This week’s quartet of second-leg matches in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 look wide open, with a single goal separating the sides in all four ties.
Manchester United are the best placed of the four home sides, having won 3-2 in Milan three weeks ago. Arsenal and Fiorentina both scored potentially valuable away goals on their travels, while Real Madrid, beaten by a single goal in Lyon, are hoping to check into the quarter-finals for the first time in six seasons.
Tuesday 9 March
Arsenal-Porto (Porto lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Fiorentina-Bayern Munich (Bayern Munich lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Wednesday 10 March
Manchester United-AC Milan (Man Utd lead 3-2 on aggregate)
Real Madrid-Lyon (Lyon lead 1-0 on aggregate)
The four remaining second-leg matches will be played next week.
Match of the day
Manchester United-AC Milan, Old Trafford
“We have to go out and play our own game and look to take whatever chances come our way. We need to stay calm though,” said Milan coach Leonardo, mindful of the task awaiting his side at Old Trafford, where they need to win by two clear goals to advance to the last eight. “We’ll be virtually through if we score a goal,” said his opposite number Sir Alex Ferguson.
In their quest for goals the Italians will need to guard against leaving themselves exposed at the back, where they have looked particularly vulnerable this season. The Manchester giants have won 12 of their 16 meetings with Italian clubs, an imposing record that suggests it will be United’s night. Milan, whose title hopes were further dented by their goalless draw with Roma at the weekend, have nothing to lose, however.
The other matches
The curse of the last 16
Real Madrid did their morale a world of good by beating Sevilla in a five-goal thriller on Saturday to return to the top of La Liga. The Spaniards, who need a two-goal win to eclipse Lyon, have gone out at this stage of the tournament at their last five attempts and will be banking on Cristiano Ronaldo to help them end the hoodoo. The Portuguese star is the top scorer in this season’s Champions League with six goals to his name so far. Nevertheless, the trip to the Bernabeu should hold no fears for the former French champions, who have earned draws on both their previous visits there and are unbeaten in five meetings with Madrid in the competition.
Bayern spell danger for La Viola
Nothing has worked out for Fiorentina since Adrian Mutu’s suspension. Beaten 2-1 in the first leg in Munich, La Viola have also slid to 11th place in Serie A, prompting much head-scratching for their coach Cesare Prandelli. “I don’t know what’s going on but whenever there’s a tricky situation things automatically go against us,” he said. On the bright side for the men in purple, they only need a one-goal victory to progress and have won their last three home matches in the competition, a record that should give Bayern food for thought.
The Italians have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 17 outings, however, while the Germans have won on their last five visits to Italy, including a 4-1 win over Juventus in Turin in the group phase. Following a difficult start to the season, the rejuvenated Bayern have taken to the top of the Bundesliga once more, and with the inspirational Franck Ribery now restored to full fitness, they will not lack confidence for their trip to Tuscany.
Firepower problems for Gunners
Arsenal maintained their title momentum with a comfortable 3-1 defeat of Burnley at the weekend. Yet it was a result that came at a price, with Cesc Fabregas forced to come off with a tight hamstring, making him doubtful for Tuesday’s tie. Further causes for optimism for Porto are Arsenal’s continuing struggles up front, where the absent Robin van Persie is being sorely missed, and the London side’s record of having only once overturned a first-leg deficit in nine attempts.
The Portuguese outfit, whose best hope of discomforting Arsenal would seem to lie on the counter attack, go into the game with worries of their own. Saturday’s disappointing 2-2 draw at home to unheralded Olhanense leaves them 11 points adrift of league leaders Benfica.
Player to watch
David Beckham returns to Old Trafford for the first time since leaving Manchester United seven years ago. The England star played 77 Champions League matches for United between 1994 and 2003, scoring 14 goals in the process. “Old Trafford will give him a big ovation,” said his former coach Alex Ferguson. “He deserves it.”
14 - Porto have lost on 12 of their 14 visits to England in Europe’s premier club competition, recording draws on their two other trips, both of them at Old Trafford.
What they said
“It will be a failure if we don’t get past Lyon. They are not one of Europe’s big teams,” Real Madrid midfielder Guti.
Have your say
Which teams will make home advantage count in the week’s second-leg ties?