With eight teams of the last 16 in the Champions League having already played their first round of matches, Cillian Dunn assesses their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals.
Manchester City Vs Barcelona
Where they stand: Having lost the home leg 2-0, City’s hopes of progression, never exactly high to begin with, look to have been shattered. Now they face a daunting trip to Camp Nou, home of the team who, if we are to disregard for a moment the recent comments of one Jose Mourinho, are still arguably the most feared on the planet.
The good news: Leading scorer Sergio Aguero should return from injury to provide the Citizens with a vital goal threat. But for many City fans, the fact that Martin Demichelis is suspended is even better news.
The bad news: Just the small fact that no side has ever overturned the 2-0 deficit they will face at the Nou Camp next month.
The key man: Yaya Toure. If City are to win by the two clear goals they will need just to force the tie into extra time, then they cannot allow Barca’s midfield to dictate the game as they did at the Etihad Stadium. Toure, playing against his former club, must be at his commanding best for City to prevent this from reoccurring.
Where they stand: Not quite home and dry, but if Messi pops up with his usual goal nice and early, then they will be.
The good news: They’re playing at home, hold a two goal lead and have the best player in the world fit again and scoring goals.
The bad news: “This is the worst Barcelona of many, many years” – haven’t you heard?
The key man: Xavi. If the opposition don’t have the ball, then they can’t score. Barcelona proved this once again in the first leg, and the veteran pass master will be key to controlling the midfield as always.
City will play the only way they know how to – all-out attack – and with Aguero back in the side they should score goals. On the other hand, Barca are far too good to let a two goal advantage slip, especially on their own patch. A draw would therefore seem the most likely result, with Barca triumphing comfortably on aggregate.
AC Milan Vs Atletico Madrid
Where they stand: Ninth in Serie A, and already 1-0 down from the home leg, this is shaping up to be Milan’s worst season in years.
The good news: They dominated the first leg, and can consider themselves hugely unlucky to have come away with nothing. With new signing Adel Taarabt impressing on his Champions League debut, the Rossoneri boast a front four brimming with creativity and goals, in Taarabt, Kaka, Andrea Poli and Mario Balotelli.
The bad news: The statistics suggest that that the one goal deficit may as well be five – not only are Atletico unbeaten at home all season, but Milan have won just twice on the road in Serie A.
The key man: During his first spell with Milan, Kaka was the best player in the world. He may not have hit those heights again since his return, but in the first leg Kaka was easily Milan’s most dangerous player, the former Real Madrid man rattling the crossbar and heading against Thibaut Courtois from close range. The Brazilian might be 31 now, but he remains a terrifying prospect for any defender.
Where they stand: With an invaluable win at the San Siro, Atletico are now firm favourites to progress, as they entertain Milan at the fortress that is Estadio Vicente Calderon.
The good news: Atletico have scored 41 home goals in La Liga and conceded just seven. If they can keep up that form, Milan should be blown away.
The bad news: One of the most annoying footballing clichés – that games aren’t won on paper – is one that certainly holds true here. Ultimately, a one goal advantage can be lost in just a second (there’s your second cliché), and Milan remain a side capable of the spectacular.
The key man: Diego Costa is one of the most sought after players in Europe for a reason – the forward was the difference between the two sides in their first encounter, and few would bet against him deciding the second leg.
Probably the hardest of the games to call; Atletico, with their home record, will be expected to triumph, but Milan possess players capable of unlocking any defence. Expect goals from both sides.
Bayer Leverkusen Vs Paris Saint-Germain
Where they stand: They lost the first leg. 4-0. At home. It’s fair to say this is going to be tricky.
The good news: At least they can concentrate on the league now…
The bad news: They lost 4-0 at the BayArena, one dreads to think what the result will be in France.
The key man: Stefan Kießling. If last season’s Bundesliga’s leading scorer can get a hat-trick in each half, then maybe there’s hope for his side. Although even then, they’d still have to stop Zlatan.
Where they stand: The phrase ‘unassailable lead’ is one which is bandied around a lot this days, but PSG really would appear to have one here.
The good news: Barring what would arguably be the most disastrous result in the club’s history, they’re through to the quarter finals.
The bad news: If they managed to lose now, it would be pretty embarrassing.
The key man: Zlatan Ibrahimović now has 10 goals in six Champions League appearances and has overtaken Cristiano Ronaldo as the competition’s top scorer. Nothing more needs to be said really.
Leverkusen will be playing for pride and trying to keep the score down, but if Zlatan’s in the mood, even that humble goal may be beyond them.
Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich
Where they stand: 2-0 down from the first leg and facing the daunting prospect of tackling the European Champions on their own turf. Oh, and their keeper’s suspended.
The good news: The Gunners won 2-0 at the Allianz Arena last season, and every Arsenal fan would love a repeat of that result, to force the game into extra time and give them a fighting chance. Whether any would take a penalty shoot-out if offered is another matter entirely.
The bad news: 2-0 wins at the Allianz Arena don’t come round regularly, and it would be an astonishing feat if Arsenal managed even to force the game into extra time, let alone win.
The key man: Mesut Özil has been the subject of much criticism for his recent performances, culminating in his penalty miss against Bayern, but Arsenal will need to carve out plenty of opportunities to stand a chance in Germany – and the playmaker will redeem himself if he is central to that.
Where they stand: The holders need only defend a two goal lead at the stadium where they have yet to lose in the league under Pep Guardiola. Easy, right?
The good news: They are the best team in the world, with the best manager, playing in a stadium where they never lose.
The bad news: The home fans will expect their team to win, so if Arsenal get an early goal, it could be a difficult night for Bayern.
The key man: Philipp Lahm. The man regarded by many as the best full back in the world has been converted into a defensive midfielder by Guardiola, and the Germany captain will be crucial in ensuring his side control the midfield as they did at the Emirates.
Arsenal have little to lose; they need goals. Playing without fear could pay off for them, but is more likely to result in leaving their defence exposed. 3-1 Bayern.bookmark me