The Round of 16 first leg featured plenty of excitement, but the second leg always promises even more due to its finality for half of the teams. Will the teams with an advantage cruise through, or are comeback surprises in the cards?
Real Madrid v. Ajax
Following a late Real Madrid goal in the first leg, Ajax put on plenty of pressure but let the visitors escape with a 2-1 victory at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena. With three points, two away goals, and the boisterous Bernabeu fans behind them, is there any danger of Los Blancos failing to advance?
The home side will have plenty of added motivation, coming off two straight losses to Barcelona: 3-0 in the Copa del Rey, then 1-0 in La Liga. Ajax, on the other hand, have won three straight contests by a combined tally of 13-1 since the UCL defeat. Of course, Feyenoord Rotterdam, ADO Den Haag and NAC Breda are not quite up to the same level as Barcelona. But with Madrid’s stalwart defender Sergio Ramos suspended and the storied Spanish side languishing in 3rd place in La Liga, might Ajax be able to take advantage and pull a shock upset?
With a second half flurry, Spurs won the first leg convincingly at Wembley, 3-0. Since then, Spurs have gone off the rails, with two Premier League losses — 2-1 at Burnley and 2-0 at Chelsea — followed by a 1-1 draw in the North London derby against Arsenal. The team’s hold on 3rd place in the EPL table is now precarious as Tottenham has fallen into a fight for spots in next year’s Champions League competition. Dele Alli remains out injured, but Harry Kane — who was unavailable for the first leg — has a trio of starts under his belt now.
Borussia Dortmund has hit a rough patch in domestic form as well, winning just once in the past five tries, and now comes off a 2-1 loss at Augsburg. That has allowed Bayern Munich to draw even atop the Bundlesliga table, with Dortmund holding the goal differential tie-breaker. Marco Reus earned his first XI appearance in four weeks following injury recovery. Is he fit for another start at Signal Iduna Park?
A Nicolo Zaniolo brace won Roma the first leg 2-1 at Stadio Olimpico. Now we see if Porto, with its precious away-goal, can prevail at Estadio do Dragao. Both teams have enjoyed two wins in three domestic tries since the first leg, but both are also coming off losses: Lazio winning 3-0 over Roma, and Porto falling 2-1 to Benfica. Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen is available following injury in the first leg. Non-partisan fans will enjoy this contest as the week’s most open second leg where either team could just as easily advance.
Paris Saint-Germain v. Manchester United
Manchester United would normally cling to some optimism, thanks to a four-game unbeaten streak including three victories. But Paris Saint-Germain boasts an 8-game win streak, including the 2-0 win in the first leg at Old Trafford without even needing Neymar and Edinson Cavani, who missed out with injury (and are likely to do so again). Combining PSG’s purple patch of form with Paul Pogba’s suspension and the Red Devils’ current injury crisis — Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Alexis Sanchez have all either been ruled out or are unlikely to feature — Les Parisiens should feel confident of advancing at Parc des Princes.
What games are you watching, and which players do you need to perform well this week? Be sure to join us in the comments section as the live action unfolds!