The Champions are back! And week 2 of the Champions League Round of 16 is almost more enticing than week 1, with historic implications on the table for the clubs representing England, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine and Italy. Week 1 was highlighted by the clashes of titans, seventeen goals in four matches, and star players shining (or crumbling) on the big stage. Below are the top stories ahead of the Round of 16 matchups this week.
Chelsea v. Barcelona – Must-watch match of the week
The marquee matchup of the week sees Chelsea host Barcelona at Stamford Bridge for their first competitive tie since the Champions League semi-final in April 2012. Chelsea bested Barça on that occasion – 3-2 on aggregate thanks to a 92nd-minute Fernando Torres goal – on their way to earning their first and only Champions League title. However, few will forget Iniesta’s dramatic 93rd-minute goal at Stamford Bridge that sent Barcelona through to the 2009 UCL finals and broke thousands of hearts in West London. Barça went on to beat Manchester United in the final.
Cesc Fabregas and Pedro could feature against their former club. Philippe Coutinho is ineligible to play in Champions League following his move from Liverpool.
"We start this game as underdogs...We must be prepared to suffer without the ball, to be compact, not to lose our heads during the game. Then with the ball we try what we know, what we've tried during training."
- Antonio Conte on being prepared for suffering against Barcelona
Chelsea have struggled of late – losing two games to bottom-of-the-table clubs in the Premier League, while Barca enter the first leg undefeated in both La Liga and Champions League.
Surprisingly, Lionel Messi has not scored against Chelsea in eight previous meetings. Antonio Conte will look to continue that trend and will rely on Eden Hazard to spark the English champion’s hopes of an upset.
Bayern Munich v. Besiktas – History for Besiktas and a big test for Bayern
Bayern Munich finished second in Group B behind PSG and therefore are the hosts for leg one against Besiktas, who finished top of their group. Bayern will plan on grabbing a decisive early advantage in the first leg at the Allianz Arena, which has been a fortress for the German champs having won 19 of their previous 20 Champions League games at home.
"Bayern have a big squad with many top players – they could field two teams!"
-Besiktas Manager, Senol Gunes, on the depth and quality of the opposition
Bayern have reached the Champions League semifinals in six of the last eight seasons. Meanwhile, Besiktas will play in the Round of 16 for the first time in the club’s history. The Black Eagles surprised many by finishing first in a group featuring Monaco, Porto and RB Leipzig.
Keep in mind that the Besiktas defense is anchored by Pepe, who has claimed three Champions League titles (2014, ’16, ’17) in addition to winning the European Championship with Portugal in 2016. Combine that with the likes of Ricardo Quaresma, Talisca, Alvaro Negredo, and more (Cyle Larin!). This team should be taken very seriously.
The Turkish Giants will test Bayern Munich in a big way, and while this match is overshadowed by Barca/Chelsea, we recommend finding a second screen so that you don’t have to miss out on this one.
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Roma -- Sevilla v. Manchester Utd.
Shakhtar Donetsk will try to repeat the success they had in the 2010/11 campaign by advancing to the quarterfinals at Roma’s expense. The Ukrainian champions knocked Roma out at this stage in 2011, and they look prepared to do the same in 2018.
"Maybe we could kill him or knock him down or something..."
-Sevilla Manager, Vincenzo Montella, on how to contain Alexis Sanchez
Roma has advanced to the knockout stages for the sixth time in their last seven appearances in the competition. But their record at this stage will not lift Roma supporter’s hopes; they’ve lost seven of their last eight Champions league knockout games.
Sevilla host Manchester United in the first competitive meeting between the two clubs. Sevilla currently sits 5th in La Liga, six points behind Real Madrid.
Jose Mourinho led Manchester United to a Europa League title last season and he would love to become the first manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs (Porto '04, Inter '10). United put on an impressive display in the group stages and they will be lifted by the addition of Alexis. But the Red Devils have struggled against Spanish teams, scoring just seven goals in their last 14 Champions League matches against Spanish opposition.
[Cue: UEFA Champions League Anthem]
Author: Mike Daly