The Champions League quarterfinals are shaping up to include more big names than in recent years. So far, there is no place for a dark horse in this competition. Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Man City have booked their qualifications, leaving behind Inter Milan, RB Salzburg, PSG and Sporting CP.
Tonight, the final set of 2nd-Leg Round of 16 matches begins in different European cities. There are three ties that are set to be broken later today. Man United will host Atletico Madrid and Ajax will depend on home advantage when potential dark horse Benfica visits. On the final day of the round, Chelsea visits Lille with a two-goal lead, and Villarreal will have the greatest chance to break through at Juventus Stadium in Turin.
It has been only positive news for United following the expected fall against Man City last week. Ronaldo returned to the headlines by scoring a hattrick against Tottenham in EPL. Also, Bruno Fernandes, Luke Shaw and McTominay are available against Atletico Madrid as they were present in Monday’s training session. Alex Telles joined Ralf Rangnick in the pre-match press conference so is expected to start over Luke Shaw.
In the Spanish camp, Saturday brought misfortune to Diego Simeone’s plans. Central defender Gimenez suffered a muscular injury in the 82nd minute of Atletico’s La Liga win over Cadiz. Gimenez joins a long list of injuries that limits Simeone’s options. With five substitutes allowed, this may be the main reason to see Manchester Untied as having the upper hand. Vrsaljko, Kondogobia, Hermoso, Lemar and Matheus Cunha are all key players suffering injuries, not to mention Carrasco remains suspended. Marcos Llorente joined Simeone in the pre-match press conference and is expected to start on the right flank of a 3-5-2 formation.
"It's impossible not to be motivated in games like this. It's very important for us, we are in a good moment and the team is looking forward to play this game."— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) March 14, 2022
- Marcos Llorente, on the Champions League game that we will play this Tuesday pic.twitter.com/WkAo7tRCS8
Since the 2-2 away draw at Benfica, Ajax defenses kept only one clean sheet from five matches. In the return leg at home, Eric Ten Hag is expected to field the same starting-XI except for keeper Pasveer. The shot-stopper is sidelined with injury alongside first choice keeper Stekelenburg, which leaves Eric with no choice but to play Onana between the sticks. Sean Klaiber remains sidelined, and Timber should fill in. Ihattaren is doubtful. The usual front quartet should not be affected though, and they must be able to overcome any goals conceded. I am looking forward to this one; it should be a thriller. Eric was joined by Haller in the press conference who went on record saying that Robert Lewandowski’s hattrick ruined his evening “a bit” last week.
Nicolas Otamendi took a well-deserved break in Benfica’s last domestic match against Vizela which ended in a 1-1 draw. Benfica’s injury list remains unchanged with Verissimo, Pinho and Seferovic sidelined. Darwin Nunez joined the pre-match press conference and he is expected to lead the attack. Benfica will be facing a difficult yet not impossible task of knocking favorites Ajax out of the competition to move forward to the quarterfinals.
The Old Lady won its last match on the road 3-1 over Sampdoria. Depth is a serious concern for Allegri. At this stage of the season, the schedule becomes unbearable for a medium-sized squad hampered with injuries. Mckennie joins Chiesa as a long term absentee, and the Italian side will also miss Chiellini, Bonucci, Dybala and Zakaria. On the other hand, Alex Sandro returned off the bench this weekend and may be starting on the left. Federico Bernardeschi is also recovered but may not feature from the start. Keep an eye on today’s press conference for more team news.
Unai Emery is in the same shoes as Allegri with injury woes. Alberto Moreno is sidelined through injury but is now joined by three key players identified as doubtful for now; Juan Foyth, Etienne Capoue and Raul Albiol. All three played a major part in Villarreal’s draw in the first leg, so missing them would be a blow that could end Villarreal’s bid to advance. On a positive note, striker Gerard Moreno may be available for selection.
Kai Havertz was on target again, securing three valuable points for his team this weekend against Newcastle in EPL. Thomas Tuchel will travel without Reece James who returned to the infirmary too soon after leaving it just recently. Ben Chilwell remains a long-term absentee while Azpilicueta is doubtful. Chelsea looks to dominate, ending the match before halftime, so not much of a rotation is expected.
Orestis Karnezis is the only name on the injury list for the French outfit. As group winners, Lille will be hosting the return leg on Wednesday, looking to put on a show that could bring a surprise with it. I acknowledge this is unlikely, but it is not outside the realm of possibility. Title-holders Chelsea will not settle for defending. The Blues will aim to uphold their reputation as champions and extend their lead against Lille from minute 1.
Keep an eye on the comments section for press conference reports and any other status updates before today’s deadline. Good luck everyone!
How’s your team faring? Are you debating whether to twist your captain? Do you have any tactical questions? And which matches do you plan / wish to watch as a fan? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!