The Uefa Champions League returns with a bang this week, and no fixture packs a bigger punch than the champions Real Madrid against Paris Saint-Germain at the Bernabeu.
Madrid are looking to win the tournament for a third year in a row, and with the Spanish title beyond them it represents the best chance of silverware for Zinedine Zidane’s side in 2018. The match is heavily billed as the Cristiano Ronaldo versus Neymar show, but an intriguing subplot is that of the contrasting fortunes of two French strikers.
Karim Benzema, once the great hope of French football, has recently found himself the target of the Madrid faithful’s ire. With the goals having dried up, Benzema could be forgiven for casting an envious glance at the plaudits being heaped on PSG’s teenage forward Kylian Mbappe, the new darling of French football, a position Benzema must yearn for given his current struggles.
Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur, led by a prolific Harry Kane, travel to Turin to face a Juventus side who have conceded only one goal at home in their last nine games across all competitions.
Manchester City travel to Switzerland to take on Basel in what, on paper at least, looks the mismatch of the last 16. However, St Jakob-Park can be a graveyard for English clubs. Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United lost there in November. Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool have been beaten there in the past, as were Alex Ferguson’s United.
Porto v Liverpool features an African all-stars line up. Mohamed Salah, the continent’s reigning player of the year, and fellow winger Sadio Mane will provide the pace on Liverpool’s flanks at the Dragao. Meanwhile, Porto’s attacking trio of Vincent Aboubakar, of Cameroon, Moussa Marega, of Mali, and Yacine Brahimi, of Algeria, have reached 50 goals combined for the Portuguese league leaders.
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