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Champions League Weds preview: Real hosts PSG; Liverpool away

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  • Real Madrid are two-time defending champions
  • PSG blanked by Real in 2015-16 UCL group stage
  • Liverpool has eliminated Porto from 2001, 2007 European tournaments

Two of the world’s highest-profile sides meet at the Bernabeu, and Jurgen Klopp tests his UEFA Champions League mettle with an away first leg in Wednesday’s Round of 16 duels.

[ PL PLAYBACK: Moving week arrives ]

Two managerial seats which are seemingly always hot will be as fiery as ever when Paris Saint-Germain visits Real Madrid.

PSG is cruising through Ligue 1, but winning a Champions League medal has been 1a and 1b for Les Parisiens for some time. Manager Unai Emery is no stranger to European success and then some, a verifiable Europa League legend at Sevilla, and sends a trident led by spotlight-craving Neymar and featuring ruthless Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe into the fray.

Not one of the three will feel too out of place in such a big spot, nor will Zinedine Zidane. But Real Madrid‘s manager works under the employ of Florentino Perez, who had the fidelity of Henry VIII without the spousal executions or the singable song.

Real has won three of four in La Liga to steady a wobbly ship, but is out of the Copa del Rey and sits 17 points back of Barcelona with a match-in-hand. The glory-hungry crowd will be champing at the bit for their side in the UCL, which is hoping to see the first threepeating UCL champions since Bayern Munich more than 40 years ago. Suffice to say, their whistles are prepared for the slightest sign of failure.

Then, there’s Liverpool, who at times this season have been the most irrepressible side in the Premier League and have rollicked through 2018 aside from a sadly typical stumble against Swansea City — which doesn’t look so bad given Swans’ continued success — and a bombing out of the FA Cup.

The Champions League, however, has been anything but a cakewalk for the Reds despite a seemingly simple group. After impressing in a qualifying tie with Hoffenheim, the Reds threw away a 2-1 home lead against Sevilla, drew at Spartak Moscow, and then tossed aside a 3-0 away lead at Sevilla over the first five matches of the group stage before pile-driving Spartak at Anfield to waltz into the Round of 16.

Opponents Porto aren’t short on confidence, and first-year manager Sergio Conceicao has the side on top of Portugal’s top flight in a congested three-team race for first. He’s won Serie A, Primera Liga, and Cup Winners’ Cup glory as a player, but would love to put some high managerial lines on his resume.

Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Merega have combined for 31 league goals between the two, with Algerian playmaker Yacine Brahimi rested at the weekend with five goals and six assists on his resume. There’s also Mexico’s trio of Porto stars, including captain Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, and Jesus Corona.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”

Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup

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Manchester City’s quest for the historic quadruple is over after Pep Guardiola‘s 10-man side was shocked by League One side Wigan Athletic in the fifth round of the FA Cup at the DW Stadium on Monday.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Will Grigg scored the game’s only goal, a late winner after the home side had been thoroughly outplayed and out-possessed for 78 minutes. With 45 places currently standing between them in the English football pyramid — and Man City garnering “best of all time” consideration — “upset” doesn’t even begin to describe Monday’s result.

On the other hand, City represent the third Premier League side knocked out of this season’s FA Cup at the hands of Wigan: Bournemouth, in the third round; followed by West Ham United, in the fourth.

City were reduced to 10 men during first-half stoppage time, when Fabian Delph went flying in on Max Power as the two contested a 50-50 ball inside Wigan’s defensive third. Referee Anthony Taylor initially withdrew his yellow card from his pocket, but protests from the aggrieved party appeared to change Taylor’s mind, and Delph was off.

Prior to Deplh’s dismissal, Wigan had done well  enoughto hold their own against the runaway PL leaders. The Latics had a pair of half-chances, most notably through Grigg in the 12th minute, that could have easily gone their way. Much of the play, though, as is to be expected, was controlled by City (first-half possession: 82 percent), though Guardiola’s men were unable to break through before going a man down.

Still, the share of possession remain unchanged throughout the entirety of the second half, as City patiently probed and used possession as their best means of defense… until the 79th minute arrived.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

The ball was played back to Kyle Walker, into space; rather than receiving the ball at first opportunity, Walker let it run on as he prepared to play it back to Claudio Bravo; Grigg saw his opening and pounced quickly; his first touch used his body to shield Walker from the ball, and his second set up the shot; Grigg went for the far post, curling the ball around Bravo and nestling it just inside the post.

Wigan will now host another PL side, Southampton, in the quarterfinals.

Barry Bennell jailed 30 years for abusing young players

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) A former English youth soccer coach was jailed Monday for 30 years for abusing 12 young footballers after the judge called him the “devil incarnate.”

Barry Bennell, a former coach at Crewe and scout for Manchester City, was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of 50 child sexual offenses committed between 1979 and 1991.

“Your behavior towards these boys in grooming and seducing them before subjecting them to, in some cases, the most most serious, degrading and humiliating abuse was sheer evil,” Judge Clement Goldstone told the 64-year-old Bennell.

Bennell looked at the floor and nodded as the judge sentenced him. Some members of the public began to applaud as he was sent down, but were stopped by the judge.

Goldstone said Bennell had appeared to his victims as a God.

“In reality, you were the devil incarnate,” the judge added. “You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion.”

Goldstone said Bennell’s abuse had destroyed the enthusiasm his victims had for playing football and had led to them suffering problems including suicidal thoughts, alcoholism and depression.

Bennell has already served three jail terms, totaling 15 years, for similar offenses involving 16 other victims in England and the United States.