The UEFA Champions League knockout rounds with some mouth-watering ties kicking off the Round of 16 first legs.
[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]
Reigning French champions Paris Saint-Germain host Spanish giants FC Barcelona at the Parc des Princes, with PSG boss Unai Emery under extreme pressure and a defeat for Barca’s Luis Enrique may well see the pressure crank up on him in Catalonia.
PSG are without Thiago Motta and Thiago Silva through suspension and injury respectively, while Barca have Arda Turan, Javier Mascherano and Aleix Vidal all out.
In the other UCL Round of 16 first leg on Tuesday (the eight ties are spread across four days in the next two weeks) Borussia Dortmund head to Portuguese outfit Benfica with all eyes on U.S. national team playmaker Christian Pulisic, especially with Mario Gotze out injured.
Dortmund are struggling to impact the Bundesliga title race, slipping to another defeat at the weekend (this time against minnows Darmstadt) to leave them 15 points off leaders Bayern Munich and in fourth place. Still, they didn’t lose a game in group play and won their UCL group ahead of reigning European champs Real Madrid so they’ve been doing pretty well in Europe.
Benfica managed to keep coveted defenders Nelson Semedo and Victor Lindelof over the winter transfer window and this is a big moment for Mexican international Raul Jimenez to show what he can do.
Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games
The first 10 minutes of Arsenal’s visit to Everton may’ve well been subtitled, “Alexandre Lacazette versus Jordan Pickford,” but Wayne Rooney changed that.
The Everton hero, two days shy of his 32nd birthday, buried his 15th career goal against Arsenal by picking up the ball after a 50-50 scrap opened the ball into his path.
[ STREAM: Everton vs. Arsenal ]
What a hit.
Unfortunately for Everton, Nacho Monreal hit back just before the break to level the score.
When the summer transfer window closed, there were rumors that Rafa Benitez, furious with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s refusal to live up to his war chest promises, would leave the Northeast regardless of what it meant for his checkbook.
Now, Benitez may get a huge pay-off and stay at Newcastle United.
[ RECAP: Newcastle 1-0 Palace ]
Ashley has reportedly put the Premier League club up for sale, and one of the biggest names mentioned is Amanda Staveley. She’s helped organized takeover bids for Manchester City and Liverpool and, like most prospective owners, has plenty of money.
And, as if to get the Magpies support even more excited at the prospect of new blood in the ownership seats… From The Express:
Putting those figures into dollars lends an interesting perspective to how much money and prestige there is in football, in particular the Premier League. Staveley is said to have a hold on $40 billion — for an American angle, that’s more than 13 times the president’s net worth — and is ready to provide almost $660 million in investiture.
And Benitez will be given substantial funds on new players as much as £500 million in the next two transfer windows to turn Newcastle into title contenders.
While Staveley who controls around £30 billion of capital through her PCP Capital Partners firm also advised a group Dubai-based investors during a bid to buy Liverpool.
Arsene Wenger celebrates his 68th birthday with a trip to Merseyside, as Arsenal visits Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both start underneath Alexandre Lacazette for Wenger.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin starts up top for Everton and under fire manager Ronald Koeman, while Jonjoe Kenny starts at right back.
Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Baines, Williams, Jagielka (c), Keane, Gana Gueye, Vlasic, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Joel, Mirallas, Martina, Niasse, Klaassen, Davies, Lookman.
Arsenal: Cech, Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Bellerin, Sanchez, Ozil, Lacazette. Subs: Macey, Holding, Coquelin, Wilshere, Iwobi, Walcott, Giroud.
Jurgen Klopp remains bullish on his Liverpool’s credentials as one of the Premier League’s
top-four sides title challengers this season.
[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]
While everyone else might be writing off the Reds due to their propensity for defensive disasters on an every-game basis, Klopp refuses to concede that a gap of “500 miles” exists between his side and Manchester City, the early-days runaway leaders of the 2017-18 season — quotes from the Guardian:
“I don’t compare City with us, but I think everyone can see we are not 500 miles away. But they fly. It was a very decisive day when we lost 5-0. Dealing with a 5-0 defeat is not the easiest thing. We didn’t lose confidence but we were not that fluent afterwards and it was not like we could close our eyes and finish [thinking about it]. They did exactly the opposite. I saw the Stoke goals, you see the shot from Fernandinho and you think, ‘If it works, it works even like this.’ They are a fantastic team and we don’t have to compare, but it starts so early again with us having to apologize for the season so far because one team is flying.”
“Their way of football I would say is not something we are too far away from but to be as clinical as they have been so far? We weren’t.
“That’s the thing. We are still in the race, not with City in the moment because they have I don’t how many points, and I don’t say already that we should only fight for a top-four place. Performance-wise we are a team that should be there but now we have to get the results.”
[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]
All due respect to Klopp and Liverpool, the league table says City currently have 25 points (having played one game more), while Liverpool have 13. That’s not a difference of 500 points, but taking into account not only results but performances, it might as well be.