The European elite clubs prepare for the return leg of the Round of 16 over the next couple of weeks. Porto, Dortmund, Real Madrid and Chelsea have the advantage going into the return leg against Juventus, Sevilla, Atalanta and Atletico Madrid. Liverpool and Manchester City are fairly comfortable to overcome RB Leipzig and Burossia Monchengladbach, while Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain have a superior 4-1 advantage going in.
All of the Italian clubs lost in the first leg. All of the English clubs won away from home, preserving three clean sheets. Giants Real Madrid and defending Champions Bayern Munich are the only winners from their countries. Liverpool will be the only home side traveling to play the return leg against RB Leipzig on a neutral venue (Budabest: Puskas Arena).
MATCHDAY 8 MATCH PREVIEW
A return leg is always easier to predict. Each team is going to react to or maintain the result of the first leg. Our fantasy UCL transfer deadline is set before the first two-match kickoff this Tuesday at 20:00 GMT.
The main issue is that domestic leagues never stop, so the teams scheduled for the second week may have two domestic league/cup games between the transfer deadline and their UCL ties, so our allowed free transfers should be chosen reduce exposure to that risk.
March 9 & 10
Juventus vs Porto: Since the first leg, Juventus has won two home domestic league matches with ease and drawn one away match to Hellas Verona. Juve will play at home against Lazio before hosting Porto, needing a simple 1-0 to advance based on Federico Chiesa’s late goal in the first leg. Domestically, Porto recorded a win, a draw and a loss. They are playing away against Gil Vicente before the deciding return leg where they need to keep the Italians from scoring any goals.
Dortmund vs Sevilla: Dortmund finally found themselves at the right time. Former coach Favre was sacked late last year, and interim manager Edin Terzic delivered a 3-2 away victory in the first leg. Sevilla now need a two goal margin in the return leg. The Germans have scored eight goals since then, keeping three clean sheets. They face defending Champions Bayern Munich domestically before the return leg. Sevilla on the other hand seem to be entering their seasonal dip in form, losing twice against Barcelona in league and cup ties while winning once against Osasuna.
PSG vs Barcelona: Three clean sheets and three wins were recorded by both clubs since the first leg. Barcelona had an additional match drawing 1-1 against Cadiz. La Blaugrana play away to Osasuna before traveling to Paris looking for another miracle. PSG play away against Brest tomorrow.
Liverpool vs RB Leipzig: Even though Leipzig’s performance was fairly poor in the first leg, they have since then won three matches and are definitely looking to fight for a place in the quarterfinals. It is all possible with Liverpool’s inconsistent results: winning against Sheffield United and losing to both Everton and Chelsea. It is notable that Liverpool failed to score any goals in the matches they lost.
March 16 & 17 - Stay Tuned
Rotation depends on how comfortable the coaches are with their chances to qualify to the second round. The heaviest rotation may be expected from Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Liverpool. Some non-key players with strong replacements on the bench are expected to start for some of the teams while Pep Guardiola’s successful decision making remains an eternal mystery.
Manchester City and Juventus have the highest chances to keep clean sheets against struggling M’Gladbach and Porto who will only try to keep the ball away from their half for 90 minutes. Dortmund vs Sevilla, Liverpool vs Leipzig and PSG vs Barcelona are probably the ripest matches to produce goals on both sides, while Atalanta and Chelsea have a great chance at a clean sheet against Both Madrid clubs in the return leg.
Painters and Net Rattlers
- Liverpool vs RB Leipzig: This match will take place on a neutral venue. This time around, Leipzig are going to take the initiative, and Klopp may opt to absorb it and look for counters to kill the match early on. They could end up in a 4-0 hammering in Liverpool’s favor unless RB Leipzig manage to score early on.
- PSG vs Barcelona: The Catalans have nothing to lose, so they’ll go all out to reverse the score. Expect an open play match where Verratti’s performance will be crucial again in deciding the outcome.
- Dortmund vs Sevilla: This is Dortmund’s match to lose with the recent high flying performances and the away goals advantage in addition to Sevilla’s recent dip in form.
- Juventus vs Porto: The history of both clubs suggests that Juventus has the advantage. However, Porto may just be able to pull off a goalless draw.
- Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid: With their new found form under Thomas Tuchel, the Blues should be able to see off the Spanish capital club, especially if Atletico show the same face that played in the first leg. For our entertainment, I hope both teams play their best football next week!
- Bayern vs Lazio: Flick may rotate more than others and should still secure qualification with a draw or small win.
- Real Madrid vs Atalanta: The controversial red card in the first leg will act as the fuel to push Atalanta to play a historic match and probably knock off Real Madrid. It would be highly unlikely though if the injury list is reduced for the Spanish giants.
- Man City vs M’Gladbach: Manchester City enthusiasts may see this season as the best chance for their club to win the Champions League. There is no stopping the free goal-scoring and clean sheet records just yet.
It goes without saying that this is football; tactical analyses are predictions and expectations that can go extremely wrong. Any different outcome may be counted entertainment!
Notable Injuries / Returns from Injury:
- Liverpool: Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Virgil Van Djik remain long term injuries joined by Henderson. Kabak, Kelleher are doubtful. Diogo Jota returned from injury and is building match fitness.
- Barcelona: Ansu Fati, Pjanic, Araujo and Pique are missing the match while Coutinho and Sergi Roberto should make their return.
- PSG: Neymar may not be fit to play the return leg. Juan Bernat remains the long term injury. Alessandro Florenzi recently picked up a muscle injury, and Moise Kean’s tested positive for Covid; both will miss the return leg against Barcelona.
- Sevilla: Jesus Nava and Ocampos made their returns for the Spanish club.
- Dortmund: Meunier made it back to training but the injury list has expanded where Axel Witsel is now joined with Giovanni Reyna, Jadon Sanco, Guerreiro and Manuel Akanji.
- Atletico Madrid: The list of injuries has almost been cleared with Jose Gimenez as the only doubtful player.
- Chelsea: Thiago Silva and Tammy Abraham are doubtful. Jorginho and Mason Mount are suspended.
- Lazio: First choice goalkeeper Strakosha is back from injury, while Luiz Felipe is joined by Lazzari and Radu on the injury list.
- Bayern Munich: Flick will be without Tolisso and Douglas Costa, while Pavard and Muller are back with the team.
- Real Madrid: Many players returned from injury for Zidane, including Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Valverde, Rodrigo and Benzema. Carvajal is doubtful while Eden Hazard picked up another injury upon his return and will miss the return leg against Atalanta. Casemiro is suspended.
- Atalanta: Right-back Hateboer remains doubtful. Remo Freuler is suspended.
- Porto: Mouhamed Mbaye and Chancel Mbemba are injured which has already caused an upset in the Portuguese club balance.
- Juventus: Andrea Pirlo will be without Rodrigo Bentacur, Matthjus de Ligt, Paulo Dybala and Giordio Chiellini. Arthur, Juan Cuadrado and Leanardo Bunocci are pushing for fitness to be ready. Danilo is suspended.
- Manchester City: Only Nathan Ake is doubtful for the EPL leaders.
MATCHDAY 8 BUILD UP
My fellow UCL expert Prakhar will publish his MD8 player picks tomorrow, and David will post a Rate My Team article on Monday, so you may keep coming back here for tactics chat and questions. And of course, I will be posting the UCL Live Chat article early Tuesday.
What’s on your mind as you shift gears from league play? Did the Leg 1 results cause you to drop any players who now look unlikely to advance? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!