The UEFA Champions League got underway in fine style last week with some scintillating football and huge first leg results.
Atletico Madrid showed that they have lost none of their mettle as their battle-hardened warriors snagged an important 1-0 first leg win over defending champions Liverpool.
Atalanta continued their fairy-tale run with a mammoth 4-1 first leg win over Valencia to place one foot in the next phase. Elsewhere, we saw breathless attacking football from Dortmund who emerged 2-1 first leg winners over PSG.
Last but not least, Tottenham’s black-and-blue team suffered a narrow 1-0 first leg home loss to an excellent and efficient RB Leipzig outfit.
The match-ups this week promise to be even more entertaining as some of Europe’s stalwarts begin their respective Round of 16 campaigns.
Here we preview the four match-ups on deck:
This match-up sees old foes renew their rivalry once again. Chelsea fans’ fondest memory of Bayern Munich is of course their 2012 Champions League final win. Bayern though have proven to be a notoriously difficult opponent over the years.
This year will see Frank Lampard’s young Chelsea outfit begin the tie as underdogs. A strong performance at the weekend to overcome London-derby opponents Spurs have placed Chelsea in good stead for the tie. Bayern also copped a huge win at the weekend — a late Lewandowski winner the difference as the Bavarians overcame Paderborn return to the top of the Bundesliga table.
Both teams are renowned for strong attacking but suspect defending so we’re anticipating an open and exciting encounter here.
Gennaro Gattuso’s men have turned the corner since the shenanigans surrounding the departure of previous manager Carlo Ancelotti. They arrive to this match in good form, with an inspired comeback away win over Brescia at the weekend.
They face a stalwart of the competition this week in the form of Barcelona. Quique Setien’s men produced their strongest performance of his short reign with a 5-0 win over Eibar in La Liga to overtake rivals Real Madrid at the top of the domestic table.
Leo Messi and company begin their European exploits in a tie that promises to provide another entertaining and attacking game of football.
Lyon vs Juventus
A great 0-2 away win against Metz at the weekend was a good warm up for Lyon as they begin their Round of 16 bow for the visit of the Italian champions. They are certain underdogs against one of the competition’s favorites, but they have proven this season that they have the quality to trouble even the best of opponents.
Maurizio Sarri’s men have been grinding results of late and maintain their place at the summit of Serie A with a weekend win over SPAL. They have been heavily reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo to lead the line, and everyone knows just how motivated he is to win the Champions League with a record third club. Expect CR7 to be a man on a mission as the campaign gets underway.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City
Without a doubt the tie of the week, Real Madrid are an entirely different proposition from the Group Phase, having found some consistency as they gun for the La Liga title. A shock loss to Levante at the weekend have seen them give up top place, so they will need to be better for the visit of another tournament favorite — Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s men were rocked by the news of a two year Champions League ban by UEFA, which on the surface gives them their last opportunity of winning for the foreseeable future. With the domestic league title already out of reach, this tournament will occupy maximum priority as the last chance to realize the club’s top ambition.
City have the tools to hurt Madrid, who are not renowned for their defensive fortitude. Sergio Aguero will lead the line, with Keven De Bruyne pulling the strings around a formidable attack. Madrid however have weapons of their own, with Karim Benzema in fine form and a plethora of attacking options. One player who misses out however is Eden Hazard, who suffered a fractured leg on his return to action against Levante. The injury could see him miss the remainder of the season.
Must see football!
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