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Africans in the Champions League: Last 16 Guide

ESPN - Tuesday 13th February, 2018

We're approaching six years since Africa produced a Champions League winner, but with a swathe of continental stars still in the running in this year's tournament, will that run end this year?

While Besikas, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Shakhtar Donetsk and AS Roma don't boast any African representation, the other 11 teams still standing in the tournament each feature at least one of the continent's players, all of whom will be dreaming of European success.

The Round of 16 clash with the most significant African interest is FC Porto's double header with Liverpool, with the two clubs - both multi-time winners of Europe's grandest prize - able to call upon some of the continent's top players.

The Reds, in particular, boast the reigning CAF and BBC African Footballer of the Year in Mohamed Salah, whose stock continues to climb after a strong start to life at Liverpool.

The Egypt international netted five in six in the group stages, and only Harry Kane (23) has more goals than him (22) in the Premier League this term.

Salah will be supported by Sadio Mane, and while the Senegal international has struggled to replicate his early-season form in recent fixtures - finding himself overshadowed by the North African and Roberto Firmino - he remains one of the competition's brightest attackers.

He may have scored just twice since New Year, but after netting three in four group games, Mane could yet be one to watch during the knockout stages.

At the other end, Cameroon's Joel Matip could be one of the men charged with keeping Porto's three-headed dragon of African forwards at bay, with the Portuguese giants' continental trio boasting the pace, invention and finishing quality to cause problems for any backline.

Matip's compatriot Vincent Aboubakar netted five in five in the group stage - only six players scored more - and his relationship with Moussa Marega and Yacine Brahimi represents a severe test for Liverpool's backline.

Ghana's Waris Majeed, signed in the January window on loan from FC Lorient, has been included in Porto's Champions League squad, and could be a fascinating trump card for coach Sergio Conceicao.

Another Black Star could make his first tournament start of the season in Turin, where Kwadwo Asamoah's Juventus face Tottenham Hotspur in one of the most mouth-watering ties of the round.

The versatile left-sider has watched on as Alex Sandro has been preferred in continental competition this term, but a wide battle between he and Spurs right-back Serge Aurier - if they play - could be one of the great one-on-one clashes of the week.

Juve had Morocco's Medhi Benatia as an option for their defence, with the stopper having excelled against Barcelona in the group stage, while Kenya's Victor Wanyama is fit again and pushing for a spot in Spurs' midfield.

Of the other English sides, Manchester City are perhaps the best bet for continental gold, as Pep Guardiola's side chase what would be a remarkable quadruple.

Yaya Toure has been registered for the UCL and may be introduced should Guardiola rotate his midfield, raising the prospect of a midfield battle against his compatriot and FC Basel stalwart Serey Die.

While Toure is coming to the end of his career at the Etihad Stadium, and keen to round off his successful spell at the club with further silverware, Nigerian wonderkids Lukas Nmecha and Tosin Adarabioyo are taking their first steps in the game.

Manchester United will be hoping that their own Ivorian superstar - Eric Bailly - can return to action in time for their Round of 16 meeting with Sevilla next week, although according to ESPN, the centre-back faces a race against time to pass fit.

Jose Mourinho will be desperate to have the defender back due to the recent toil of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, and the impending contest with Franco-Tunisian forward Wissam Ben Yedder.

The former Toulouse attacker scored six in six in the group stages, and after devastating Liverpool's defence, will be relishing the prospect of a return to the North West.

Chelsea may be limping along in the Premier League - despite their 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion - but they have the quality and the experience to trouble Barcelona over two legs.

It will be interesting to see how Victor Moses, who was once linked with a move to Barca, fares against the Spanish table toppers, and whether the Blues can put their internal tumult to one side and see off Ernesto Valverde's side.

Having fallen way off the pace domestically, you can expect Real Madrid to place their focus on the Champions League over the coming months, where a 13th European Cup could be the saving grace for an otherwise miserable campaign.

A Last 16 draw against a Paris Saint-Germain team featuring Presnel Kimpembe and Christian Nkunku represents a tough assignment for Zinedine Zidane's side.

Full-back Achraf Hakimi featured twice in the group stages, but the Morocco international's gametime has been decreased following the return to fitness of Dani Carvajal.

Nonetheless, the North African may yet be Africa's best bet for a new European Cup winner, if, of course, Real can put their domestic troubles behind them against a PSG side desperate to make amends for last year's capitulation against Barcelona.

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