UEFA : UEFA Champions League Preview

UEFA : UEFA Champions League Preview

It is Tuesday. The Champions League returns with a bang. The return fixtures of the tense last 16 knock-out stage begins tonight.

UEFA's Best

8 March 2016 (Real Madrid v Roma, Wolfsburg v Gent)

European champions for a record 10 times, Real Madrid, will seek to extend that record to 11th this season. Having problems with falling behind the domestic pack of the impressive Barcelona and city rivals Atletico Madrid, Real has had no problems in the Champions League to date.

Madrid topped their group in the first round, and take a 2-0 unassailable lead, having won 2-0 at Roma. Madrid is boosted by the return of the Welsh international winger Gareth Bale, whose combination with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema is one of the most lethal in world football.

Manager Zinadene Zidane could not hold back his excitement over Bale when he told reporters in a pre-match press conference that, “He’s prepared and ready to play, That is the most importsant thing.’

There is no stopping the trio at the Santiago Banabeu.

Madrid made it to the knock-out stage for the record 19th consecutive time, and went on to the semi-finals for the past 5 seasons. Together with arch rivals Barcelona, they are unbeaten in this season’s completion.

Roma seem certain to surrender this tie, unless they pull out something of a miracle.

Also tonight, German club Wolfsburg take on Belgian champions Gent. Wolfsburg won 3-2 away and that result may prove very crucial in this fixture. With 3 away goals they should do the business tonight.

Wolfsburg, is however, sweating on the fitness of playmaker Julian Draxler who scored twice in the first leg. His goal at the weekend was followed by knee ligament problems and he failed to complete the match.

Nonetheless, the overall experience of the squad in the competition should be enough to see through even a more determined Gent.

9 March 2016 (Chelsea v PSG, Zenit v Benfica)

Chelsea welcomes back their perennial counterparts in the competition to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fought hard defensively to thwart Paris St Germain’s attacking prowess which includes former Madrid and Manchester United winger Angel Di Maria, Swedish hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavanni.

It was the latter who came in late to steal a 2-1 victory for the French champions in the first leg. Tonight Chelsea will have to be at their best to keep a rampant and free spending club who will surely seek to prove that money can actually buy silverwear.

Although PSG has dominated the Ligue 1 for many years now, the Champions League has continued to elude them. They will seek to go all the way this time.

On the other hand, Chelsea’s season is in tatters domestically as they are on the verge of becoming the worst defending champions.

They need to repeat the near impossible feat of 2012 under the then caretaker manager Roberto Di Mateo when a faulty Chelsea surprised everyone by taking Europe’s most prestigious club competition. Even to qualify for next season’s competition the Blues almost certainly need to win this year’s competition.

That journey begins with finding a way against PSG tomorrow evening.

Captain John Terry returns after missing the first leg while Kurt Zouma remains sidelined for the fixture.

Also playing tomorrow evening, Benfica takes a 1-0 slender lead to the unfavourable hunting fields of the cold Russia to face Zenit St Petersburg. Benfica has been hit by injuries and suspension to their key defenders in Luisao, Lisandro Lopez and Andre Almeida as well as goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

This will make their trip even harder as they have often struggled against Russian clubs, winning only once, 20 years ago.

Zenit boss, Andre Villas Boas is confident of overturning the tie.

Full fixtures for Last 16 return legs

8 March 2016

Real Madrid   v    AS Roma

Wolfsburg      v    Gent

9 March 2016

Chelsea           v    PSG

Zenit                v    Benfica

 

(All matches kick off at 21:45 CAT)