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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.

Why Pulisic could be more likely to stay at Dortmund

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short of potential suitors this summer as he ponders his future.

Without a World Cup, Pulisic has plenty of time to recover from another full season of European football, one where he fully experienced the harsh realities of soccer at the highest level – two managers in and two managers out.

[READ: Emery set to replace Wenger at Arsenal]

With Dortmund hiring another coach, it seemed there was a chance Pulisic could decide to leave Dortmund and reunite with former manager Jurgen Klopp, or head elsewhere for a more stable situation. But Tuesday’s news that Dortmund has hired Lucien Favre may change all of that.

The 60-year-old Swiss native signed a two-year contract Tuesday, and his preferred style of play fits perfectly into how Pulisic performs best on the field.

The Bundesliga recently posted a detailed look at Favre’s tactics from his time at Nice, where he led the club to finishes of third and sixth the last two years, while re-juvinating the careers of Mario Balotelli and Younes Belhanda as well as unearthing young gems in Jean Seri and Allan Saint-Maximin.

In Favre’s 4-3-3, you could easily see Pulisic lining up on the right of the forward trident, running to the byline and dishing out assists, with Marco Reus on the left, cutting inside and firing shots home with his howitzer of a right leg. Or we could see the pair switch.

One thing that is currently missing is a dynamic No. 9, but with the whole summer transfer window ahead, Dortmund could easily re-sign Michy Batshuayi or find a new powerful center forward (Balotelli, anyone?).

In short, while Pulisic may have had a reason to leave Dortmund had another Peter Stoger-type manager been hired, Pulisic now has no reason why he can’t be a wild success at Dortmund for years to come. The 19-year-old (he’s still a teenager!) American star will have plenty of chances to bend in crosses or cut in and score goals himself, as well as the opportunity to play in the UEFA Champions League.

Kane named England captain, set to break record

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Call him captain Kane.

The FA confirmed on Tuesday that Harry Kane would captain England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he’ll break a record for being the youngest England captain at a World Cup. At just 24-years of age, Kane appears wise beyond his years and has over the past World Cup cycle developed into arguably the best striker in the Premier League, if not one of the top center forwards in the world.

The previous youngest England captain was the late, great Bobby Moore, who was 25-years old at the 1966 World Cup – hosted of course by England.

Considering the overall youth movement within the England ranks, this comes as a smart decision from manager Gareth Southgate. Though strikers aren’t usually made captains, he leads the line by example and has displayed great leadership for Tottenham over the last two years. In addition, should he remain consistent in his club and country form, he could be an England captain for another eight years or so.

In the last two World Cups, England has gone with the veteran hand for captain, with Steven Gerrard wearing the armband for both. But England was knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2010 and didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2014, which, combined with the shocking defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, necessitated a change in management and culture.

Arsenal, Puma drop new kit for upcoming season

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Arsenal will have a new home kit next year, but there’s a bit of a twist compared to the old reliable we know and love.

Puma and Arsenal released the club’s 2018-2019 home kit on Tuesday morning, featuring a red and white top with a “pulse” design through the center, which displays different shades of red to symbolize the heartbeat of the club, and lighter red on the white sleeves. White shorts and socks will accompany the home outfit.

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Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang all modeled the new kit, giving a hint that the quartet could be in Arsenal colors next season.

The uniform also uses Puma’s “seamless evoKNIT” technology, making it easier for players to play in while running across the pitch. The club has picked the marketing campaign “#WeAreTheArsenal” to drive sales.

Will the new kits bring Arsenal more success next season? Time will tell.

Short-handed Galaxy beat Impact after Ibrahimovic red card

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MONTREAL (AP) Playing a man down after Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a red card in the 42nd minute, the Los Angeles Galaxy got past the Montreal Impact 1-0 Monday on a goal by Ola Kamara.

The Galaxy (4-6-1) ended a four-game losing run. Montreal (3-9-0) has lost three in a row, all by shutout, with the last two coming at home.

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Ibrahimovic was sent off after slapping Michael Petrasso, who had stepped on Ibrahimovic’s foot while marking him well away from the ball. After consulting video, referee Ismail Elfath showed Ibrahimovic the red card and Petrasso the yellow.

Both went down after the slap, and Ibrahimovic was limping as a trainer helped him off the field.

With 10 men, the Galaxy stayed back in the second half, looking for counterattacks.

In the 75th minute, substitute Emmanuel Boateng headed a ball forward that Kamara took on the run. He beat Marco Donadel and Jukka Raitala with a cut into the middle and scored his team-leading fifth goal on a low shot from inside the penalty area.

Montreal had some chances, including back-to-back shots in the 55th minute by Alejandro Silva and Raheem Edwards that were blocked by goalkeeper David Bingham.