THE Santiago Bernabeu is the stage on Wednesday for Neymar’s return to Spain six months after the heir to Ronaldo’s throne was prized away from Barcelona for 222 million euros.
It’s not just a place in the quarterfinals at stake for PSG and Madrid.
The losing coach is likely to find himself out of work by the end of the season.
Only two months ago, Zidane lifted the Club World Cup for a second successive year but his job prospects could be dependent on winning a third successive Champions League title.
So much has gone wrong domestically. Madrid languishes in fourth place and 17 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and is out of the Copa del Rey.
In Paris, Unai Emery is still haunted by last season’s failures. He clung to power despite being deposed as French champions and an astonishing collapse at this stage to Barcelona.
“We’re stronger than last season,” Angel Di Maria said.
Certainly in France where PSG has pulled 12 points clear of defending champion Monaco.
But while PSG can bully most teams, it is vulnerable against those playing with aggression and closing down high up the pitch.
That was evident in a loss to Lyon last month when PSG panicked in defence and conceded a stoppage-time goal. PSG will be hoping the decision to invest so much of its resources in securing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe does not backfire against Madrid.
Madrid is protecting a formidable home record in Europe, having gone 17 matches unbeaten.
PORTO V LIVERPOOL
Five-time European champion Liverpool scored 23 goals in the group stage, but has since lost playmaker Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.
Shoring up the defence was a priority, though, in the January transfer window and centre back Virgil van Dijk was finally signed from Southampton.
While Liverpool is 18 points behind City in the Premier League, Porto has a two-point lead at the top of the Portuguese standings and is unbeaten in 23 matches in all competitions.
Porto was the fifth equal highest scorer among the 32 group stage teams with 15 goals.
But its leading attacking weapon, Vincent Aboubakar, is doubtful for Wednesday’s match with a muscle injury.
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