UEFA Champions League: Chelsea need comeback, Madrid return home & more

UEFA Champions League: Chelsea need comeback, Madrid return home & more

UEFA Champions League

UEFA Champions League: Chelsea need comeback, Madrid return home & more

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Cavani getty


By JOHN BOSCHINI

If Chelsea are to win their long-sought-after UEFA Champions League title, they must mount a comeback against a high-powered opponent in Wednesday's Round of 16 second leg with Napoli.

Napoli bring a 3-1 advantage into Stamford Bridge to take on a Chelsea side trying to find its way after the firing of Andre Villas-Boas. A silver lining for the Blues is Juan Mata's away goal means a 2-0 victory would be enough for qualification into the quarterfinals.

Napoli will miss the raucous home support that has rattled opponents during their impressive Champions League run. Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri was cleared to return to the bench after a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport temporarily overturned his two-match ban for an incident stemming from December.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, return to the Bernabeu in a slightly more precarious position than many were expecting. A February night game in Russia slowed what has been the most dominant offense in Europe this season, as CSKA Moscow earned a 1-1 draw. Keeping Cristiano Ronaldo and company at bay will be much more difficult as Madrid have scored 67 goals at home in both La Liga and Champions League play.

Here is a look forward to both games coming up in the Champions League:

CHELSEA VS. NAPOLI

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 3:45 p.m.

FIRST LEG: Things were off to a bright start for Chelsea in the first leg as a gaffe from Paolo Cannavaro allowed Mata to slot home the opener for the visitors. The lead was not to last as Chelsea's defensive frailties were repeatedly exposed. Ezequiel Lavezzi took advantage of space to curl a long-range effort past Petr Cech, and Edinson Cavani gave Napoli the lead just before halftime. Lavezzi completed his double when Cavani took advantage of a David Luiz mistake and found the open striker.

THE LOWDOWN: If Chelsea are to complete the unlikely comeback and advance, keeping a clean sheet will be imperative. Stamford Bridge is nowhere near the fortress it once was and Napoli will be more than happy to absorb pressure and pounce on the counter attack. The speed and creativity of Napoli's front line exposed the age and lack of discipline in the Chelsea back line in Naples but two clean sheets in a row could spell the beginning of some consistency in defense. Don't expect Di Matteo to make the same mistake as his predecessor and sit some of the veteran players. Mazzarri is operating with a near-full strength squad.

REAL MADRID VS. CSKA MOSCOW

TV: Fox Soccer Plus/FoxSoccer.tv, 3:45 p.m.

FIRST LEG: Real Madrid never really got out of second gear during the 90 minutes in Moscow and were eventually punished for their complacency. Ronaldo capped a spell of dominating play by Madrid with a low, powerful shot in the 28th minute. Madrid poured forward afterwards, but lacked a finishing touch. Moscow's equalizer came in the 90th minute, when Pontus Wernbloom smashed the ball home after Madrid failed to clear.

THE LOWDOWN: Despite Moscow's late goal in the first leg, it is difficult to see anything but Madrid advancing to the quarterfinals. Bayern Munich and Barcelona have already demonstrated what can happen when superior teams return home following less-than-convincing road trips. Ronaldo will look to add to his 40 goals in all competitions this season, while a mostly full-strength back line should keep Moscow off the scoreboard. The Russians are in the unenviable position of needing to score after conceding the away goal, so bunkering in won't be an option.

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What do you think of today's games? Can Chelsea turn it around against Napoli? Do you see Napoli holding out at Stamford Bridge? Do you see another outcome besides a Madrid victory?

Share your thoughts below.

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