More articles by

Reuben Joe Joseph
Reuben Joe Joseph

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Last 16 preview: Real Madrid face Neymar's PSG, Liverpool meets Porto

neymar-psg-reuters [File] Neymar Jr | Reuters

It's Valentine's Day. And, if your day didn't go off as you wished it did, you can always find solace in the ongoing Champions League round of 16 fiesta, which got off to a cracker, yesterday.

Last night, Tottenham recovered from going two goals down in the opening ten minutes, against Juventus, to score two crucial away goals and draw the high-profile clash. In the other game, Manchester City ran out winners of its first leg at Basel, beating the Swiss team 4-0, three of those coming in the first 23 minutes.

Tottenham may have done well to hold off the mighty Juventus at Turin, but the bigger games of the round are yet to come.

Before Barcelona visits Chelsea next week, reigning champion Real Madrid will host a star-studded Paris St. Germain at the Santiago Bernebeu tonight. Madrid finished second in its group, behind Tottenham Hotspur, and has had a relatively poor season, by its standards.

Sitting fourth in the Spanish league table, Real is an alarming 17 points behind leader Barcelona. And, with Cristiano Ronaldo turning out to be a shade of his true self, it seems to be a case of 'CR7's form is Real's form' situation, highlighting the club's over-reliance on their talisman.

PSG, on the other hand, are making amends for its disappointing 2016-17 season that included a CL quarterfinal implosion against Barcelona, and for losing the domestic title to Monaco. The Parisiens sit 12 points clear atop the Ligue 1 table and topped their CL group, having upset German giants Bayern Munich.

Real's right-back Dani Carvajal will have to sit this game out, because of suspension, while PSG's midfield boss Thiago Motta is injured. Worryingly for coach Unai Emery, Neymar is returning from an ankle injury, but is expected to start anyway.

The high-flying PSG is one of the teams to beat in Europe this season, and will be hoping to further its run, to show for its heavy summer spending. The French side had scored the most goals (25) among all 32 teams in the group stage.

After a record back-to-back titles with Madrid, one wonders what tricks Zinedine Zidane has up his sleeve to contain the Neymar-Cavani-Mbappe combo. With his position coming under scrutiny for the poor season, he will have to make the most of the home advantage before the team travels to France next month for the return game.

Can Porto contain Mo Salah?

Liverpool enters the tournament's round of 16 for the first time since the 2009, when it exited in the quarterfinal. And, it has been handed a relatively easy draw against FC Porto.

The Merseyside club was unbeaten in the group stage, but drew three of its six games and topped the group. Back in England, inconsistencies aside, Liverpool has been a force to reckon with, this season. The Reds are third on the league table, locked in a tight battle for a top four spot.

Porto, which finished second to Besiktas in its CL group, will hope to better its round of 16 exit last season. The Portuguese league leaders will be made to toil, considering Liverpool's attacking prowess, particularly against a rampant Mohammed Salah.

Salah has been the story of the season at England, where coach Jurgen Klopp has reignited the Egyptian's career. He has scored 29 goals in 35 games this season, and despite the exit of Phillipe Coutinho, he has been one part of a fearsome trio that includes Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Both teams have their full first team fit to play, and the first leg at the Estadio do Dragao will give the side that astonishingly won the title in 2004, under Jose Mourinho, a chance to derail Klopp's Red-hot train.

Matches:

Real Madrid vs PSG, February 15, 1:15am

Porto FC vs Liverpool, February 15, 1:15am

This browser settings will not support to add bookmarks programmatically. Please press Ctrl+D or change settings to bookmark this page.

Related Reading

    Show more