Champions League: Zinedine Zidane under pressure as Real Madrid face Paris Saint-Germain | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 13.02.2018
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Champions League: Zinedine Zidane under pressure as Real Madrid face Paris Saint-Germain

With his job on the line, Zinedine Zidane will be expecting Toni Kroos, Cristiano Ronaldo and co to deliver against Neymar and PSG. Meanwhile, there is a very German flavor to Liverpool's squad as the Reds head to Porto.

"A debacle. The worst day I have had here as coach. I got so much wrong." That is how Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane described his team's Copa del Rey humiliation against minnows Leganes last month.

But it could get much worse for the Frenchman if his reigning European champions fail to overcome Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last-16, the first leg of which takes place in Madrid on Wednesday night.

Floundering in La Liga as well, 17 points behind leaders Barcelona in fourth, an unprecedented third straight Champions League triumph appears to be the only chance of a trophy for Real this season. Could an early exit — the earliest since defeat to Lyon at this stage in 2010, spell the end for the 1998 World Cup winner?

"Yes, that's as clear as day," he admits. "I am responsible for what's happening here and it's up to me to find solutions."

The names of potential successors have already begun circulating on the Spanish rumor mill, with German national team coach Joachim Löw said to be in the frame  raising the prospect of a reunion with German international Toni Kroos at club level.

But, according to Germany's kicker, Real president Florentino Perez would prefer current Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp, who he has had on his radar since his successes with Borussia Dortmund.

Ronaldo vs. Neymar

The meeting between Real and PSG also sees a direct clash between two superstars of world football: Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

The former scored 12 goals in last season's Champions League, including consecutive hat-tricks against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinal and Atletico Madrid in the semifinal, plus two more in the final against Juventus.

And despite his team's struggles this season, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has still managed to find the net 23 times in 28 appearances in all competitions so far.

Neymar, on the other hand, was instrumental on PSG's last visit to Spain, inspiring his former club Barcelona to a 6-1 win over his current employers to complete an incredible comeback at this stage of last season's competition.

It was a shattering defeat for the French club and their Qatari owners who are determined to win Europe's biggest prize. But striker Edinson Cavani insists they have learnt important lessons.

"We lost an incredible match but it is just part of the development of the club," he told Spanish sports daily Marca. "We lost and learnt from it. We've brought in new players since then and we have more experience."

Klopp, Karius and Can travel to Porto

While Toni Kroos lines up against PSG, his compatriots Emre Can, Loris Karius and Jürgen Klopp head to northern Portugal with Liverpool, where the Reds face FC Porto in their bid to progress to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.

Klopp seems to have finally settled on Karius as his number one between the sticks, and the German pulled off a couple of impressive saves as Liverpool beat Southampton 2-0 at the weekend. 

Before that game, Klopp has addressed Can's contract situation, with the German international potentially set to leave Merseyside on a free in the summer. 

"Everything is still possible," said Klopp, responding to speculation that Italian champions Juventus are interested in the 24-year-old. "When we have something to say, we'll say it. But no decision has yet been reached."