Chelsea, Inter Milan and Barcelona, the leaders of Europe’s top three leagues, are the main attractions as the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League enters its second week.
The Londoners are at Inter in the tie of the week and will be hoping to come away from the San Siro with the same kind of result Manchester United recorded there seven days ago. Elsewhere, the reigning Spanish and European champions visit Stuttgart, while CSKA Moscow will need to shake off their midwinter rustiness when Sevilla come calling. In the week’s remaining first-leg match, Bordeaux will be hoping to live up to their superb group-phase form when they sample the white-hot atmosphere of Olympiakos’s Georgios Karaiskakis stadium.
Tuesday 23 February (return leg on 17 March)
Wednesday 24 February (return leg on 16 March)
CSKA Moscow-Sevilla (18.30)
Match of the day
Inter Milan-Chelsea, San Siro, 20.45
These two sides have never met before in the competition but that does not mean say they are not well acquainted. Having spent three years at Stamford Bridge, where he continues to enjoy plenty of popular support, Jose Mourinho knows the Chelsea team like the back of his hand. Not to be outdone, Carlo Ancelotti is equally well versed on Inter’s strengths and weakness thanks to his eight seasons at the helm of AC Milan.
The Italian will know only too well that, while Inter continue to dominate the Serie A scene, they rarely show the same authority in Europe. Proof of that is the fact that I Nerazzurri have been knocked out at this stage of the competition in the last three seasons, with Manchester United brushing them aside 2-0 on aggregate last year. Further cause for concern for Mourinho’s men is their faltering league form. The championship leaders have recorded three consecutive draws to allow Roma to pull within five points. Inter will have been grateful for a point at Sampdoria last Saturday, however, having played for nearly 50 minutes with just nine men.
In contrast, Chelsea go into the game on the back of a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. That result, secured by two goals from Didier Drogba and a string of fine saves from Petr Cech, allowed the Blues to pull four points clear of United.
The other matches
After sliding to their first league defeat of the season against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona calmed their supporters’ fraying nerves with a comfortable 4-0 win over Racing Santander. The news on the injury front looks brighter too, with both Yaya Toure and Dmitro Chygrynskiy back in action, although the Ukrainian cannot play for the Catalans in this season’s Champions League. Gerard Pique and Rafael Marquez are also back from suspension.
On the downside, Guardiola will be without his first-choice full-backs Eric Abidal and Dani Alves, not to mention the midfield duo of Xavi Hernandez and Seydou Keita. Thanks to their well-stocked academy, however, Barça have plenty of back-up to call on. And with Marquez and Thierry Henry also showcasing their dead-ball skills at the weekend, the holders should possess plenty of firepower.
Though languishing in a mid-table position, opponents Stuttgart have recovered well from a poor start to the season. Three wins in a row, the most recent of them a 5-1 romp at Cologne, have helped restore morale, although coach Christian Gross will be denied the services of Ciprian Marica, Arthur Boka and Sami Khedira for Tuesday’s daunting assignment.
Bordeaux ended the group phase unbeaten with five wins and a draw, and also boasted the tightest defence, with only two goals conceded. That record will surely be put to the test in Piraeus, where the French league leaders will run out without the imposing Alou Diarra. Worryingly for them, playmaker Yoann Gourcuff also appears to have gone off the boil. Yet with Marouane Chamakh spearheading the attack, Bordeaux will still feel confident of snatching an all-important away goal.
Olympiakos are a changed team since Bozidar Bandovic took over from Zico in January, and they proved in the group phase that they can be a formidable force in Europe. Finishing second behind Arsenal, the Greeks won all three of their home engagements without conceding a single goal.
CSKA Moscow have not played a competitive match since the Russian league season ended in November, hardly the ideal preparation for the visit of Sevilla. That said, the Andalusian side will have some chilly temperatures to contend with and are still recovering from Saturday’s encounter at Mallorca, a game they won 3-1 but which featured six yellow cards and three reds. Leonid Slutski’s men could only finish fifth in the Russian championship, but earned a creditable second place in the group stage behind Manchester United and ahead of Wolfsburg and Besiktas.
Player to watch
Stuttgart’s naturalised Brazilian striker Cacau tuned up for the visit of the defending champions by hitting four goals against Cologne at the weekend, three of them coming in a 25-minute blitz. “If things go our way, we might just spring a surprise against Barcelona,” warned the red-hot forward.
100 - The number of matches Pep Guardiola has racked up as Barcelona coach. His record is the kind that most of his colleagues can only dream about: 71 wins, 19 draws and just 10 defeats, with 242 goals scored and 76 against. To cap it all, Guardiola has also steered his side to six trophies out of a possible seven.
What they said
“There’s no question Mourinho left his mark at Chelsea. There’s also no question that Inter are a solid team and that the signings of [Diego] Milito and [Wesley] Sneijder have made them stronger. But we have power and quality in every department. It’s going to be a fantastic match. Chelsea are going to be your worst European nightmare,” Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Have your say
Who will emerge triumphant from the duel between old rivals Ancelotti and Mourinho?