The Champions League is Back Already!
Getty Images/Harold Cunningham-UEFA

The UEFA Champions League is back with games on the 25th and 26th of February to conclude the first-legs of the round of sixteen. Another four great matches in store and we will look at how the teams have been performing:

Real Madrid vs Manchester City

Could Manchester City land a sucker punch to UEFA and win their first ever European Cup before they are banned from the competition for the next two seasons? City will feel they need to win the Champions League in order to have a successful season as the Premier League seems to be heading to Merseyside. City topped their group relatively easily but taking nothing away from them as they were notably undefeated. The last time these two sides faced off was back in 2016 when Real Madrid beat City 1-0 over two-legs in the Champions League semi-finals. Guardiola will have a battle on his hands when he welcomes Zidane to the Etihad.  

 

 

However, they will need to overcome the most successful side in the competition by beating Real Madrid. Los Blancos finished second in their group behind PSG after being thrashed 3-0 by the Parisians and drawing twice. Madrid suffered a shock defeat at the weekend to mid-table Levante, which resulted in them giving up top spot to Barca, and to make matters worse Eden Hazard went off injured with a fractured ankle and could miss the remainder of the season. This is set to be one of the tie of the round, with explosive fire power in both ranks, making this an unpredictable game. Both Pep and Zidane have won this competition not only as players during their career but also multiple times as managers ensuring the game is one not to be missed.

Chelsea vs Bayern Munich

Another tie not to be missed is Chelsea against German champions Bayern Munich. Frank Lampard’s youthful Chelsea side will be hoping to overcome an inform Bayern side in his first Champions League campaign as a manager. Chelsea won their final group game against Lille 2-1 but were also helped through by a Rodrigo goal for Valencia, who beat Ajax 1-0. Chelsea’s Champions League form since they last won it back in 2012, against Munich, has not been something the fans would have hoped for. However, during that time they have been crowned Europa League winners twice, including last season’s competition. Chelsea ended a run of four league matches without a win at the weekend over rivals Sups; however, they are likely to be without N’Golo Kante and Kovacic, who are both battling injuries.

 

 

Bayern Munich became only the seventh team in history to win all six group stage games. Robert Lewandowski was the group stage top goal-scorer with a haul of ten goals, leaving him just one shy of the all-time record. Plus, if you add up the other fourteen goals scored by Bayern, it made them the highest scoring team in the groups. To make matters worse for Chelsea, they conceded the third-most goals of teams that qualified for the knockout stage. Does this spell defensive disaster for Lampard’s men? Bayern last lost a game way back at the start of December and now are on a run of eleven games without defeat. Bayern boss Hans-Dieter Flick’s men will surely come away with a victory when he takes his side to Stamford Bridge.

Napoli vs Barcelona

Napoli finished second in their group behind current champions Liverpool despite beating Liverpool once and not losing a game. Three draws resulted in Liverpool pipping the group by a point. This is only the third time in their Champions League history that they have made it out of the group stages, but have fallen at the first hurdle every time. To make matters worse Napoli have a poor record against Spanish sides in two-legged games, losing their last four. However, after a recent good run of form in Serie A, Napoli have won four out of their last five which has moved them into a Europa League spot and nine points off fourth place. Napoli will be hoping their manager, Gennaro Gattusso’s, experience of winning the Champions League twice will help them beat the La Liga leaders.

 

 

Barcelona haven’t had the best luck in the the last three Champions League knockout stages; giving away substantial leads from the first leg resulting in being knocked out. Back in 2017, Barca were 4-0 in the first leg against PSG but ended up losing 6-5 on aggregate. The following year, they were 4-1 up against Roma but Barca slipped up and were knocked out 5-4. And finally last year they were dramatically knocked out by winners Liverpool 4-3 on aggregate after being 3-0 up after the first leg. However, Quique Setié will be hoping he can avoid being the third Barcelona manager in a row to be embarrassingly knocked out. Barca topped their group being one of six sides to remain undefeated. Messi will be aiming to catch Ronaldo in Champions League goals, as the Argentine has fallen fourteen behind CR7 in goals and will be hoping to gain some ground in Naples.  

Lyon vs Juventus 

Olympique Lyonnais have a tough task at hand, they are hosting Serie A leaders Juventus. Lyon managed to scrape through the group stages courtesy of an 82nd minute Memphis Depay goal to secure a draw at home to RB Leipzig. However, Lyon will be without him as he ruptured his cruciate ligament back in December. Lyon are sitting in seventh place in Ligue 1; only managing three wins in their last eight games. Lyon and Juve have played each other four times in the last seven years with Juventus winning three and a draw between the two sides. Lyon have struggled at home this season, but with a place in the quarter finals at stake, the French side will have to be at their best to take down the Italian champions.

 

 

Juventus will be looking to make it to the Champions League quarter finals for the fourth consecutive season. However, Juventus haven’t won the competition since 1996. Juventus have won six out of their last eight league games but they could have a number of key players missing for this match with the likes of Pjanic, Costa, Higuain and Khedira all doubtful. Sarri’s men finished top of their group unbeaten with just one draw and also conceding the second least amount of goals during that time. Champions League all time top scorer Ronaldo, always seems to relish this part of the season and will definitely be looking to add to his tally in Lyon and take his side through to the quarter finals. 

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