UCL: No love on Valentine’s Day for Real Madrid, PSG

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Real Madrid continue their quest for three Champions League titles in succession when they host Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Valentine’s Day.

Zinedine Zidane’s men swept all before them last season, but they have struggled for large portions of the current campaign and their La Liga performance in particular has been disappointing.

Nevertheless, having made history by defending the Champions League last year, they remain determined about their chances of clinching a historic third, but they must overcome Unai Emery’s formidable French outfit first.

PSG topped their group with ease, finishing first ahead of Bayern Munich, and they will be keen to make a statement to the rest of the continent by deposing the reigning champions.

Real Madrid may have won five titles in 2017 and back-to-back Champions Leagues, but they have looked a shadow of their former selves throughout the 2017-18 season.

Los Blancos are 17 points behind bitter rivals Barcelona in La Liga and they were recently eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Leganes at the quarter-final stage. They have looked somewhat better in Europe, but even so, they had to settle for a second-place finish in Group H.

Despite that, Zidane is adamant that his charges have what it takes to win the Champions League for the third time in as many seasons and it is felt that the achievement of such a feat will absolve the team of their poor domestic displays.

However, in order to do that, they will have to overcome a PSG side that now features Neymar, the €222 million man who tormented them during his time at Barcelona. The Ligue 1 giants scored the most goals in the group stage, accumulating 25 strikes in six matches – including a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich – and they are thirsty for continental glory.

Knocking the crown off Madrid would instil even more belief in the Parisiens that they have what it takes to go on and clinch the top prize in European football, and they will be keen to put their best foot forward at the Bernabeu.

Zidane will have to make some changes in defence with Dani Carvajal suspended. Raphael Varane could potentially deputise for the Spaniard, meaning Nacho would partner Sergio Ramos.

Jesus Vallejo is injured, while midfielder Dani Ceballos is also considered a doubt.

There are slight concerns over the availability of Neymar, who is nursing an ankle knock, while Thiago Motta is unavailable, but other than that Emery has a clean bill of health.

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