Half done, half remains!
If you are wondering what we are talking about, then my friend, brace yourself for the juiciest of encounters in the second half of the first leg.
While the first part of the first leg was more of a prediction come true for many pundits, this part of the first leg promises to raise many eyebrows. Napoli vs. Barcelona, Juventus vs. Lyon, Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich and the biggest, Manchester City vs. Real Madrid; huh! Hold your breath, don’t blink cause even a slightest of miss will make you regret it. And, you won’t like to miss a goal like that of Atletico’s Saul Niguez’s 4th-minute opening goal against Liverpool or of Erling Braut Haaland’s rocket that shook the $500 million PSG attack. Will you? Ahh, we can see the despair on the face of the culprit.
Nevertheless, since some of us have missed the first part, here comes the second which one should not miss. So, while you can sit and relax, have a look at what one could expect in this part.
Napoli vs. Barcelona(Stadio Sao Paolo)
Here it comes! We all know how Barcelona has struggled over the years to overcome their anxiety of defeating an opponent in alien conditions. Be it Chelsea, PSG, or the recent addition of Liverpool, there is a ghost that plays with the Blaugrana mentality.
While Gennaro Gattuso’s arrival has produced a sort of revival in the struggling Italian outfit, which sits at the 6th spot in the table, there is no hiding the fact that this team has the potential to upset the La Liga champions, at least in their background.
However, the recent return of Leo Messi’s form is a big boost for Quique Setién’s Barcelona, but the absence of Luis Suarez will be an additional burden that Messi has to deal with.
Though it looks unlikely that Barcelona might get defeated by Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo, yet, given Barcelona’s run away from home, an upset is on the cards for the La Liga giants.
A breezy, teasy walk
Lyon vs Juventus(Parc Olympique Lyonnias)
One has to agree that Maurizio Sarri is the luckiest man on this earth, besides Jose Mourinho. He first, somehow, manages to get Chelsea a return in this competition and gets to manage a team that has a machine in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is fighting to get his sixth Champions League trophy.
Be it on paper or off it, Juventus are a no-match for Lyon, given the bench strength these two teams possess. Plus, the winning mentality and the rich goal-scoring form of Mr. Champions League will surely give a big boost to the Italian Old Lady over its French counterparts, who have been struggling to stamp their authority in Ligue 1.
Blast from the past
Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich(Stamford Bridge)
Will Bayern paint London red again(as they did with Spurs) or Lampard’s Chelsea repeat what he did in 2012?
This is an enticing encounter that we have our eyes on! Though this is a two-leg fixture, no one can forget what happened in the 2012 Champions League Final. Bayern took 43 shots in comparison to Chelsea, had 55% possession of the ball, and still ended up on the losing side in the Allianz Arena.
However, the time has changed, Chelsea, despite a patchy form, is a dominant force under Frank Lampard. His injection of trust on the youth has paid him dividends and, he will surely want this team to pounce on any mistake Bayern makes.
For Bayern, the team is highly dependent on the exploits made by Robert Lewandoski. Further, he has found good feeders of the ball in Countinho, Granbury, and Coman, which has seen Hansi Flick’s Bayern enjoying a good time in front of the goal.
However, Lampard is an astute and shrewd manager, and that was evident in the Spurs game, where he opted for a back five to minimize the leakage in his defense. But, given Chelsea’s irregular form, it is Bayern Munich, which looks to take the game away at the Bridge.
Battle of wits
Real Madrid vs. Manchester City(Santiago Bernabeu)
This fixture is a tale of fortunes. On the one hand, we have a team that lives and breathes this tournament; on the other hand, there is a team that fighting for its identity and the 2-year ban imposed on it.
An interesting thing to note is that Manchester City has never won against Real Madrid in the Champions League and in the Santiago Bernabeu. These two teams have faced each other four times with City losing and drawing twice, at the Ethiad.
For Pep Guardiola, it is the right time to prove his worth as a manager. Apart from Barcelona, he has failed to reach the later stages of the Champions League knockouts with both Bayern Munich and Manchester City, with Madrid knocking out Bayern twice during his time. As for Zidane, it will more of a thought process of who he wants to play in place injured Eden Hazard. As for the result, a Real Madrid win seems likely in a heavyweight fixture against a down in confidence Manchester City.
As for the first leg of the Champions League, teams playing away will be eyeing their away goals more in case of a defeat. So, for now, sit back, relax, and don’t plan anything but a UEFA night.