Champions League Preview

The 2nd leg games of the last 16 start tomorrow and I thought I would preview the 8 games which are too be played over the next 2 weeks as well as the sole British team left in the Europa League.

I will add on any team news over the next couple of weeks as it is announced so don’t forget to keep checking back. Or follow my twitter to stay up to date with the latest developments.

Tuesday 6th March

Liverpool (5) – (0) Porto

Liverpool are free to rotate after scoring 5 away goals without reply in Portugal. Porto are not the team they once were but it was still an impressive win at the Estadio De Dragao. It will be smooth sailing in Liverpool with one foot already in the quarter finals, we might even see fringe players like Danny Ings, Solanke or Woodburn get a run out. Lallana should also play a part after an injury ravaged season.

PSG (1) – (3) Real Madrid

PSG went into the first game as slight favourites to qualify for the quarter finals. Real Madrid had other ideas and managed to find some form in an otherwise disappointing season. With Neymar out for up to 3 months PSG now face an uphill task but an away goal offers a little hope. Di Maria is in double figures for goals and assists this season so there is an in-form replacement waiting to come in. Madrid are struggling in La Liga, 15 points off Barcelona and 7 points behind Athletico Madrid. They seem to find form when they need it most and the Champions League now offers their only chance of glory.

Wednesday 7th March

Manchester City (4) – (0) Basel

After beating Arsenal twice and then Chelsea I don’t see a situation where City can throw away a 4-0 lead at home to Basel. Guardiola will be free to rest some of his players after a busy schedule of games. Delph is available again after serving a three game domestic suspension but Sterling and Fernandinho are likely to miss out. We could see some game time for the young Foden who has looked impressive when playing for both City and the England youth teams. With the treble still on the cards Guardiola will be hoping to continue their blistering form.

Tottenham (2) – (2) Juventus

Tottenham should have really come away from Turin with a win. A disastrous start to the game meant they found themselves 2-0 down within 10 minutes. With Juventus not conceding a goal at home in 2018 it looked like Tottenham had bottled it once again. But a stunning fight back, with goals from Kane and Eriksen, puts spurs in the driving seat at Wembley with 2 away goals. Alderweireld and Aurier are unavailable for Tottenham which forces some defensive changes for Pochettino. Whereas, Juventus will be without Mandzukic and Cuadrado but Dybala is expected to start. I firmly believe that by Wednesday night the Premier League will already have 3 representatives in the quarter finals.

Tuesday 13th March

Manchester United (0) – (0) Sevilla

A dire game in Seville ended a classic Mourinho performance away in Europe. You may criticise his methods but taking a 0-0 back to Old Trafford isn’t a bad result. He just needs to make sure they get the job done at home.

United come into the game with good momentum after good wins against Chelsea and Liverpool whereas Sevilla have looked inconsistent. Pogba missed the game against Liverpool at the weekend and after sitting out training on Monday he is likely to remain sidelined. Martial could make a return after missing the last two games but the available squad remains similar to the weekend.

Roma (1) – (2) Shakhtar Donetsk

This was a close game to call and although Shakhtar came from behind to get the win it looks like Roma still have the advantage going into the second leg. Shakhtar don’t travel well and have suffered six defeats in their last 7 away games in the Champions League but they will be hoping to buck the trend here.
They will need Ferreyra to continue his good form up front and add to his 11 goals in the last 10 games for Shakhtar. While Dzeko will lead the line for Roma in the battle of the target men. I think most Quarter Finalists will be hoping to draw the winner of this tie.

Wednesday 14th March

Besiktas (0) – (5) Bayern Munich

Another team who are already through is Bayern Munich. After going down to 10 men after 16 minutes in the first leg it was always going to be a difficult game for Besiktas. Bayern are cruising 20 points clear in the Bundesliga so a case could be made for complacency when coming up against tougher opposition. However, it looks unlikely as they managed beat PSG 3-0 at home in their group proving they are still a match for anyone on their day.

Barcelona (1) – (1) Chelsea

After a near perfect display, one mistake from Christiansen gave Messi the one chance he needed to level things up for Barcelona. A 1-0 lead would have offered hope but going to the Nou Camp needing to score is a whole different ball game. By their very high standards Barcelona have been a little inconsistent this year but still find themselves 8 points clear at the top of the league. After watching the Chelsea performance against Manchester City on Sunday I can’t see a path into the quarter finals for Conte. Will this be the beginning of the end for Conte or will there be a revival?

There are no fresh injuries for Chelsea with just Barkley and Luiz unavailable. The only question is if Conte continues to play with Hazard leading the line or if the nod is given to Giroud or Morata. Barcelona are just waiting to hear on the fitness of Andres Iniesta, he is due a late fitness test but won’t be risked unless 100% fit.

Thursday 8th March

AC Milan v Arsenal

When Arsenal entered the Europa League you could forgive the fans for thinking ‘at least we won’t get beat 10-1 like last year’. Sadly, that’s still very much a possibility.

AC Milan are still struggling to live up to their impressive history but they have seen a recent up turn since Genarro Gattuso took charge as manager. After watching the last few Arsenal games they would struggle against just about anything you put in front of them. A win or even a draw at the San Siro would help rebuild the confidence which is at an all time low.

With Aubameyang ineligible and Lacazette injured, Welbeck is likely to lead the line despite a lack of form. Monreal has not recovered in time and Bellerin has been left behind due to injury so the defence will probably be similar to the Brighton game with Kolasinac and Chambers coming in.

If Arsenal play as badly as they have been I’d throw Nketiah in the mix, some youth playing without fear might be what they need to get them out of this slump.

Thursday 15th March

Arsenal (2) v (0) AC Milan

Well how wrong was I? A commanding performance in Milan means Arsenal bring a 2-0 lead back to the Emirates. A comfortable win against Watford at the weekend helps to build confidence in the camp and home comforts should get Arsenal through.

Tottenham and Manchester United have thrown away promising positions in Europe in the last couple of weeks so the job is certainly not done. But despite Arsenal’s many hiccups this season they have always looked better at home.

Mustafi could miss out after picking up a knock against Watford but Bellerin and Monreal could return after missing the last two games. Welbeck will lead the line again and a few players could return after being tested at the weekend.

Calabria and Abate are both out for Milan which poses some defensive headaches for Gattuso.

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