Thursday 22 February 2018 / 03:52 AM


After a barnstorming match-day two weeks ago – with Atletico Madrid defeating Bayer Leverkusen away 4-2, Manchester City’s incredible shootout to win 5-3 in a game for all time, Juventus doing the Porto job 2-0 away, and Leicester grabbing a crucial late away goal at Sevilla despite losing 2-1 – things are heating up in the Champions League once again.

Let’s have a look at what awaits us this week:

Arsenal v Bayern Munich – 6:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, March 8 @ Arsenal stadium, London (Bayern lead 5-1)

Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong for Arsenal in the first leg. Bayern Munich were that dominant, controlling the ball with ease thanks to Arturo Vidal and Xabi Alonso, who had the ball on a string.

Arsenal arrive home with not much to play for apart from pride. It’s a tricky situation for Arsene Wenger to be in, with Arsenal also fighting for honours in the FA Cup, along with the usual battle to finish inside the top four in the Premier League.

The temptation for Wenger to rest some of his stars in Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez would be strong, so don’t discount the likes of striker Oliver Giroud, winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and central midfielder Aaron Ramsey featuring at some point. Expect the intensity to drop off in this contest given the tie is over.

Napoli v Real Madrid – 6:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, March 8 @ Stadio San Paolo, Naples (Real Madrid lead 3-1)

Napoli came to hunt in the first leg, swiftly gaining the lead thanks to a finessed shot from Lorenzo Insigne, catching Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas embarrassingly off-guard. Real Madrid worked their way into the game, having control of it by the end of the night thanks to a quick blitz after halftime.

Real Madrid will be looking to continue from where they finished in the first leg with central midfielder Casemiro leading the fightback from being 1-0 down. With a strong performance behind central midfielders Modric and Kroos, which also included a sweet strike from outside the box.

Napoli would be encouraged nabbing an away goal and won’t feel like they are out of this just yet, so Real Madrid will need to be wary of this and Napoli’s counter-attacking strength.

Dortmund v Benfica – 6:45am (AEDT, Thursday, March 9 @ BVB Stadion Dortmund, Dortmund (Benfica lead 1-0)

Dortmund come into this home tie under pressure to perform, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having a horrid evening in the first leg. Aubameyang missed out on three golden chances to score in the first 55 minutes, including a saved penalty which ended up seeing him dragged off on the hour – his confidence was that shot.

Dortmund would feel like they could have killed the tie off, but Benfica were very thankful for goalkeeper Ederson keeping his side in the first leg, despite his centre-backs continually being opened up until Benfica gained the lead.

Expect Benfica to sit much deeper as a team this time, making it harder for Dortmund speedsters Marco Reus and Ousmane Dembele to charge down the wings. Dortmund will be needing fullbacks Piszczek and Schmelzer to push up the flanks to enable Rues and Dembele to make inside runs.

Barcelona v Paris-SG – 6:45am (AEDT, Thursday, March 9 @ Camp Nou, Barcelona (Paris-SG lead 4-0)

It’s not often for Barcelona to come home facing a deficit, let alone trailing in a tie 4-0. Paris-SG were playing on another level in the first leg, with excellent pressing in midfield along with the passing of Marco Verratti. Birthday boys Angel Di Maria and Edison Cavani had a night to remember, both getting on the scoresheet – including a sizzling brace from Di Maria.

Barcelona will be looking to recreate the magical combination of ‘MSN’ (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) with Neymar being the best out of them in the first game, although a lack of defensive awareness allowed Paris-SG right-back Thomas Meunier room to roam up the field to lay an assist to Cavani.

If you were to pick only one team to come back from a score like this it would be Barcelona. In the group stage at home this season they’ve managed to score 15 goals. Paris-SG would be wary of this, and would also be welcoming the return of captain and centre-back Thiago Silva. Expect this contest to dry out if ‘MSN’ don’t fire in the first half.

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Brett Sinclair

Sport has always been a big passion in Brett's life and he aims to share his vision with Commentary Box Sports' readers. Based in Melbourne, Brett covers AFL, NRL, cricket and football for CBS.

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