The race for Europe’s top prize heats up this week as the Champions League round of 16 ties continues. The City.ie looks ahead at what to expect from this week’s fixtures.
Manchester City v Barcelona
This is undoubtedly the biggest match up in the round. City will be seeking revenge after losing out 4-1 on aggregate to Barcelona at the same stage last year. Despite boasting a front three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, Barcelona aren’t as heavily favoured coming into the tie this year. A lot will depend on the performance of Messi’s compatriot Sergio Aguero: on his day Aguero has the ability to be the catalyst for a City victory over any opponent but he has been hampered by injury this season. City are also missing their key man in midfield Yaya Toure which will be a huge loss. Despite this however, City should have enough for Barcelona on the night. The return in the Nou Camp will be a different story however and the Catalans should sneak through over the two legs, but just.
Juventus v Borrusia Dortmund
Dortmund’s unexpected struggles in the Bundesliga this season have been well documented. Jurgen Klopp’s side, who reached the Champions League final in 2013, have been languishing in the relegation places for much of this season. However, their form in Europe has been good, and three wins in the league have pushed them up to 12th place recently so they will come to Turin with confidence. This form probably won’t be enough against Juventus though. They sit at the top of Serie A, nine points clear of Roma, and have only lost two of their last 28 Champions League games on home soil (W17 D9), both against Bayern Munich. With the likes of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba and top form, the Italian champions should win tonight and ease their way through over the two legs.
Arsenal v Monaco
The Gunners have been on their best run of form this season and will be buoyed by leapfrogging Manchester United into third place over the weekend. Realistically Monaco were the best team they could have hoped to draw in this round and Arsenal should have too much for the principality both in this game and the return. Dimitar Berbatov will need to be well marshalled by the Arsenal defence, but aside from the Bulgarian, Monaco won’t pose much threat.
Bayern Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid
The Spanish champions reached the Champions League final last year, and while such a run might be beyond them this term they should progress against Leverkusen. The only fear is complacency. However Atletico have consistently overcome the ‘underdogs’ tag against domestic rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid so complacency is unlikely. Leverkusen will hope for an upset but this too is highly unlikely: they have never won a last 16 tie in the Champions League.
By James Cox