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UEFA Champions League Weds: Juve hits Wembley, Man City up big

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While Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matches promised very little drama aside from how Paris would react when Neymar-less PSG failed to top Real Madrid, Wednesday’s at least throw us a bone.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. recap | Klopp reacts ]

Spurs welcome Juventus to Wembley Stadium in what will be a full-throated and potentially record-breaking crowd. The North London side enters the 2:45 p.m. ET kickoff with a pair of potentially critical away goals but a 2-2 deadlock with The Old Lady.

Speaking of Juve, Paulo Dybala was unavailable for the first leg but he’s here now. The bad news is that Gonzalo Higuain, author of both Juve goals in this tie, has ankle problems.

Spurs backstop Hugo Lloris will stare across the field and see legendary Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon, who himself has history on his mind, praising Wembley as a “historic theater of football.”

Here’s Buffon on Tottenham:

“I think Spurs quite clearly have lots of great attributes with a tried and trusted style of play which means they like to go forward in an attacking way, be physical and be technical as well. At the same time, they have a style of play which also allows the opposition a few openings and opportunities for a goal, so I think the fans are in for a treat tomorrow and a great game. The team that has the best clinical edge will be the ones that win and goes on to the next round.”

The other Wednesday second leg sees Basel head to the Etihad Stadium down four goals to Manchester City, who hasn’t allowed four goals at home since a November 2015 loss to Liverpool.

City boss Pep Guardiola isn’t looking at the score line, at least not too often, as he continues to focus on how his men execute his system.

“How we control the game, how we create. Maybe tomorrow it’s more important nothing happens but we don’t concede, set pieces or counter attacks. We play simple. It’s a good moment to see how we can handle the situation for our future.”

The match at the Etihad also kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.