Champions League matchups as PSG heads to Madrid with edge

Mar 6, 2022, 2:34 AM | Updated: 4:35 pm
PSG's Kylian Mbappe, left, challenges for the ball with Saint-Etienne's Falaye Sacko during the Fre...

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, left, challenges for the ball with Saint-Etienne's Falaye Sacko during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Saint-Etienne at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

English clubs Liverpool and Manchester City are in commanding positions. Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich still have some work to do.

The first four spots in the quarterfinals of the Champions League are up for grabs this week, with most of the competition’s title favorites in action.

A look at the second-leg matches in the round of 16:

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TUESDAY:

BAYERN MUNICH VS. SALZBURG (1-1)

Thomas Müller’s first own-goal in his long Bayern Munich career has disturbed what should have been relatively straightforward preparation for the visit of Austrian champion Salzburg on Tuesday. Müller scored in the wrong goal for Bayer Leverkusen to draw 1-1 in his 407th Bundesliga appearance on Saturday, when it was evident that communication among the German league leaders is an issue. Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, who is filling in for the injured Manuel Neuer, said he told Müller he had Kerem Demirbay’s harmless-looking cross covered, but Müller was already on his way to turn it in. Dayot Upamecano also produced an error-strewn performance in defense, where any mistakes Tuesday are likely to be punished by Salzburg’s German forward Karim Adeyemi, a reported target for Borussia Dortmund next season. Salzburg, which held Bayern to a 1-1 draw in their first game, warmed up for the return in Munich with a comfortable 4-0 win at SCR Altach. Bayern struggled with the Austrian team’s pace in the first leg before Kingsley Coman rescued a draw for the Bavarians in the last minute.

LIVERPOOL VS. INTER MILAN (2-0)

There is increasing talk about a possible quadruple of titles for Liverpool, which has already won the League Cup, is in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup and has closed in on Manchester City in the Premier League title race. The Reds’ involvement in the Champions League should stretch into next month after late goals by Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah at the San Siro gave Liverpool a handy advantage to bring back to Anfield, where Liverpool is notoriously hard to beat — especially on big European nights. Liverpool is unbeaten in all competitions in 2022 and perhaps has its strongest squad in Jürgen Klopp’s reign, with the German coach having plenty of options in attack. Klopp’s big decision might be who to start out of Diogo Jota and new signing Luis Diaz alongside Sadio Mane and Salah. Inter’s defeat to Liverpool started a run of four straight matches without a goal for the Nerazzurri. They went more than 400 minutes without scoring before ending their goal drought in spectacular style on Friday with a 5-0 win over last-place Salernitana. Lautaro Martínez scored a hat trick in that match but he hasn’t netted in the Champions League since 2020.

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WEDNESDAY:

MANCHESTER CITY VS. SPORTING (5-0)

Holding a big lead from the first leg, City has the luxury of being able to rotate its players amid a busy run of fixtures in three competitions as the season reaches the business end. Defense is the area where Pep Guardiola has few options, though, with right back Kyle Walker serving the second match of his three-game suspension, Ruben Dias out for up to six weeks with a hamstring problem and fellow center back Nathan Ake also nursing an injury. It’s up front where Guardiola may make changes, with the game coming three days after the Manchester derby in the Premier League — with City beating United 4-1 — and the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish looking for game time after returning from injury. City will reach the quarterfinals for the fifth straight season unless something sensational is produced by Sporting, which is more likely to come into the match in damage-limitation mode after its thrashing three weeks earlier in Portugal. Since then, Sporting had a home loss to rival Porto in the first leg of the Portuguese Cup semifinals.

REAL MADRID VS. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (0-1)

Real Madrid enters the second leg against PSG with coach Carlo Ancelotti having to figure out a way to set up his midfield. Casemiro is suspended and Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde are listed as doubtful because of health issues. Valverde is more likely to be available after missing Saturday’s Spanish league game against Real Sociedad because of flu symptoms, but Kroos is expected to be out because of a muscle injury. Casemiro was key in Madrid’s 4-1 win over Sociedad, when he played alongside young Frenchman Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric. Left back Ferland Mendy also is out due to suspension. PSG prepared for the trip to Spain by losing for only the third time in 27 French league matches this season — to second-place Nice. Coach Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping to have right back Achraf Hakimi (thigh), Argentina midfielder Leandro Paredes (groin), Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera (eye infection) back to face Madrid. A makeshift backline looked vulnerable against Nice. Pochettino clearly had the European game in mind as he rested defenders Presnel Kimpembe and Nuno Mendes. Kylian Mbappé didn’t play due to suspension so will be fresh to bring his electric pace back to face Madrid and link up with Lionel Messi. Reaching the final just like in 2020 is where PSG wants to be in May — and winning the Champions League, for the Qatari ownership, for the first time.

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Champions League matchups as PSG heads to Madrid with edge