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UCL preview: Liverpool, PSG out for revenge as Man City face Haaland threat

Author:
Idris Shehu

The UEFA Champions League (UCL) has inched into the nail-biting rounds where heavyweights clash to seismic effects that get football lovers buzzing with excitement.

Old wounds will be poked as two previous finals are set to be reincarnated. Liverpool get the chance to avenge their loss to Real Madrid on that controversial night in Lisbon in 2018 while PSG will sort to exorcise the ghost of 2020 final defeat against a Bayern side limited by the absence of Lewandowski. Manchester City must also avoid getting overwhelmed by the uber-charged goal machine of Erling Haaland as Chelsea hope to spring back from their latest setback to avoid being the latest victims to giant-killing Porto.

Real Madrid vs Liverpool

It can’t be any more charged between these two sides heading into this tie. In 2018, Mo Salah was bundled off early with a shoulder injury after a tackle from Sergio Ramos. From the Merseyside club’s perspective, Ramos’  cynical attack on Salah — who was later taken off the game due to injury — cost them the trophy. The Spaniard got several death threats in the aftermath of the final.

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Ramos is bound to miss Tuesday’s tie due to injury and it leaves the porous Madrid defence even more vulnerable. The Merengues have been far from impressive this season. A shambolic start in the group stages nearly hindered their progress. However, the rejuvenated Karim Benzema has been the winking light in an otherwise gloomy attack for them and his 11 goals in 10 matches streak should worry any opponent.

Liverpool look better from the stunted team that they were a few months ago and the return of Diogo Jota will definitely strengthen their resurgence. Jurgen Klopp will also rely on the lethal trident of Sadio Mane, Robert Firminho and Salah to damage the depleted Madrid defence.

Man City vs Borussia Dortmund

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Erling Haaland must snap out of the heady transfer rumours swirling around him to help out-of-sorts Dortmund get past Man City that are gunning for a quadruple.

Haaland is the Champions League’s leading goalscorer with 10 goals. He’s capable of dismantling any defence with his spreadsheet of goalscoring skill sets. Along with the trickery and pace of Jordan Sancho, a former Man City youngster, Dortmund might stand a chance.

Man City have won 26 of their last 27 games in all competitions. A run buoyed by their impregnable rearguard that has let in just one goal in eight games. Would the Citizens’ defence be able to repel Haaland?

Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are just as dangerous and they will get an abundance of opportunities from a creative midfield of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ikay Gundogan.

Bayern Munich vs PSG

This is a reincarnation of the 2020 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul, Turkey, where Bayern Munich won by a lone goal from Kingsley Coman. However, things might not be as fluid for the Bavarian side as Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 42 goals in 36 games in all competitions this season, will miss the tie entirely due to an injury layoff.

PSG are also with a casualty: A thigh injury rules out Marco Verratti for the first leg of the encounter. Ander Herrera or Danilo Pereira can do the gritty job in the midfield but neither has the creative spark that the Italian breathes into the team.

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar will keep even the best defenders on alert but the latter’s inconsistency remains a nagging worry. Mbappe comes into this clash after a couple of impressive performances against Barcelona in the last round. Against a Bayern side that has conceded 35 goals already this season, his pace is bound to wreak havoc to the Bavarians defensive high-line.

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Likewise, PSG’s often shaky defence must contain the brilliance of Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Coman propelled by a high-flying midfield duo of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. The loss of Lewandowski is definitely a blow but Bayern have shown they can be clinical without the Polish and PSG have the tendency to flounder in big games.

Porto vs Chelsea

Thomas Tuchel will hope his Chelsea side will get back on track after their 14-game unbeaten run under his tutelage was derailed this weekend by West Brom. They had conceded just two goals in as many matches before Saturday when they let in 5 in 90 minutes.

Against a Porto side that bundled Juventus out to the bewilderment of onlookers, Chelsea must get their groove back or be added to those dealt the Goliath treatment.

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