Cristiano Ronaldo saluted another "fantastic" Real Madrid performance as the European champions claimed a comprehensive 3-0 win at Liverpool.
Ronaldo himself was in scintillating form, opening the scoring in their Champions League Group B encounter midway through the first half with a tremendous half-volley finish from James Rodriguez's delightful chip.
Surprisingly, it was the forward's first goal at Anfield and, although he passed up several further chances to add to his tally, it mattered little as Karim Benzema's brace had put the Spanish side three goals ahead before half-time.
Carlo Ancelotti's men eased off in the second half, perhaps with their attention on Saturday's Clasico, but that did not take away from a memorable display for Ronaldo.
He told Sky Sports: "It was special. It was my first goal here, so I feel very proud for that. I feel happy. We win three points, so amazing.
"We knew before the game that Anfield is a difficult place, but I think we played fantastic, especially in the first 45 minutes, and we deserved to win.
"I'm happy because it's dedication and hard work, but the best thing is that the team wins. We have nine points, so 75 percent of the qualification is done.''
Real now have one foot in the knockout stages as they are six points ahead of Liverpool, Basel and Ludogorets, and Ronaldo sees no reason why they cannot become the first team to retain the Champions League.
"Why not? We're thinking step by step,'' he said. "We know that the qualification is the priority of the team, but we're going to try, like last year. We know it's going to be very tough, but we are positive and it will be possible if we play like that.''
Substitute Lukas Podolski netted a dramatic late winner as Arsenal came from behind with two goals in the final two minutes to beat Anderlecht 2-1 and hand manager Arsene Wenger a 65th birthday to remember at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
It had looked like the Gunners were set for a second away defeat in Champions League Group D after the Belgians went ahead through Andy Najar on 71 minutes.
However, just as time was running out, England full-back Kieran Gibbs cracked in a superb volleyed equaliser, before German forward Podolski swept home a dramatic winner.
Arsenal had started brightly, but Santi Cazorla blasted an early chance horribly wide after good work from Alexis Sanchez.
Anderlecht had a point to prove having been undone 3-0 at home by the Group D leaders Borussia Dortmund last time out and were dangerous going forwards, led by Cyriac, the former Charlton forward, and the industry of Dennis Praet, who once had a trail at Arsenal as a teenager.
The Gunners had plenty of possession in the Anderlecht half, but rarely looked like breaking down the home defence during a tepid first half.
Sanchez saw a close-range flick saved after a floated free-kick into the Anderlecht penalty area as Arsenal showed some signs of life, with Aaron Ramsey then shooting just wide.
Arsenal's clearest opening of the night came on 63 minutes when Cazorla was played clear down the left, but his angled drive was saved by Silvio Proto.
It proved a costly miss as Anderlecht took the lead on 71 minutes when a floated cross from Praet was headed in by Najar.
Former Portsmouth defender Anthony Vanden Borre had a miskicked effort loop onto the top of the crossbar.
Martinez saved from Steven Defour, but Arsenal rallied after Gibbs' smashed home a deep cross by right-back Calum Chambers before Podolski won it in ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Atletico Madrid produced a sensational second half as they dismantled Swedish side Malmo 5-0 on Wednesday evening at the Vicente Calderon.
Having created the better chances for no reward in the opening 45, a sense of frustration was starting to seep in as the second half kicked off. Up stepped Koke -- the academy graduate not only opened the scoring but he laid on three more as the La Liga winners gave their Allsvenskan counterparts a harsh Champions League lesson.
Goals from Mario Mandzukic, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin (from a corner, of course) and a maiden strike from Alessio Cerci rounded off the scoring on a five-star night for Diego Simeone's men.
When Manchester United were first linked with signing Robin van Persie from Arsenal in the summer of 2012, the fans were fairly dismissive.
United very rarely signed players who were already at their peak, so Van Persie -- having won the Golden Boot in the previous season as well as being named the PFA and FWA Player of the Year -- certainly wasn't their usual type.
Having just lost the title on goal difference to Manchester City, United were in need of something special, though, and the supporters were delighted when Van Persie confirmed he would be playing at Old Trafford.
