Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

UCL Wednesday preview: Arsenal to the Allianz Arena; Red-hot Napoli meets the champs

Leave a comment

Day 2 of the Round of 16 falls on the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, after PSG buried Barcelona 4-0 and Benfica edged Borussia Dortmund in Portugal.

[ MORE: PSG-Barca recap | Di Maria gushes ]

Wednesday finds Arsenal in Germany and Napoli at the Bernabeu. The second legs will both be held on Wednesday, March 8.

Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal

How they got here: Arsenal edged PSG for the top spot in Group A, while Group B Bayern lost to Atletico Madrid and Rostov in finishing second.

History: Traded results in last season’s group stage, though Bayern walloped Arsenal 5-1 at the Allianz Arena. Bayern has won five, drawn two, and lost thrice against the Gunners this century.

The plot: Arsenal has made the Round of 16 in 11 straight seasons but hasn’t earned a quarterfinal berth since 2009-10. Bayern won in 2012-13, and is bidding to win Carlo Ancelotti a UCL title with his third club (AC Milan, Real Madrid).

The subplot: Germany and Bayern legend Philipp Lahm is retiring after the season and the club would be overjoyed to put him out on top; Meanwhile Arsenal is sticking with No. 2 goalkeeper David Ospina over Petr Cech.

Real Madrid vs. Napoli

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, celebrates a goal with teammates Marcelo, right, and Karim Benzema during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Granada at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Benzema and Ronaldo scored one goal each in Real Madrid's 5-0 victory. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
(AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

How they got here: Madrid drew three matches and finished behind Borussia Dortmund in Group F. Napoli edged Benfica to win Group B.

History: Real defeated Napoli 3-1 over two legs in the 1987-88 European Cup.

The plot: Real is looking to become the first time since mid-1970s Bayern Munich to win three European Cups inside of five seasons (Bayern won three-straight), while Napoli is looking to assert itself in Europe with a first big title since the 1988-89 UEFA Cup.

The subplot: Real is one of four Spanish clubs left in the tournament, and will hope to restore some pride after Barca was waxed by PSG; Napoli hasn’t lost in 18 matches stretching into late October, and will feel ripe to upset the champions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.

Report: Bayern Munich scouted Walker, Alexis this weekend

Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

German publication Kicker says Bayern Munich technical director Michael Reschke attended both of this weekend’s FA Cup semifinals and had his eye on two players in particular.

Reschke apparently wants to bring players from both North London Derby rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s Top Four plight ]

In the case of Spurs, that man is right back Kyle Walker. The 26-year-old has also played right mid in 8 of his 35 matches for Tottenham this season, and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. It’s hard to believe Spurs would have interest in selling Walker, who would help fill the role of retiring Philipp Lahm.

On the other side is Alexis Sanchez, the embattled but electric Arsenal attacker who Arsene Wenger described as an “animal” and “always ready to kill the opponent” this weekend. Wenger says Sanchez isn’t going anywhere, but Bayern does boast Chilean teammate Arturo Vidal and former Barca mate Thiago Alcantara.

Walker is signed at Spurs through 2021, while Sanchez’s contract ends after next season.

Roma lands sporting director Monchi, a reported Arsenal target

Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
Leave a comment

AS Roma has found its new sporting director, and it’s a man with a keen eye for talent.

Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez Verdejo, 48, has spent the last 18 years as the sporting director at Sevilla, which won five UEFA Europa League titles under his watch.

Monchi was discussed in the media as a target for the same job at Arsenal and was a target for other Premier League clubs, but Roma sealed the deal with the former goalkeeper.

[ JPW: Oriol Romeu — The Perfectly Poised Destroyer ]

He is considered to have a big role in discovering and developing Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas, and Dani Alves.

Read more from