lesson

Too easy: Wigan's Ivan Ramis celebrates opening the scoring after three minutes

Too easy: Wigan's Ivan Ramis celebrates opening the scoring after three minutes

With so many young professionals, Lambert chose the second option. Bent is now recovering from a hamstring injury. And the Scot is under severe pressure. His honeymoon is over. The issue remains.

In fairness, Villa supporters have bestowed the most generous of mandates on Lambert to produce winning football.

‘We’ve had some really heavy defeats,’ said Brett Holman, who is as straight-talking as his Australian background would suggest, ‘we are in a dip.

‘People might say we lack Premier League experience, but they weren’t saying it after we beat Liverpool at Anfield.

‘It could help if you have a couple of players who have 200-300 league games behind them.’

Just a dip: Brett Holman (centre) defended Villa's young team

Just a dip: Brett Holman (centre) defended Villa's young team

And so to yesterday’s meeting. Lerner is reluctant to keep footing the bill for huge losses but appreciates he may need to dig deep to avoid a relegation battle once more.

Lambert wants an experienced centre half, an energetic, ball-winning midfielder and another striker. All preferably with Premier League experience.

But which player, of any experience and quality, is going to see Aston Villa as a good career move

Of course, Villa could always do nothing. Tough it out.

But with three cup-ties in January, not to mention home games against fellow relegation candidates Southampton and Newcastle, it would be a bold gamble.

Thierry Henry will not join Arsenal on loan, says Gerard Houllier

Henry unlikely to join Arsenal on loan in January, says New York Red Bulls adviser Houllier

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UPDATED:

12:23 GMT, 17 December 2012

In doubt: Henry may not join Arsenal in January

In doubt: Henry may not join Arsenal in January

New York Red Bulls global adviser Gerard Houllier has surprisingly cast doubt over Thierry Henry’s proposed move to Arsenal in January.

The French striker is expected to return on loan from the MLS club but former Liverpool and Aston Villa manager Houllier said he believes Henry will prefer to rest with his family over Christmas after his partner gave birth to a baby boy in August.

Speaking to French TV station Canal Plus, Houllier said: ‘I find it strange what we hear in the media. If Arsene needed him, he would have called me or sporting director Andy Roxburgh, but this is not the case.

‘I do not think both parties need to have this second comeback. Moreover, he became a dad. I think he will want to enjoy the holidays.’

Third time lucky: Henry has already had two separate spells at Arsenal

Third time lucky: Henry has already had two separate spells at Arsenal

Henry spent two months on loan with Arsenal last January, scoring two goals in seven appearances.

Arsenal intend to bring in another striker in January with Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Demba Ba among their targets while they also maintain strong interest in Atletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez and Wilfried Zaha at Crystal Palace.

Lionel Messi stretches calendar year record over Gerd Muller after taking tally to 88 goals

88 and counting… Messi can't stop scoring as Barca striker doubles up to further exceed Muller's record

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UPDATED:

23:13 GMT, 12 December 2012

Lionel Messi simply can’t stop scoring. The Barcelona talisman increased his record tally of goals scored in a calendar year to 88, after netting twice against FC Cordoba to secure a 2-0 win in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey tie.

The Argentina striker equalled and
surpassed Muller’s 1972 record of 85 goals in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over
Real Betis when he scored another brace.

But he doesn’t seem content with beating the great German hitman, as he marched on with another two goals this evening.

You again: Lionel Messi (right) scored his 87th and 88th goals of 2012 against FC Cordoba

You again: Lionel Messi (right) scored his 87th and 88th goals of 2012 against FC Cordoba

The 25-year-old was the difference once again for Barcelona, fresh from breaking the record at the weekend.

He scored his first of the match
after just 11 minutes with a routine tap in, and expertly slotted home
as the match drew to a close to kill the game off at the Estadio Nuevo
Arcangel.

The Barca No 10 should really have
bagged a hat-trick at Cordoba, but he failed to capitalise when Gerard
Pique put him through on goal with 20 minutes left to play.