He revealed he chose to wear the No. 20 shirt because he had joined the club to win their 20th title. While his arrival certainly made United title favourites, nobody could have predicted how easy it would be for them to win the league that year. His 35 goals and assists in 38 league appearances set United apart from the rest, with him topping the Premier League's goalscoring table yet again. The Dutchman could finally call himself a champion.
But his second season was nowhere near as impressive. He struggled with injuries and suffered to adjust to life at United without Sir Alex Ferguson, and Rio Ferdinand revealed in his recent autobiography that the striker took Ferguson's decision to retire harder than anyone else in the dressing room.
Van Persie made just 18 starts in the league but still managed to score an impressive 12 goals, but this was nowhere near enough to save the club from David Moyes' disastrous campaign. However, in a year when everything seemed to be falling apart for United fans, a shining light was the performance of Adnan Januzaj.
The youngster had dazzled fans when playing for the U21s the season before but had yet to show whether he could ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Is it fear? Poor tactics? Individual mistakes? It's certainly something as Juventus slumped to another defeat in the Champions League, losing 1-0 to Olympiakos in the Karaiskakis Stadium.
Carlos Tevez instantly spoke of changing the mentality of this group when questioned about the defeat after the game. A team capable of astonishing performances in Serie A, Juventus are renowned for playing a confident and mesmeric brand of football. They push forward in all directions, their defence alert and sturdy and their creativity impressive.
Arda Turan called them the toughest team he has ever faced during his time with Atletico Madrid. That's quite the compliment considering the type of opponents he's played against, namely Barcelona and Real Madrid. "Against Barcelona you know they'll have the lion's share of possession, against Madrid you need to stop their counter-attacks, but the Juve game was just tremendous."
It truly is and for a reason. Boasting an excellent defence full of internationals, a midfield packed with the most expensive of talents and a front-line that has proved its efficiency, it defies belief that this team fails so consistently on club football's biggest stage.
Tedious, dull and predictable in the first half, Olympiakos gained control early into the match, creating chances and looking rather motivated. Massimiliano Allegri opted to select Andrea Pirlo despite the fact the playmaker has yet to produce a performance worthy of his name since his return from injury. The midfielder was simply poor. He frequently lost the ball, inaccuracies dominated his game and he failed to truly provide either the control or leadership qualities one looks for in his games.
Yet he wasn't the only one to disappoint. Arturo Vidal may have pulled off a few tackles that tugged at the heart of the nostalgic among us but barring a few runs into the box, looking for ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Didier Drogba has added to Chelsea's injury concerns in attack ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash at Manchester United by admitting that he is still not fully fit.
Drogba, 36, had been out for almost a month with an ankle injury before making his return as a late substitute in Saturday's 2-1 win at Crystal Palace, and netted the first goal of his second stint at the club in Tuesday's 6-0 win over Maribor in the Champions League.
The Ivory Coast striker replaced Loic Remy early in that match after the France international picked up a groin strain, while first-choice centre-forward Diego Costa returned from the international break struggling with a hamstring problem.
Reports on Thursday claim that Spain striker Costa has been in hospital this week for treatment on a stomach bug, making the Premier League's top scorer a doubt for the weekend trip to Old Trafford.
Drogba said in the Daily Mirror: "It's up to the manager to decide who's going to start. But if you were a player, how would you feel if they say, 'You can play at Old Trafford'? You'd be happy.
"I'm not fully fit yet, but these kind of games helps me to improve.
"We're doing a great job and to be able to enjoy these kind of moments is fantastic. We are lucky, and if I play I will feel lucky one more time."
Unbeaten league leaders Chelsea are currently 10 points above sixth-placed United, who drew 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion in their last match.
But Drogba, who scored the winner against United in the 2007 FA Cup final, insists that Louis van Gaal's team represent a stern test for the London side.
"United are a threat," he said. "We need to go there with our strength and our belief but also we have to know that they are a ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Of all the big European teams to qualify for this season's Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain was the only team that had yet to win two consecutive games. That changed Tuesday against Apoel Nicosia. It tells you just how shaky their start of the season has been. It was quite unbelievable that in between Ligue 1 and Europe, they had yet to beat anyone twice on the bounce.
Each of their previous four victories this season, in all competitions, had been followed by a draw. From Bastia, beaten in mid-August 2-0 to Barcelona, whom PSG defeated 3-2 in Matchday 2 of the Champions League, not once have the Parisians had secure back-to-back wins.
