Scottish champions Celtic and last season’s quarter-finalists Porto both lost at home to crash out of the Champions League in the third round of qualifying.
There was also a close escape for last season’s semi-finalists Ajax while Istanbul Basaksehir exited at the hands of Olympiacos.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon admitted they “shot themselves in the foot” after losing 4-3 at home to CFR Cluj to go down 5-4 on aggregate.
There was no place for Tom Rogic or Daniel Arzani in the squad as the Hoops made a storming start to the second half to go 2-1 ahead through goals from James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard but Scott Brown’s handball allowed Billel Omrani to net from the spot.
Ryan Christie soon put Celtic back in front but Omrani quickly levelled again on the rebound in the 80th minute to put the Romanians ahead on away goals. George Tucudean then netted with the last kick of the game to seal the visitors’ victory.
“We had the lead twice and we have given it away,” Lennon said.
Porto went out on away goals to Krasnodar after conceding three goals in the first half in a 3-2 defeat. After scoring twice in reply to get the aggregate back to 3-3, the Portuguese threw players forward but dogged defending kept the Russians ahead.
Ajax avoided becoming the third former European champions to be eliminated as they survived a nervous evening to beat PAOK 3-2 to take the tie 5-4 on aggregate.
The Dutch hosts faced elimination when their former youth player Diego Biseswar scored for PAOK in the 23rd minute to put the Greeks 3-2 ahead on aggregate. Ajax captain Dusan Tadic had one penalty saved, but scored a second to draw level.
A Nicolas Tagliafico header finally put Ajax ahead in the 79th, before PAOK’s rough, physical style handed Ajax a third penalty converted by Tadic. Biseswar scored again in stoppage time for PAOK to again put Ajax in danger, but the Dutch champions held on to win.
“It was a tough evening. I’m glad we got there in the end, but don’t ask me how,” Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek said. “It’s a very tough team to play against.”
APOEL of Cyprus won 2-0 at Azerbaijan’s Qarabag to go through to the playoffs 3-2 on aggregate while Red Star and FC Copenhagen took 11 penalties apiece before Jonas Wind’s miss sent the Serbian team through.
Wind and Red Star’s Radovan Pankov took two penalties apiece in the shootout because Red Star had finished the game with 10 men.
Other teams to reach the Champions League playoffs were Club Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, LASK and Rosenborg.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLAYOFFS DRAW: CFR Cluj (ROU) v Slavia Prague (CZE); APOEL (CYP) v Ajax (NED); LASK (AUT) v Club Brugge (BEL); Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) v Rosenborg (NOR); Young Boys (SUI) v Red Star (SRB); Olympiacos (GRE) v Krasnodar (RUS)
Manchester United’s record signing started the new campaign brightly, delivering two assists in the 4-0 romp over Chelsea on the opening weekend of Premier League action.
He was also the last player to leave the pitch, applauding fans and gifting one his shirt, leaving Red Devils faithful optimistic he would remain at the club.
That optimism wouldn’t last long, when the French midfield maestro after the match insisted “there’s always that question mark” over a potential exit from Old Trafford.
Both Juventus and Real Madrid have indicated interest in the midfield maestro, but it is highly unlikely he will depart, given United failed to sign any central midfielders this transfer window and will not be able to do so if he does leave the club.
By the time Sanchez is fit and challenging for a place on the team — in two or three weeks time — Solskjaer could well have moved on.
Another Premier League superstar on the rumour mill throughout the transfer silly season, Tottenham’s Danish playmaker has been repeatedly linked to Real Madrid.
Eriksen’s family were even spotted househunting in the Spanish city last month, and the star has repeatedly refused numerous offers from Spurs to extend his contract beyond the current season as he eyes a fresh challenge.
If they cannot convince him to stay for the longer term, Tottenham will almost certainly look to sell him either this window or in January, so as to not lose him on a free transfer when his deal expires in a year’s time.
While Tottenham have brought in plenty of quality this window — with club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele having made an immediate impact on his Premier League debut — losing Eriksen would be a crushing blow to Spurs’ title ambitions.
As his performance off the bench against Aston Villa indicates, he’s still an incredibly important player for the club.
Villa can’t hang on vs Spurs
Tottenham had been down a goal and unable to hit back for fifty minutes before Eriksen was brought in off the bench.
He immediately transformed Spurs’ attack, hitting three shots and setting up three chances for others.
Only three players were involved in that many efforts on goal in the first PL round — Eriksen did it in just 26 minutes.
With Manchester United optimistic about keeping Pogba, Madrid could turn to the Dane to bolster their faltering midfield.
Don’t rule this one out.
Former Liverpool ace Philippe Coutinho has scored 21 times in two seasons for Barcelona, helping the Catalan giants to consecutive La Liga titles.
Even so, things have not worked out perfectly for the diminutive Brazilian and he could be headed for the exit door.
Reports on Wednesday reveal Bayern Munich are interested in signing the attacker on a two-year loan move, but the player’s is reportedly
The Bundesliga club having successfully brought in star players on extended loan deals, such as a two-year loan for Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez in 2017.
Barcelona have smacked an £80m price tag on Coutinho and would prefer a permanent exit, while a swap deal for PSG star Neymar is still very much in play.
Another Brazilian who could be on the move is 27-year-old Neymar, who has been pressing for a return to Spain for months.