Familiar sight: Messi surpassed Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals on Sunday after scoring twice against Betis

Familiar sight: Messi surpassed Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals on Sunday after scoring twice against Betis

Swing and a miss: Messi could have had a hat-trick if he converted Gerard Pique's through ball

Swing and a miss: Messi could have had a hat-trick if he converted Gerard Pique's through ball

Reaching triple figures in 2012 may be a bridge too far for Messi though. Especially with La Liga’s winter break.

The prolific forward will only play
twice more before 2013 kicks in, meaning he’ll have to average six goals
per game if he wants to reach 100 goals for the year.

Stranger things have happened…

Impossible Messi is unlikely to reach the milestone of 100 goals

Impossible Messi is unlikely to reach the milestone of 100 goals

Smashed: Gerd Muller held the record for most goals in a calendar year with 85 for Bayern Munich

Smashed: Gerd Muller held the record for most goals in a calendar year with 85 for Bayern Munich

All in all it was a great night for Messi, and everyone affiliated with Barcelona.

Especially as arch rivals Real Madrid lost their first leg of the Copa Del Rey last 16 tie away at Celta Vigo.

Despite having avoided defeat away at Celta for 10 years, Jose Mourinho's side were outplayed and lost the match 2-1.

Real rekindled realistic hopes of progression after Cristiano Ronaldo popped up late in the game to claw a goal back.

They will remain optimistic that they can progress to the next round when Celta travel to the Bernabeu in the New Year.

Hopeful: Real Madrid were beaten 2-1 in their first leg match away at Celta Vigo

Hopeful: Real Madrid were beaten 2-1 in their first leg match away at Celta Vigo

First in a long time: Real have not lost away to Celta Vigo for ten years

First in a long time: Real have not lost away to Celta Vigo for ten years

Lionel Messi video: Watch Barcelona star"s record breaking 86 goals in 2012

Lionel Messi, record breaker: Watch ALL 86 goals scored by the Barca star this year

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UPDATED:

17:30 GMT, 11 December 2012

Can you remember each and every one of Lionel Messi’s astonishing 86 goals this year

Well, now you can sit back, relax and watch footballing perfection as this video shows the Argentinian magician score every one of his record-breaking goals.

Even Bayern Munich legend Gerd Muller hailed Messi as ‘an incredible player’ after the Barcelona star broke his record for the most goals in a calendar year.

Scroll down to watch the video

Out of this world: Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his 86th goal of 2012

Beaten: Gerd Muller scored 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972

Out of this world: Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his 86th goal of 2012 breaking the record of Gerd Muller's 85

Muller grabbed 85 goals for Bayern
Munich and West Germany in 1972 and the mark stood for 40 years until
last night when Messi netted his 85th and 86th goals of an incredible
2012 in Barca’s 2-1 win at Real Betis.

Muller led the tributes today,
telling Sport1.de: ‘My record stood for 40 years – 85 goals in 60 games –
and now the best player in the world has broken it, and I’m delighted
for him.

‘He is an incredible player, gigantic.’

Hitting the back of the net: Messi scores the opening goal against Real Betis

Hitting the back of the net: Messi scores the opening goal against Real Betis

Muller, whose record as Germany’s
all-time top goalscorer is also under threat from Miroslav Klose, now
hopes Messi will add to his tally before the end of the year.

‘He’s such a nice and modest
professional and I hope he gets one or two more goals in 2012 and that
he can then hold onto the record for the next 40 years,’ he added.

‘He’s fantastic. He only has one defect and that is that he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich!’

Messi’s Barca team-mates were also in awe of his achievement.

Spain defender Gerard Pique told El
Mundo Deportivo: ‘Leo is supernatural, he has no limits and we always
have to remember everything that he’s given us.

‘We have to enjoy him every single minute that we have him now.’

Unbelievable achievement: Messi is congratulated by his teammates including Gerard Pique

Unbelievable achievement: Messi is congratulated by his teammates including Gerard Pique

Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets
added of Messi: ‘He is the best in the world and I’m very happy he’s
broken that record and I hope he gets more.’

