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A number of factors are in Barcelona's favour in the 2016/17 Champions League with UEFA putting them forward as the most likely team to lift the trophy.

The last-16 gets underway on Tuesday with the Catalans facing Ligue 1 champions Paris-Saint Germain but that tough tie isn't expected to prevent them from reaching Cardiff for the June 3 final.

In fact, UEFA managed to predict Real Madrid as last year's winners, Zinedine Zidane's side going on to claim the title in Milan against Atletico Madrid.

Here are the key stats used to gauge the likely victor:

Group stage winners

Aside from Inter in 2010, each of the last 11 Champions League winners finished first in their group. Beating Manchester City to top spot in the first half of the season, that puts Barcelona forward with Real Madrid, Sevilla, and PSG among those who qualified for the knockouts in second place.

Defensive balance

A tournament winning defence cannot be too good nor too bad, according to recent history. Not since 2003 has the team who conceded the least goals in the group stage, Atletico and Juventus this year, gone on to win the Champions League.

In addition, no club that's let in more than eight in their group has lifted the cup. That includes Borussia Dortmund, Benfica, Manchester City, and Real Madrid this time around.

Outsider

In its current format, the Champions League final hasn't featured a club who's only just reached the knockouts for the first time.

Villarreal came close in 2006, losing to Arsenal in the semi-finals, but this stat would appear to rule out Leicester City.

Precedent

Chelsea's 2012 triumph represents the only time in the last 19 seasons that a club has won their first European Cup. In fact, plenty of teams in the last-16 this year are chasing their maiden title; Arsenal, Atletico, Leicester, Bayer, City, Monaco, Napoli, PSG, and Sevilla.

Luis Enrique: Barcelona are considering signing cover for Aleix Vidal

Barcelona may have suffered the unsightly setback that was Aleix Vidal's ankle dislocation on Saturday but coach Luis Enrique is prepared to bring in a short-term replacement to improve his options.

LaLiga rules stipulate that a serious injury can be covered for outside of the transfer window by bringing in a player from within the division or one without a club.

"Aleix [Vidal] is better and in a process of improving day by day, the initial [recovery] phase is quieter but that can be annoying for the player," the Asturian told reporters. "When we lose a player like this, we have to consider the option of signing a replacement.

"Our squad is not very extensive and it's a possibility that we are looking into and we will see if we can find someone that suits us."

In the immediate focus of the Catalan club is the Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain, with Luis Enrique looking forward to facing up to ex-Sevilla boss Unai Emery, who now helms the Ligue 1 side.

"We have a good record at [Parc des Princes] because we always play well here, we've never faced a docile or submissive PSG team and their coach knows us perfectly," added the Barcelona coach.

"No coach has faced us as much [as Emery].

"PSG have taken a few months to reach their best level, it will be a difficult tie like the rest of our last-16 games have been.

"Our goal as always is to win the game without considering that there's a return leg."

Paris Saint-Germain are Neymar's favourite victim

Barcelona boast an impressive record of three wins in their past three meetings with Paris Saint-Germain and the main reason for that success has been Neymar.

The Brazilian has scored in each of those victories, while he also netted in the previous match, a 3-2 PSG win.

As such, his tally against the Ligue 1 champions stands at five goals from four matches, so he will be a potential Blaugrana danger man, as will the in-form Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who have each scored three times against the Parisians.

Considering the fact that the French club have tried to sign Neymar on a number of occasions, and never successfully, it would be a cruel blow for them if the 25-year-old works his magic at the Parc des Princes once again.

Sergio Ramos: I haven't ruled out changing my No.4 shirt for 93

After completing 500 games with Real Madrid Sergio Ramos is a happy man, and to celebrate the milestone the defender took to Facebook Live to answer questions and interact with his audience, which included the revelation that he hasn't ruled out changing his shirt number to 93.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters were online to view his answers.

"I don't know which goal is my favourite," he began.

"I have some good ones but they are like my children, I'm not sure I can pick just one.

"Maybe the equaliser in the Champions League final because it took us a lot to win and scoring in the last minute is special."

A change of short number was perhaps the biggest surprise.

"The '4' has given me a lot of luck and has accompanied me throughout my career with Real," he continued.

"But don't think that I haven't considered changing it for 93."

Asked by one supporter what it meant to wear the shirt, Ramos was unequivocal.

"We have to be aware of what the club badge entails," he said.

"We have to represent it and give the maximum, put sweat on the shirt to the very end."

Clearly he isn't ready to hang up his boots just yet.

"I still have years here as a player and I enjoy every day," he noted.

On reaching 500 matches, a mark very few manage, Real's captain was grateful.

"I am very proud of it and I did not expect it," he said.

"Many years ago I did not imagine that I could achieve such an important figure.

"I can enjoy it today but I want to continue to represent the best team in the world."

Finally he was asked what he would've done if he wasn't a footballer.

"If I had not been a footballer I would have dedicated myself to another sport," Ramos concluded.

"Tennis has always attracted my attention so I would've been fighting with Nadal."

Estadio Vicente Calderon confirmed as 2017 Copa del Rey final venue

After much wrangling, the Spanish FA (RFEF) have confirmed the Estadio Vicente Calderon as the host stadium for the Copa del Rey final on May 27.

Atletico Madrid will vacate the historic arena in the summer to move to their new home, the Estadio Wanda-Metropolitano, and were the first club to put forward their ground as a potential venue for the showpiece game.

Finalists Alaves had hoped for San Mames, in nearby Bilbao, to be awarded the game but not all of the stadium's five joint-owners were in favour, especially given the Guns N'Roses concert nailed on for May 30.

Their competitors, Barcelona, pushed for Real Madrid's Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to no avail, with Los Blancos president Florentino Perez dismissing the idea due to construction work planned for that week.

The Vicente Calderon played host to last year's Copa final, which saw the Blaugrana triumph over Sevilla, having held the tournament's culmination for the first time in 1973.

Martial's next goal will cost Manchester United €10m

Monaco are set to continue earning from the sale of Anthony Martial to Manchester United even though the forward left the club 18 months ago.

An initial 40 million euro deal signed in August 2015 has already been upped due to the vast array of add-ons and bonuses agreed between the clubs, with the latest soon to be met.

Currently on 24 goals for the Red Devils after netting versus Watford, Martial's next strike will tick him over to the amount at which United have agreed to pay 10m euros to the French club, as revealed by Football Leaks.

Another 10m euros will be sent Monaco's way if and when the forward gains his 25th cap for France, with 15 to his name at this moment in time, and the principality team will even receive a 10m euro payment should Martial finish inside the top three at a future Ballon d'Or.

Bale racing back to action

The medical room at Real Madrid's Valdebebas training ground is close to being emptied of its final, and longest-serving, inhabitant as Gareth Bale kicks into the next stage of his comeback from ankle surgery.

It has been three months since the Welshman seriously damaged his ankle ligaments against Sporting CP and Sunday saw the first-team squad joined by their teammate for the first time since that night in Lisbon.

Therefore much planning has been going on behind the scenes to determine the ideal date for Bale's return to playing action, with the Champions League first leg against Napoli dismissed, leaving the LaLiga fixtures with Espanyol and Valencia as the most likely options.

Completing his recovery programme will see the winger indebted to Los Blancos physio Jaime Bento, who has worked night and day with Bale and even moved to Wales over the Christmas period to continue his monitoring of the injury.

The forward expressed his joy at returning to full training via social media and that happiness will be reciprocated by Zinedine Zidane and all concerned when Bale does finally step back onto the pitch, signalling the end to what was turning into a real fitness crisis for the league leaders.

 
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