Champions League Paris Saint-Germain face Real Madrid in last 16 with all eyes on Kylian Mbappe – GMC ONLINE

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The Champions League returns on Tuesday and all eyes will be on Kylian Mbappe as Paris Saint-Germain host Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes.

The France striker prepares to face the club heavily linked with his services in the Champions League last 16.

Last summer, PSG turned down multiple bids from Real Madrid for the 23-year-old, who can leave as a free agent at the end of the season when his contract expires.

Speaking in December, Mbappe ruled out a move away from Paris mid-season and instead said his focus was on adding to his trophy haul at the end of the season – at the expense of Real.

“I’ll give everything I have to win the Champions League, the league and cup. And to give all the pleasure to the fans because they deserve it,” Mbappe told CNN, adding he did not regret telling PSG in July that he wanted to leave.

Mbappe has scored 21 goals for club and country this term

“I was honest. I gave a feeling, I gave what I have in my heart,” he said, adding, “I’m happy to stay.”

Key stat
Since the start of the 2020-21 season, Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappé has been involved in more open play sequences ending in goals (17) than any other player in the UEFA Champions League. Mbappé also has the highest xG sequence involvement of any player in this period (16.4).

Mbappe said he enjoyed working with Argentina striker Lionel Messi, who joined from Barcelona in August.

“It’s a big pleasure for me to say to my kids, my friends, I play with him,” he said. “We have to enjoy seeing him in Paris. It’s an amazing moment in the history of the game.”

Speaking at the start of January, French football expert Jonathan Johnson said PSG would look to try and convince Kylian Mbappe to stay

Karim Benzema has scored in each of his last four Champions League appearances, scoring five goals in total. The Frenchman could become just the third player to score in five consecutive appearances for the club in the competition, after Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Ahead of the first leg, Benzema admitted he could be playing alongside French team-mate Mbappe at Real next season.

“Playing against Kylian is special because we play in the national side together,” said Benzema. “Everyone knows that one day he could arrive at Madrid, but the most important thing is to play this game first and win it.”

Ancelotti returns to Paris

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Carlo Ancelotti is returning to the Parc des Princes

Carlo Ancelotti has dismissed any suggestion that Mbappe’s focus on Tuesday could be affected by a potential move to the Spanish side.

“Every player in the game will be 100 per cent focused on knocking out a team who can compete with them to win the Champions League,” Real coach Ancelotti told a news conference.

“Mbappe will be thinking the same as Karim Benzema or Vinicius. Everyone has the same aim.”

Ancelotti said he will wait until the day of the game before deciding whether or not to start top scorer Benzema, who has been out of action for three weeks with a hamstring injury but returned to training on Sunday and was selected in the squad.

“I will have the final word after the doctor and the player. I’ll have to listen to what they say then decide,” said three-time Champions League winner Ancelotti, who coached PSG between 2011 and 2013.

Messi’s own reunion with Real – having been their chief tormentor for so many years in La Liga – is another intriguing sub-plot to this mouth-watering tie. Messi scored 26 goals against Real Madrid in El Clasico, ending up on the winning team on 19 occasions.

Is Ramos fit to face former club?

Sergio Ramos has made just four appearances for PSG

Both teams have injury concerns. There will be no reunion with Real for Sergio Ramos after the veteran centre-back suffered a setback in his recovery from an ongoing calf problem. Ramos, who turns 36 next month, will be in the stands where he could be joined by Neymar.

The Brazilian has not played since the end of November but had been tipped to make a comeback for the first leg. Ander Herrera is also sidelined and Juan Bernat is not in PSG’s European squad.

Real could welcome back Benzema, who has been absent since suffering a hamstring injury on January 23 against Elche.

“The player is training and not just training yesterday,” Ancelotti said. “He has been training individually, running and sprinting without problems and after that it’s about the feelings of the player.

“I think when you have those two things with the coach you then have to think about if he can play. This is Karim and not a new player that needs to adapt. If Karim feels good it’s clear that he has to play.”

Ferland Mendy is also a doubt while Gareth Bale, who played at the weekend in La Liga for the first time since August, is likely to be back on the substitutes’ bench.

Merson says: Liverpool face stiff Inter test

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Liverpool became the first English side to win all six Champions League group stage games

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“Liverpool against Inter Milan is a hard game. Any time you go to Italy, it’s a difficult game. Being away first, it’s about still being in the tie as when they get back to Anfield they have a massive advantage.

“I don’t see there being a problem for Man City against Sporting Lisbon. It’s a nice draw and they’ll win. I still think they’re too open. We saw that against Burnley at the weekend.

