Champions League Weds preview: Real hosts PSG; Liverpool away

AP Photo/Darko Bandic
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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.

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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.