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

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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.

World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia fires coach Edgardo Bauza

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia has fired coach Edgardo Bauza nine days before the draw.

The Saudi Arabia Football Federation announced the Argentine coach’s exit after only five friendlies in charge. The team lost to Portugal and Bulgaria this month.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

Bauza has been fired twice this year by teams in the World Cup lineup. He lost the Argentina job in April, after eight months in charge, when the two-time World Cup champions risked missing out on qualification.

In September, Bauza was appointed by Saudi Arabia to replace Bert van Marwijk, who was fired despite leading the team to its first World Cup since 2006.

Saudi Arabia joins Australia without a coach for the World Cup draw in Moscow on Dec. 1.

FOLLOW LIVE: Chelsea kicks off Champions League day

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There’s a Premier League side in action to kick off another day of UEFA Champions League action.

Chelsea is in Baku for a Noon ET match-up with Azerbaijan side Qarabag. A win boosts the Blues into the knockout rounds. CSKA Moscow and Benfica kickoff in Russia at the same time.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Here’s Antonio Conte‘s Starting XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Rudiger; Zappacosta, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.

Manchester United is in Basel as one of six 2:45 p.m. ET kickoffs

Full schedule
Qarabag vs. Chelsea — Noon ET
CSKA Moscow vs. Benfica — Noon ET
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Celtic — 2:45 p.m. ET
Juventus vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Roma — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon vs. Olympiacos — 2:45 p.m. ET
Anderlecht vs. Bayern Munich — 2:45 p.m. ET
Basel vs. Manchester United — 2:45 p.m. ET

PST Survey results: Most exciting USMNT prospect

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Today’s question: Excluding Christian Pulisic, who’s no longer a prospect despite being just 19, who is the most exciting USMNT prospect.

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

Exciting performances in the U-20 and U-17 World Cups have given United States men’s national team fans plenty of hope for the future.

The most-mentioned write-in, collecting across all attempting spellings, was injured Arsenal playmaker Gedion Zelalem.

As for the serious contenders, Jonathan Gonzalez, Andrew Carleton Tyler Adams, and Lynden Gooch lagged behind this pack of four:

Cameron Carter-Vickers — 14 percent — He had a howling back pass in Sheffield United’s 5-4 loss to Fulham on Wednesday, but the on-loan Spurs 19-year-old center back is playing every minute for a club very much in the mix for Premier League promotion.

Weston McKennie — 18 percent — Another 19-year-old, McKennie was one of the Men of the Match as Schalke went second in the Bundesliga this weekend. He’s been a regular starter when healthy, and played advanced, central, and set back in Schalke’s midfield. Next up: a Revierderby meeting with Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund.

Josh Sargent — 21 percent — Off to Werder Bremen when he turns 18 in late February, Sargent has four goals in five matches for the U.S. U-20s, and 14 in 29 for the U-17s. That includes four goals and two assists in his last three outings, against Paraguay, England, and Hungary.

Tim Weah — 24 percent — The son of African legend George Weah, Tim turns 18 two days after Sargent. Unlike his countryman, Weah has been in Europe for some time. The Paris Saint-Germain prospect is slated to get his First Team bow some time soon, having scored four goals and added an assist for PSG in the UEFA Youth League.

Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training (video)

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Among my most quoted coaching lines comes from former University at Buffalo and current Canisius College men’s basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon (and pretty sure it didn’t originate with him).

“It’s more about Jims and Joes than x’s and o’s.”

[ MLS: Seattle wins | Stalemate in Ohio ]

So if Everton rebounds from its rough start to the season to reach its preseason potential, there’s a good chance we’ll credit the return of one of the most electric attackers in the game and not necessarily their new boss.

Yannick Bolasie returned to training on Wednesday, and not a moment too soon following a near one-year layoff due to an ACL tear.

There’s no guarantee the 28-year-old Bolasie will have the same burst, of course, but he has the potential to be a season-changer.

Everton was 5-4-4 when Bolasie went down with his injury last season, and improved on the mark the rest of the way, but are a moribund 3-3-6 this season.