“Burnley had good chances and Liverpool are a little bit too open for me at the moment. That’s why they’ve got to be careful against Inter. They can’t afford to lose 2-0 over there and Italy is a hard place to go.

“That said, you could still lose three of the next six games in the knockouts and still win the Champions League. Whereas they can’t afford to lose two more Premier League games this season, if they’re lucky.

“So it’s easier to win the Champions League.”

Are Liverpool and Man City CL favourites?

Holders Chelsea will have a say, according to Merson

“No, I feel Chelsea will be there. With Chelsea, they don’t let in a lot of goals. We’ve seen with Man City in the league, they’ve dominated Chelsea in the same way Chelsea have dominated Tottenham, but if you look at the scores, it’s been 1-0, 1-0.

“Romelu Lukaku had a good chance to score at the Etihad and so I think Chelsea have got every chance. Defensively they’re very strong.

“It’s a big ask for Liverpool now to win the Premier League so they’ve got a better chance of winning the Champions League now.”

Do City need to win it this year?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he cannot deny the importance to his club of winning the Champions League ahead of their last-sixteen tie against Sporting Lisbon.

“100 per cent they do. It’s alright winning the Premier League as they’ve got £80m players in every position and while Pep’s not won the Champions League in 10 years, City never have.

“The longer it goes on, the harder it becomes if I’m being honest. Teams are becoming stronger. They’re not becoming weaker. When Man City are buying players, they’re not even making a massive difference.

“They signed Jack Grealish, but he’s not done anything yet and they’re still going to win the league. I think Jack will be alright but the longer City go without winning the Champions League, the harder it will be.

“City have got to win it. Sometimes, their problem is that the Premier League is too easy for them. It’s alright whipping up Norwich every week, and that’s their bread and butter. But it’s a major problem.

“We see it over the years with Manchester United back in the day. The league was too easy for them, and then they would play gung-ho football against Real Madrid and get punished.

“Sometimes, City have to be a little bit more tactically aware. Teams like Bayern Munich have got players who can really hurt you.”

The state of play

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As the 2021/22 Champions League returns for the round of 16, we bring you the state of play, upcoming fixtures and the schedule for the remainder of the tournament.

The group stage of the competition came to a conclusion in early December, with Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona the big-hitters who exited prior to the round of 16, dropping into the Europa League as a result.

After beating AC Milan in December, Liverpool became the first English side to win all six Champions League group stage games

For Dortmund, it represented just the second time in a decade they had failed to progress from the group stage, with five-time winners Barca a mainstay of the latter stages in 19 of the last 20 campaigns.

From a British perspective, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City sealed their spot in the last 16 with a game to spare, meaning their 2-1 defeat to RB Leipzig in their final group game mattered little, although Champions League holders Chelsea had to settle for second spot in Group H after drawing 3-3 with Zenit in their last group fixture.

Chelsea beat Manchester City to win the Champions League in 2020/21

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side – who had already grabbed top spot in Group B with two games to spare – became the first English side to win all six Champions League group-stage games, beating AC Milan 2-1 in their final match to give a reminder of their own threat in this competition.

Meanwhile, Manchester United pipped last season’s Europa League winners Villarreal to Group F top spot, despite drawing two of their last three games, and will face now face Atletico Madrid.

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Round of 16
First-leg fixtures
Tuesday February 15

Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid (8pm)
Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City (8pm)
Wednesday February 16

Inter Milan vs Liverpool (8pm)
Red Bull Salzburg vs Bayern Munich (8pm)
Tuesday February 22

Chelsea vs Lille (8pm)
Villarreal vs Juventus (8pm)
Wednesday February 23

Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United (8pm)
Benfica vs Ajax (8pm)
Second-leg fixtures
Tuesday March 8

Bayern Munich vs Red Bull Salzburg (8pm)
Liverpool vs Inter Milan (8pm)
Wednesday March 9

Manchester City vs Sporting Lisbon (8pm)
Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain (8pm)
Tuesday March 15

Ajax vs Benfica (8pm)
Manchester United vs Atletico Madrid (8pm)
Wednesday March 16

Juventus vs Villarreal (8pm)
Lille vs Chelsea (8pm)
Quarter-finals
Draw scheduled to take place on Friday March 18.

First legs scheduled to be played on Tuesday April 5 and Wednesday April 6; Second legs on Tuesday April 12 and Wednesday April 13.

Semi-finals
Draw scheduled to take place on Friday March 18.

First legs scheduled to be played on Tuesday April 26 and Wednesday April 27; Second legs on Tuesday May 3 and Wednesday May 4.

Final
Scheduled to be played on Saturday May 28 at Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg.

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