The final four UEFA Champions League round of 16 series begin on Tuesday with matches in Germany and England. Most of the matches a week ago were one-sided affairs, and there is potential that this week’s showdowns across the continent will feature the same results.
The most intriguing matchup of the quartet may not be the one that immediately sticks out on paper, but Manchester City and Monaco have the potential to put on a show over two legs, starting at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Atletico Madrid heads to Germany in a quest to take some away goals from Bayer Leverkusen in Tuesday’s other round of 16 game. On Wednesday, Porto hosts Juventus and Sevilla takes on Leicester City at home. Although the clash of titans in Portugal will headline the marquee on Wednesday, everyone is curious to see if Leicester can reverse its fortune and earn a result in Spain.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s Champions League action.
Manchester City vs. Monaco (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Injuries of Note: Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Vincent Kompany are the big names on the Manchester City injury report, all of them are out for the long term. Gael Clichy is doubtful as well. Djibril Sidibe is in doubt for Monaco, while Gabriel Boschilla is out.
Key to the Game: Manchester City will have to limit away goals from one of the top scoring teams in Europe. Monaco has found the back of the net 76 times in Ligue 1 action, and it is no stranger to busting open a massive lead. Holding the visitors scoreless, or to just one tally, is imperative heading into the second leg at the Stade Louis II.
Player to Watch: Falcao. The former Manchester United forward has scored on 16 occasions in Ligue 1 for the first-place team in France, and he’s coming off a two goal, one assist showing 10 days ago against Metz.
Quote: “At our best, we can beat anyone but that means everyone has to be on the top of their game and that can’t always be the case in football – that’s just how it is.”- Kevin De Bruyne
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)
Injuries of Note: Bayer Leverkusen will be without center back Jonathan Tah, while Jan Oblak, Diego Godin and Juanfran are in doubt for Atletico.
Key to the Game: Even with the potential absences of Godin and Juanfran, the Atleti defense will be disciplined from the start, and it must be with red-hot Javier Hernandez patrolling the final third for Leverkusen.
Player to Watch: Kevin Gameiro. Atletico also has a forward on a hot streak entering Tuesday’s contest. Gameiro came off the bench to score a hat trick against Sporting Gijon on Saturday, a performance that should earn him a start alongside Antoine Griezmann.
“We are going to find a team that deploys everything their coach asks: heart, enthusiasm, intention and a lot of intensity. They are probably one of the most intense rivals we have played in the Champions,” – Diego Simeone
Sevilla vs. Leicester City (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
Injuries of Note: Islam Slimani missed Saturday’s FA Cup match with Millwall due to a groin injury. Leonardo Ulloa is also in doubt with a hamstring problem. Benoit Tremoulinas and Michael Krohn-Dehli remain out for Sevilla, but Nicolas Pareja is closing in on a return to the squad.
Key to the Game: The struggling Foxes will have to put a stop to their wretched form in the Premier League to even have a chance of downing the two-time defending UEFA Europa League champions. Limiting Sevilla to one goal would be seen as a massive success for the relegation contenders in England.
Player to Watch: Danny Drinkwater. If Leicester is to come away from Spain with a result, it will need a strong performance out its midfield lynchpin to absorb the pressure from the Sevilla attack and provide protection for a back four that hasn’t played well of late.
“We have to make the most of the home advantage to go into the second-leg in front”- Mariano
Porto vs. Juventus (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)
Injuries of Note: Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini missed Juventus’ win over the weekend against Palermo. Miralem Pjanic is expected to be back at full fitness for the Italian side. Porto is working with a fully fit squad.
Key to the Game: The showdown at the Estadio do Dragao features two of Europe’s best defenses, but the match could come down to the midfield battle. Whichever side dictates the pace of play in the middle of the park has a better chance of breaking down the opposition’s back four. All it takes in a match with such small margins is one quality chance to switch the momentum.
Player to Watch: Hector Herrera. On that note, Porto’s midfield will be key to keeping the dangerous Juve attack off the ball. If the Mexican midfielder can set the tone in the middle of the park right away, Porto can limit the damage the visitors will do and set itself up for an advantage heading into the second leg.
“Porto will be tough, but it’s our aim to go all the way in the Champions League. We need to be ready to take on any team in this competition.”- Mehdi Benatia