A host of other Barca players also
took to Twitter to offer their congratulations to Messi, including
Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Javier Mascherano, Thiago
and Jose Pinto.

As well as passing Muller, Messi’s
double against Betis sent him clear of Cesar Rodriguez as Barca’s
all-time leading league goalscorer after they had been level on 192
before the match.

Earlier this year Messi became
Barca’s record scorer after moving past the tally of 232 official goals
set by Rodriguez during the 1940s and 50s.

The Argentina captain has also
claimed a host of other individual records during a remarkable career
that looks certain to include many more memorable moments in the future.

In a league of his own: Messi looks to the skies as he celebrates his achievement

In a league of his own: Messi looks to the skies as he celebrates his achievement

Gerd Muller praises Lionel Messi for breaking his goalscoring record

Messi has just one defect… he should play for Bayern! Muller lavishes praise on Barca star after having his goal record nicked

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UPDATED:

15:06 GMT, 10 December 2012

Gerd Muller hailed Lionel Messi as 'an incredible player' after the Barcelona star broke his record for the most goals in a calendar year.

Muller grabbed 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972 and the mark stood for 40 years until last night when Messi netted his 85th and 86th goals of an incredible 2012 in Barca’s 2-1 win at Real Betis.

Muller led the tributes today, telling Sport1.de: 'My record stood for 40 years – 85 goals in 60 games – and now the best player in the world has broken it, and I’m delighted for him.

Out of this world: Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his 86th goal of 2012

Beaten: Gerd Muller scored 85 goals for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972

Out of this world: Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his 86th goal of 2012 breaking the record of Gerd Muller's 85

'He is an incredible player, gigantic.'

Muller, whose record as Germany’s all-time top goalscorer is also under threat from Miroslav Klose, now hopes Messi will add to his tally before the end of the year.

'He’s such a nice and modest professional and I hope he gets one or two more goals in 2012 and that he can then hold onto the record for the next 40 years,' he added.

'He’s fantastic. He only has one defect and that is that he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich!'

Messi’s Barca team-mates were also in awe of his achievement.

Hitting the back of the net: Messi scores the opening goal against Real Betis

Hitting the back of the net: Messi scores the opening goal against Real Betis

Spain defender Gerard Pique told El Mundo Deportivo: 'Leo is supernatural, he has no limits and we always have to remember everything that he’s given us.

'We have to enjoy him every single minute that we have him now.'

Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets added of Messi: 'He is the best in the world and I’m very happy he’s broken that record and I hope he gets more.'

A host of other Barca players also took to Twitter to offer their congratulations to Messi, including Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Javier Mascherano, Thiago and Jose Pinto.

Unbelievable achievement: Messi is congratulated by his teammates including Gerard Pique

Unbelievable achievement: Messi is congratulated by his teammates including Gerard Pique

As well as passing Muller, Messi’s double against Betis sent him clear of Cesar Rodriguez as Barca’s all-time leading league goalscorer after they had been level on 192 before the match.

Earlier this year Messi became Barca’s record scorer after moving past the tally of 232 official goals set by Rodriguez during the 1940s and 50s.

The Argentina captain has also claimed a host of other individual records during a remarkable career that looks certain to include many more memorable moments in the future.

Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta believes the magnitude of Messi’s achievements may not fully sink in until further down the line.

In a league of his own: Messi looks to the skies as he celebrates his achievement

In a league of his own: Messi looks to the skies as he celebrates his achievement

'I’m sure that we will really appreciate Leo’s records over time. They happen so quickly that they seem to be just one more thing. It all seems very simple but it’s very difficult to describe it,' he told Canal Plus.

The man himself was typically modest and insisted he derived more pleasure from helping Barca preserve their six-point advantage at the top of the Primera Division standings than he did claiming another personal landmark.

'The record is great for what it means, but the most important thing is that the team won and that we maintained the distance with the teams behind us,' Messi told the club’s website.

'When the year starts the objective is to win it all with the team, personal records are secondary.'

But he added: 'I’ll try to score more goals to make it more difficult for the next player that tries to break it.'