A chance for PSG to avenge THAT comeback, Thomas Tuchel seeks European redemption against dark horses Atletico Madrid and can Peter Gulacsi pile more misery on old club Liverpool? 10 things to look out for as the Champions League returns
- The Champions League makes it’s return after two months with the last-16 ties
- Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City are all among those fighting for prize
- RB Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi will hope to pile misery on old side Reds
- Paris Saint-Germain will be desperate to avenge their 6-1 Barcelona humiliation
- Zinedine Zidane, Andrea Pirlo and Pep Guardiola are bosses with point to prove
- Sportsmail picks out 10 things to look out for ahead of knock-out stage return
After over two months away, the Champions League returns in all its glory on Tuesday evening as we reach the business end of the competition with the knock-out stages.
Europe’s Premier club tournament has now been narrowed down to just 16 teams, with English sides Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City among those fighting for the top prize with heavyweights Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona all hoping to secure another crown.
Ahead of some mouth-watering last-16 ties over the next two midweeks, Sportsmail picks out 10 things to look out for as the Champions League returns…
The Champions League returns with the last-16 as Bayern Munich look to defend their crown
Liverpool’s struggles have been well documented this year after a limp defence of their domestic and European dominance over the two seasons previous, with even talk of pressure mounting on Jurgen Klopp.
What better way, then, to silence those critics than another run in the competition they won back in 2019? Their first task will be no easy feat, though, as they face last year’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig.
RB Leipzig’s Peter Gulacsi (right) will look to pile more misery on his old side Liverpool (left)
The Bundesliga outfit look in good shape again this season and have a man with a point to prove between the sticks. Peter Gulacsi, who spent six years with the Reds but was never given a chance, will hoping to show them exactly what they are missing and add to his old side’s troubles.
Chance for PSG to avenge *that* comeback
It is still regarded as the competition’s greatest ever comeback and for good reason. In 2017, Barcelona defied all odds by overturning a 4-0 first leg deficit with an iconic 6-1 victory to dump Paris Saint-Germain out of the competition.
The dramatic collapse four years is still fresh in the memory in the French capital, with Raphinha, who was on the winning side that night but is now at PSG, admitting some at the club are still reeling from the defeat.
Paris Saint-Germain will want to avenge their 6-1 Champions League defeat in 2017 (pictured)
Kylian Mbappe (right) will be man tasked with inspiring PSG against Lionel Messi’s Barca (left)
The Parisians may never have a better chance to avenge that night either, with Barca a very different team to the one that night. Stars names Neymar, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta are gone but Lionel Messi is still very much here for now, someone only a brave man would bet against.
In-form Sevilla favourites against out of sorts BVB
In most other years, you might think Borussia Dortmund would be dead-certs to progress against Europe League specialists Sevilla but they are two teams who appear to be heading in very different directions right now.
The La Liga side climbed into the top four with their ninth straight win in all competitions at the weekend, with goalscorer Youssef En-Nesyri one of several dangers for Dortmund to look out for.
Sevilla (pictured) go into their last-16 clash with wavering Borussia Dortmund as the favourites
The out-of-sorts German side are wavering under interim manager Edin Terzic as they sit a lowly sixth in the Bundesliga, but the talents of Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and veteran Marco Reus still make this a mouth-watering last-16 tie.
Can Ronaldo drag Juve through?
Another European giant who are not quite at the level everybody has come to expect from them during this chaotic season with their nine-year defence of the Serie A title under serious threat, a Champions League run can offer some reprieve for Andrea Pirlo’s men.
Who else but the competition’s all-time top scorer to help them on their way, then? Cristiano Ronaldo is the king of the Champions League with 132 goals and five winners medals to his name but is yet to get get past the quarter-final stage with Juve since signing in 2019.
Champions League master Cristiano Ronaldo will look to drag Juventus on a European run
Standing in their way is Porto, armed with Ronaldo’s no nonsense old friend Pepe, defeating the current Primera Liga champions will be no easy task.
