Champions League Preview

After both Arsenal and Chelsea were knocked out by big teams in the last round, Manchester City remain the only English team left in the tournament, although they face a difficult task against a PSG side who have already been crowned champions of Ligue 1.

Bayern Munich meanwhile, who knocked out Juventus in a thrilling tie to book their place in the quarter finals, face Benfica, who beat Zenit St Petersburg 3-1 on aggregate to keep their European dream alive.

Wolfsburg, who are probably considered the other ‘smaller club’ along with Benfica, face another footballing giant in the form of Real Madrid, who haven’t let their poor league form affect their Champions League hopes, after knocking AS Roma out in the last round, with a 4-0 aggregate victory.

Looking at the match up of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, Atleti overcame PSV in the round of 16, although they had to do it on penalties after 0-0 draws in both legs. Barcelona however brushed Arsenal aside in style with a 0-2 win in the first leg and a 3-1 win in the second.

Manchester City’s match up will surely define their season, as their league hopes seemed to have all but perished, and while their victory in the League Cup would have been satisfying, the manner in which they went out of the FA Cup with a 5-1 defeat to Chelsea meant that they had to do well in either the league or the Champions League, and sitting in 4th place means that a place in the prestigious tournament is a must for the arrival Pep Guardiola next season, but to actually make Pellegrini’s final season at City a success, they would surely need to at least progress to the semis.

In their way will be PSG, and despite winning the league already, the club’s main ambition was always to win the Champions League, so they will fancy their chances after already overcoming an English team this season as they beat Chelsea 4-2 on aggregate with a brace of 2-1 wins.

The Bayern Munich v Benfica match not only features one team who are top of the league, but two, as both Bayern and Benfica are leading their respective tables, although, unlike PSG, neither have been crowned champions yet.

Bayern will be without superstar Arjen Robben, but Kingsley Coman, who put in an excellent performance in the second leg of the tie with Juventus, is expected to be fit.

When the draw for the round of 16 was made, Bayern Munich v Juventus was easily the most mouth-watering tie, and it certainly lived up to the billing, as the first leg saw Juve fight back from 0-2 down to get a well earned draw to take into the second leg.

In that incredible second leg, it was Bayern who had to fight back from 0-2 down, and it looked like they were about to exit the tournament already when they were 1-2 down in stoppage time, but Thomas Muller’s late goal saved them, before two more goals in extra time won them the match, and more importantly, put them through to the next round.

Benfica on the other hand were presented with a much more favourable draw against Zenit, and after winning the first leg 1-0, a 1-2 win in the second earned them a place in the quarter finals.

Real Madrid brushed past Roma with 2-0 wins in both legs last round, and Ronaldo and co will be delighted to have drawn Wolfsburg, but the German side are not to be underestimated.

A poor season in the Bundesliga has somewhat over-shadowed what has been an impressive European campaign, in which they finished top of their group before overcoming Gent in the round of 16, and they are a dangerous side with goals in them who will look to hurt Real Madrid, a side that struggled against German opposition last season in the previous round, as they narrowly squeezed past Schalke 5-4 on aggregate.

Finally, Barcelona, who were defeated 1-2 against Real Madrid on Saturday, will face another opponent from Madrid in the shape of Diego Simeone’s Atletico.

So far this season Atletico have been ruthlessly efficient in defence, whilst also posing a threat up front with the impressive Antoine Griezmann, and they fully deserve to be second in La Liga.

They have drawn and beaten their local rivals Real Madrid this season, and their good form would suggest that they would have a good chance of beating Barcelona, although the league leaders have beaten them both times this season, and seem to be a team that Atletico often struggle to beat.

This round of Champions League fixtures promises to be another treat, and with intriguing match ups, much is left to be decided, and you won’t want to miss it – we’re nearing crunch time…



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