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UCL Tuesday preview: PSG hosts MSN, Pulisic to Portugal

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The UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 takes its first steps on Tuesday in Paris and Lisbon, with two big name group winners on the road.

Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are in Portugal to face Benfica at the Estadio da Luz, which is rarely kind to visitors, while the power trio of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar will hit the Parc des Princes to dance with Paris Saint-Germain.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Man City ]

The second legs will both be held on Wednesday, March 8.

Benfica vs. Borussia Dortmund

How they got here: Benfica finished second to Napoli in Group B, and Dortmund edged Real Madrid for the Group F crown.

History: Last met in 1963, when BVB won over two legs in the European Cup. Benfica won the home leg 2-1, so history is on their side (This is a joke).

The plot: Thomas Tuchel’s side has disappointed in the Bundesliga, but BVB has shone brightly in the UCL. He’ll be favored to lead the club past Benfica, though the Águias are anything but a pushover.

The subplot: Globally? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s chances of sticking around BVB will improve if he can accomplish his UCL goals. Locally? USMNT hotshot Christian Pulisic gets his latest chance to shine on the global stage. The 18-year-old has two assists in six UCL matches this season.


BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 21: Neymar of Barcelona takes on Marco Verratti of PSG during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou on April 21, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona

How they got here: PSG finishes second in Group A, behind Arsenal, while Barcelona won a tricky Group C with Manchester City, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Celtic.

History: These giants have met up in two recent editions of the UEFA Champions League. Barcelona eliminated PSG on road goals in 2012-13, while Barcelona won three of four when the sides met in the group stage and knockout rounds of the 2014-15 tournament.

The plot: Unai Emery has a major test in old La Liga nemesis Barcelona. The PSG manager was hired by Sevilla for his tournament successes in the Europa League, but the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has the French giants in Ligue 1’s second place and that puts a bit more pressure on getting past Barcelona.

Speaking of Barca, the Spanish champions have played two more matches but are still a point back of Real Madrid for the La Liga lead. Pressure on both sides of this tie.

The subplot: Uruguay superstars Edinson Cavani (PSG) and Luis Suarez (Barca) pose problems for defenses, and only one can head to the quarterfinals.

LIVE, UCL – Chelsea vs. Barcelona; Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas

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Two can’t-miss matchups are on display as the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs continue on Tuesday afternoon.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Chelsea and Barcelona continue its terrific recently rivalry over the past two decades with Ernesto Valverde’s side traveling to Stamford Bridge to face Antonio Conte and co. At the same time, Bayern Munich hosts Turkish giant Besiktas at the Allianz Arena.

Lionel Messi, who has yet to score against Chelsea in eight games, will be looking to break his own five-game goal drought while also keep Barcelona’s Champions League hopes alive against one of his club’s toughest opponents. Messi will be playing up top alongside Luis Suarez, with both Paulinho and Sergio Busquets sitting deep behind them to keep Chelsea from posing too much of a threat on the counter attack.

For Chelsea, the Champions League remains the last trophy the club can theoretically win, and Conte has named a strong side, though without a recognizable No. 9, with Eden Hazard playing as a false nine.

Bayern Munich is looking to reach the Champions League semifinals for the seventh time in the last nine years, and they’re facing a side who’s in the knockout stage for the first time. Vagner Love leads the line for Besiktas with Ricardo Quaresma and Anderson Talisca looking to create behind. Former Real Madrid centerback Pepe starts on the backline, and will look to stop Robert Lewandowski.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary of the two UCL last 16 games, while we will have you covered for analysis and reaction from both games right here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Chelsea vs. Barcelona – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas – 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Tottenham prepare $70 million summer bid for Zaha

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In a statement of intent, Tottenham is reportedly preparing to bring in one of the Premier League’s most electrifying wingers.

The Times in London reports that Spurs are set to offer Crystal Palace a $70 million transfer fee to sign Wilfried Zaha, bringing the Ivory Coast international back to a big six club for the first time since 2014. Zaha famously was the last signing of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but by the time the now-25-year-old arrived, David Moyes was the manager and Zaha never found a place in the Man United first team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Since returning, Zaha has found his form and this season has four goals and an assist for Crystal Palace in 20 Premier League matches as the club is now treading water above the relegation zone. Last season, Zaha scored seven goals and dished out nine assists in 34 starts in the league.

Zaha’s potential signing likely means either a change in formation or the departure of either or both Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela, both who play on Zaha’s preferred left side regularly.

The report states that the signing could be a way to galvanize some of the supporters for next season in which the club will play in the re-built White Hart Lane.

Sargent signs first professional contract on his 18th birthday

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Josh Sargent’s 18th birthday is one he’ll never forget.

The young American phenom was finally able to sign his first professional contract on Tuesday after turning 18-years old, passing the FIFA threshold for when a foreigner can sign a pro contract. Sargent has been training with Werder Bremen’s youth teams for the last few months and has even trained with the first team and featured for the Werder Bremen U23s.

“We’ve gone over all the formalities and Josh signed his professional contract with us earlier,” Bremen sporting director Frank Baumann said on Tuesday afternoon. “Again, we’re delighted he decided to join us. He’s settled in brilliantly since the turn of the year.”

[READ: UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas]

Sargent will continue to train with the youth teams and reserves, and will be eligible to feature for the Werder Bremen first team for the 2018-2019 season.

Orlando City sign defender Sane from Werder Bremen

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After making a number of moves to improve its attack this offseason, Orlando City SC is now splashing the cash to improve its backline.

The club announced on Tuesday the signing of veteran centerback Lamine Sane from Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on a permanent deal. It appears that with less than six months left on his contract and Sane not in Werder Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt’s plans, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

“Lamine will significantly strengthen our back line,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “He brings tremendous experience at the highest levels of European football and we believe he will fit right in with what we’re trying to build in Orlando.”

Sane started 27 times for Werder Bremen during a struggling 2016-2017 season, but had made just 11 appearances this season for the Bundesliga side. He’s also made 25 caps for Senegal, but the French-born defender hasn’t appeared for them since 2015. Perhaps a good start to the season in MLS could get him a surprise spot in the World Cup squad.

The 30-year-old joins a rebuilt starting lineup featuring other veterans as Orlando City looks to win in the near term, after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.

While the team lost Cyle Larin and Kaka in the offseason, Jason Kreis and co. brought in Dom Dwyer late in the 2017 season, Justin Meram, Josue Colman, Uri Rosell and Sacha Kljestan in the offseason.  Along with a couple of new outside backs, Sane is the first signing to shore up the leaky middle of the park for Orlando, one that the club’s fans hope will lead Orlando City to a top-six finish in the Eastern Conference in the least in 2018.