This was their fifth try to win two in a row this season, after they dominated Lens 3-1 on Friday. No offence to the hosts, but it looked like this game arrived at the right time for Blanc and his men. If Paris didn't win tonight and didn't break their cycle, doubt would surely have crept in as to whether they'd do it at all this season. Too often this year, expectations were high, and the French Champions disappointed. Tonight was their chance to show they were finally becoming a great team. Great teams don't just show up in big games like Pastore & Co. did against Barcelona in their latest Champions League game. Great teams also do the job when they're in trouble, when they are not playing well, when they desperately need a win and, most importantly, when their best player is out.
It was time for this PSG squad to show their mettle. And they did tonight.
However, it was not pretty football. It was not Bayern Munich at Roma. It was not Germany against Brazil. It was a poor performance against Apoel, who hardly created anything in terms ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Oct 23 2014
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique celebrated 100 days in charge at the club with a far more straightforward win over Ajax than the 3-1 result suggests. If repeated in Amsterdam in two weeks it should mean his side's qualification to the next round is a mere formality.
More importantly was the fluid passing performance his side gave in the wake of Saturday's first Clasico of the season. Two early goals came from the usual source -- Lionel Messi and Neymar -- before Ajax got a scrappy consolation with two minutes remaining, then substitute Sandro Ramirez continued his good first season with the third.
The nature of the victory will please Enrique ahead of the trip to Madrid and will have given him a few headaches over his starting eleven in the Santiago Bernabeu. The intense focus that one of the key fixtures of Barca's season always carries with it can begin.
FIFA cannot publish its report into alleged corruption in the World Cup bidding process for legal reasons, according to its own ethics judge, Joachim Eckert.
A month has passed since Eckert received FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia's report into the decisions to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
But while many high-ranking FIFA officials, including UEFA president Michel Platini, FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne and Franz Beckenbauer, have led calls for the investigation's findings to be published in full, president Sepp Blatter has refused to disclose any part of the report - a stance backed by Eckert.
"Publishing the report in full would actually put the FIFA Ethics Committee and FIFA itself in a very difficult situation legally," the German judge told FIFA's official website. "What is more, we have to respect the personal rights of the people mentioned in the report, which in the case of the full publication of the report, would in all likelihood not be possible."
Speaking at an event in London last week, Garcia called for FIFA to show greater transparency and criticised the culture of secrecy within world football's governing body, while urging it to show leadership and publish his report.
Despite their perceived different stances, Eckert insisted that there has not been any disagreement between him and Garcia on how to address the situation, and is currently preparing a statement which he expects "to be ready by mid-November at the latest."
"Michael Garcia has never said that the report should be 100% published. He merely said that the 'appropriate' publication of his report should be authorised," Eckert said. "The deputy chairman of the adjudicatory chamber and I now have the task of drawing up this appropriate form for publication.
"Part of my current examination involves deciding what form this appropriate publication should ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
British viewers hoping to see Luis Suarez's debut in El Clasico next weekend could miss his first kick as a Barcelona player due to UK broadcasting rules.
Suarez - a £65 million summer signing from Liverpool - is coming to the end of his lengthy ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini while playing for Uruguay at the World Cup and will be eligible to play in a competitive match again for the first time when Barcelona make the trip to face arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday, October 25.
The match is one of the most high-profile fixtures in world football, with an estimated worldwide television audience of around 400 million viewers, but that will not include viewers in the UK - for the first 15 minutes at least.
Due to British broadcasting regulations, live matches are not allowed to be broadcast between 15:00 and 17:15 local time in order to, according to the Premier League, "protect match attendances and atmosphere at all levels of the game".
As this season's first Clasico kicks off at 17:00 UK time, viewers tuning in to Sky Sports' coverage will only join the action a quarter of an hour into the match.
Given it will be the first time he can be named in a squad by Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, Suarez is unlikely to make his first start in such a key fixture, though it remains a possibility.
Suarez has not played a competitive match since the World Cup group match against Italy in June, but has featured in behind-closed-doors friendlies for Barca and international friendlies for Uruguay after FIFA partially upheld an appeal against his ban from "all football-related activity".