- UEFA Champions League knockout stage resumes on Friday after five-month COVID-19 hiatus
- Manchester City welcome Real Madrid holding slender lead, whilst Chelsea look to mount a rescue mission against Bayern Munich
- Barcelona entertain Napoli with a level aggregate scoreline, as Juventus must overturn 1-0 deficit against Lyon
EUROPE – As the UEFA Champions League knockouts resume this Friday after the hiatus, here is all you need to know ahead of the four remaining last-16 second leg ties.
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As Atalanta, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig await in the next week’s quarter-finals, the names of the four other sides to reach the last eight will be determined this Friday and Saturday night.
With UEFA having began its’ three-week club competition tournament after the Europa League recommenced on Wednesday night, this weekend will see the continent’s biggest club competition resume after almost five months off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Looking to book their place in the next round to be staged between next Wednesday and Saturday evening in Lisbon – one staggered over each day – one-legged ties then await to determine the semi-finalists and the two to face off for this year’s European Cup on Sunday August 23 at Estadio da Luz, in the heart of the Portuguese capital.
Here is all you need to know.
City look to finish off Los Blancos
As one of two remaining Premier League teams in the competition, Manchester City are by some distance the best-set side to reach the quarter finals in less than a week’s time.
After goals from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne‘s spot-kick gave Pep Guardiola‘s men a 2-1 victory versus Real Madrid at the Bernabeu back in late February, the Citizens hold the advantage ahead of Friday’s second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
With Sergio Ramos absent for Los Blancos after the Spanish skipper’s dismissal last time out, Zinedine Zidane’s charges arrive in Manchester with work to do.
Playing their first European game without the threat of a two-year ban hanging over them, City will be looking to reach the quarter-finals for the third year running and could welcome back Sergio Aguero in attack, who missed the final five weeks of the season with a knee injury.
Though both Isco and Marco Asensio are back for La Liga winners, the hosts have been in electric goal-scoring form since the restart in June and will be tough to stop here. Juventus or Lyon await in the last eight.
Chelsea face Munich mountain
Whilst the other three ties remain in the balance, Chelsea’s clash with Bayern Munich looks all but resolved without a ball having been kicked, as Die Roten hold a sizeable cushion after dismantling the Blues 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in the first leg.
Led by former Arsenal man Serge Gnabry as he continued his hot streak of goals in London, Frank Lampard‘s side arrive with a Bavarian mountain to scale, needing to score three unanswered goals to merely take the tie to extra time.
Their lot has not been aided by the likely absence of both Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta, who were forced off in last weekend’s Emirates FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal, whilst both Marcos Alonso and Jorginho are suspended.
Following an uncertain mid-season spell for Bayern, the introduction of Hansie Flick into the Allianz hotseat has re-invigorated the Germans and claiming a record eighth successive Bundesliga crown last month, are regarded as a strong candidate to lift their first European Cup in seven years.
Robert Lewandowski is the tournament’s top scorer this term with 11 strikes also and with goals coming from all angles this term, Chelsea’s progression is almost unfathomable. The Blues will be unlikely to go without a fight however.
Nervy night ahead in Turin?
With Atalanta waiting in the last eight, fellow Serie A duo Juventus and Napoli still have work to do in order to join La Dea in next week’s quarter-finals in Lisbon.
In the case of Maurizio Sarri’s now nine-time successive Scudetto winners, the Bianconeri must overturn a 1-0 deficit to Lyon, after Lucas Tousart’s sole effort in the first leg at the Groupama Stadium.
Lyon have lost four of their last five trips to Italy in the Champions League, but conversely drew 1-1 with the hosts in November 2016; a similar result here will see Rudi Garcia’s men progress at the expense of the two-time winners of the European Cup, indeed, even a scoring loss will see the French side go through on away goals.
Juventus have been far from water-tight at the back this season and in their last seven games at the Juventus Stadium have kept a clean sheet just twice – conceding to Lazio, Atalanta, Roma and Torino.
In their favour however, Juve have once more found a goal-scoring touch, with Paulo Dybala flourishing after being pushed into a more forward role, flanked by Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Bernardeschi. That will likely be the decisive element here, but it could yet be a nervy evening for the Old Lady of Italian football in Turin on Friday night.
Barca poised to progress
Napoli meanwhile, face arguably the stiffer test away to Barcelona but travel to Catalonia level on aggregate at 1-1, after Dries Mertens’ effort in Italy before the COVID-19 hiatus.
Gennaro Gattuso has slowly seen the shoots of improvement since taking the reins from Carlo Ancelotti last December, however having finished seventh in Serie A, the Partenopei will be aware this could their last Champions League outing for the foreseeable future.
Napoli have lost only to Atalanta and Inter Milan since resumption – both on the road – but of greater and possible cause for concern for the Neapolitans will be a lack of goals in the locker – scoring just six in as many games away from Stadio San Paolo.
With that said, Gattuso’s side beat Juventus in the Coppa Italia final in June – on penalties no less – and La Blaugrana should not take Napoli lightly on their first competitive visit to Camp Nou. But, Barca should have enough firepower to make the quarter-finals.
The UEFA Champions League last-16 second legs resume on Friday, as Manchester City host Real Madrid and Juventus entertain Lyon, kick-off 20:00 UK time.
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