A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Wednesday:
PSG vs. BARCELONA (first leg: 4-1)
Paris Saint-Germain will be the heavy favorite to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the second straight season as it defends a 4-1 lead against Barcelona when the sides meet for the second leg of their round of 16 match. PSG will be without star forward Neymar, who won’t get to face his old club as he continues his recovery from an adductor injury. But winger Angel Di Maria could start in a three-man attack along with Kylian Mbappe and striker Mauro Icardi. Barcelona also has injury problems to contend with in defense. Veteran center half Gerard Pique is sidelined after spraining his right knee last week and Ronald Araujo (left ankle) is also out. Barcelona’s form has picked up and it remains unbeaten in 16 league games, having also reached the Copa del Rey final last week. Barca knocked PSG out at the same stage four years ago, winning 6-1 at home after losing 4-0 in Paris.
LIVERPOOL vs. LEIPZIG (first leg: 2-0)
The Champions League is Liverpool’s last path to a trophy this season. Winning a seventh European Cup could also be the only way back into the competition next season after mounting a Premier League title defense so pitiful that the team is seven points from the top four. Liverpool is unable to stage the game at Anfield due to pandemic travel restrictions — with Budapest, Hungary being used as the alternative venue. But that might not be a bad thing given Liverpool has lost six successive home games. The only blip in Leipzig’s last nine games across all competitions was its 2-0 loss to Liverpool in the first leg. Uncharacteristic defensive lapses from Marcel Sabitzer and Nordi Mukiele gave the Premier League champions the advantage for the second leg, but Leipzig has bounced back with four wins in the Bundesliga and is confident of cutting out those defensive mistakes. Speedy winger Angeliño is out of the game.
Atlético Madrid hosts Athletic Bilbao looking to increase its Spanish league lead to six points over second-place Barcelona. The top three clubs in the standings will have played 26 times after Wednesday’s match at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Atlético allowed Barcelona to move closer to the top after conceding an 88th-minute equalizer in the home derby against Real Madrid on Sunday. Madrid, the defending champion, is five points behind Atlético. Athletic is sitting eighth in the league standings and is coming off a home win against Granada.
Manchester City hosts Southampton fresh from seeing its 21-game winning run ended by a 2-0 loss to Manchester United. The defeat wasn’t so damaging with Pep Guardiola’s side leading the Premier League by 11 points. Southampton ended a run of four games without a win on Saturday by beating Sheffield United to sit 14th in standings.
Arminia Bielefeld has the chance to leave the Bundesliga’s relegation zone with a win over visiting Werder Bremen in their rescheduled 20th round game. The sides were supposed to meet on Feb. 7 but the game was called off due to heavy snowfall around Bielefeld. The hosts hope to end their six-game winless run. Sunday’s scoreless draw with Union Berlin was a success in Frank Kramer’s first game as coach in that the team had conceded three goals or more in each of its previous five games. Bremen, which only survived via a playoff last season, is also not safe. Florian Kohfeldt’s team is just eight points above Bielefeld.
Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli takes charge of Marseille for the first time with a home game against Rennes. That game was postponed on Jan. 30 after angry Marseille fans stormed the training ground in a bid to pressure the club’s unpopular president to leave. He has since done so and, after former coach Andre Villas-Boas resigned, the club hired Sampaoli. Morale is low among the players after last weekend’s humiliating French Cup defeat to a fourth-tier side. Things are not great either at Rennes, where coach Bruno Genesio is also leading his team for the first time following Julien Stephan’s resignation. Both sides are out of form, with Marseille eighth and Rennes only 10th.
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