Atletico the dark horses?
A team who regularly seem to find themselves among the last teams challenging in this competition, Diego Simeone’s runaway La Liga leaders look as well-placed a side as any this year.
After making the switch to Atletico in the summer, deadly striker Suarez is showing he still one of the world’s top strikers with 16 goals this season as a switch from Simeone’s trusted 4-4-2 formation to a 3-1-4-2 has given them the attacking flexibility not seen before.
Runaway La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid look as well-placed as any side in this season’s set
Atletico will go in as heavy favourites against a Chelsea side who have had a disrupted season and could have an outside chance to finally go all the way this year after falling short so many times in the past.
Tuchel hoping for UCL redemption
While Chelsea have experienced turmoil, they now have a man in charge who knows what it takes to reach the final of this competition.
Thomas Tuchel’s PSG fell narrowly short against Bayern Munich in the showpiece event last summer, in a defeat that seemingly sparked the beginning of the end of the German’s reign at the Ligue 1 champions.
Thomas Tuchel will hope to find redemption for his Champions League defeat last season
The new Chelsea boss will be desperate to show that run to the final was not just a flash in the pan and, after five wins in his opening six games, a victory against one of Europe’s top sides would show he means business once again.
Comfortable passage for holders Bayern?
Last season’s champions Bayern Munich will have hopes of going all the way once again as they look to secure their seventh Champions League title.
Hansi Flick’s side have struggled to find the same consistency this season but won all but one of their group stage games and still sit five points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
Bayern have had patchy spells this season but will have firm eyes on going all the way again
They will still have to be at their best against Lazio, though, who are fighting for a European place in Serie A this season and with talisman Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, a long-term target for the likes of PSG and Manchester United, in their side will be hoping to spring a shock.
Pressure on Zidane against entertainers Atalanta
The latest edition of ‘Managers who could do with European run to lift the pressure on them’ features Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane. The French boss has faced calls for his dismissal Madrid slipped five points behind rivals Atletico in the title race having played two games more.
But Zidane, a three-time winner of the Champions League as manager of Los Blancos, will be out to show his side are still Europe’s true heavyweights with a convincing win against Atalanta.
Zinedine Zidane is under pressure but has won this competition three times with Real Madrid
Gian Gasperini’s free-flowing side are fast becoming the competition’s great entertainers, though, with their brand of exciting attacking football seeing them go far into the knock-out stages last year and could smell an opportunity against the not-fully-flying 13-time winners.
Pep desperate to deliver in UCL again
Pep Guardiola does not have many things still to prove in terms of being one of the world’s greatest managers but delivering a first Champions League title in 10 years could be one that is eating away at him as his City side prepare to face Borussia Monchengladbach.
Barcelona’s 2009 and 2011 triumph’s announced Guardiola as a true managerial heavyweight, but who would have thought he would still be waiting to add to those two all these years on?
Two-time champion Pep Guardiola will be desperate to deliver the top prize once again
His stint at serial winners Bayern saw the European crown somehow allude him, while a shock quarter-final defeat by Lyon saw City spurn one of their best chances to get their maiden premier European cup prize. After soaring to the top of the Premier League in recent weeks, they will hope for no slip ups at this stage.
Early audition for Neuhaus?
With his Monchengladbach side no pushovers, midfielder Florian Neuhaus could have more reasons than others to impress against the Premier League leaders.
Sportsmail reported yesterday that City and Liverpool are ready to battle it out with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund for the 23-year-old’s signature in the summer, according to Kicker.
Liverpool, Manchester City, Bayern Bayern and Dortmund are all interested in Florian Neuhaus
The playmaker will likely start in a midfield position against City but is well adversed to getting forward and scoring goals himself, with four goals and four assists this season. He will be one to watch for Guardiola’s men in this tie and perhaps in the summer, too.
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