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UCL Round of 16 Preview: Atletico hosts Man United, Chelsea faces Lille, and more

The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs come to a close this week as eight more teams kick off play in the knockout round.

Manchester United visits Atletico Madrid in the headlining tie this week as Ralf Rangnick’s side aim for a strong performance away from home. A 4-2 win over Leeds United on Sunday should give the Red Devils momentum coming in as four different players got on the scoresheet. Luis Suarez and Joao Felix are also coming off goalscoring performances this weekend as the La Liga hosts have won three of their last five matches.

Defending UCL winners Chelsea hosts a familiar opponent in Ligue 1 side Lille at Stamford Bridge. Thomas Tuchel’s side are well behind in the Premier League title race, but still have hopes of back-to-back UCL titles. Hakim Ziyech played the hero over the weekend at Crystal Palace, scoring the winner at Selhurst Park. Lille has only won one of its last five matches in all competitions and will need Jonathan David to spark the attack for any chance of a first leg result.

Elsewhere, Villarreal hosts Juventus in Spain while Ajax visits Benfica in Portugal.

Here is a closer look at this week’s Champions League matchups:

Atletico Madrid vs. Manchester United

(Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS/Univision/TUDN/Paramount+)

Manchester United visits Atletico Madrid on Wednesday for the first time since 1991 as the Premier League visitors aim for a strong first leg performance.

The Red Devils have won three of their last five league matches, most recently defeating Leeds United 4-2 on Sunday. Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire each found the back of the net at Elland Road, keeping the Red Devils in the race for a top-four finish. A trip to Madrid will be the latest obstacle for Manchester United this season, and should provide a tougher test for Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo, and others.

Atletico Madrid has also won three of its last five matches in league play, remaining in the race for European qualification. Luis Suarez and Joao Felix provide a strong 1-2 punch offensively, and both scored this weekend in a 3-0 victory over Osasuna. Defensively, Diego Simeone’s side will need to be compact to keep the Red Devils attack off the scoreboard.

Chelsea vs. Lille

(Tuesday, 3 p.m., CBS/UniMas/TUDN/Paramount+)

Defending Champions League winners Chelsea take the field this week to face off with defending Ligue 1 champions Lille.

It will be the first head-to-head meeting since the 2019 group stage, which Chelsea won both matches by 2-1 scorelines. Thomas Tuchel’s side inched past Crystal Palace in league play on Saturday thanks to Hakim Ziyech’s late winning goal, but overall the Blues were unconvincing in the final third. Romelu Lukaku has been quiet over recent weeks and Tuchel will need the Belgian international to be at his best for Chelsea to claim a first leg victory.

Lille is 2-2-1 in its last five matches and most recently failed to pick up three points against Metz on Friday. Jonathan David has been one of the best forwards in Ligue 1 this season, scoring 12 of his 16 total goals in league play. The Canadian international will need help from Burak Yilmaz and Tim Weah at Stamford Bridge if Lille wants to pull the upset on English soil.

Villarreal vs. Juventus

(Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET, Paramount+)

Serie A giants Juventus pay Villarreal a visit on Tuesday with the Italian visitors hoping for a confident road performance. Massimiliano Allegri’s side have drawn three of their last five matches in all competitions, most recently tying rivals Torino 1-1 on Friday. Paulo Dybala and Leonardo Bonucci will reportedly not be risked in the first leg in Spain, which could force changes to the starting lineup. USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie remains in strong form for Juventus and could return to the starting lineup after coming off of the bench against Torino.

Villarreal comes into the first leg on good form, winning three of its last four league matches including a 4-1 romp over Granada on Sunday. Arnaut Danjuma stole the show with a hat trick this weekend and will be joined by Pau Torres and Dani Parejo in the Villarreal offensive attack. The La Liga hosts may not be favorited to defeat Juventus over two legs, but defensively could make things difficult for the Bianconeri especially after posting clean sheets against Real Madrid and Real Betis in recent weeks.

Benfica vs. Ajax

(Wednesday, 3 p.m., Paramount+)

Two of the UCL underdogs square off this week in Portugal with both sides hoping for a positive first step into the quarterfinals.

Benfica hosts Ajax on Wednesday knowing it hasn’t had plenty of head-to-head success against its Dutch opponents. Ajax holds a 4-1-2 all-time record against Benfica to date and will be favored to get the job done away from home. Benfica has only won one of its last five matches in all competitions, most recently tying Boavista 2-2 on Friday. Darwin Nunes is the player to watch for Benfica, scoring three goals in his last three appearances for the club.

Ajax is in stellar form, winning its last eight matches across all competitions, and outscoring its opponents 39-1 over that span. Goals have come in bunches for Ajax this season and former West Ham United forward Sebastian Haller has been at the forefront with 26 combined goals this season.

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