The UEFA Champions League first knockout round draws to a close this week, with the highlights including a fresh serving of Anglo-Italian intrigue as Chelsea look to topple Inter Milan and champions Barcelona aim to oust Stuttgart following their 1-1 first-leg draw.
The winners of those ties will be joined in the last eight by a pair of outsiders, led perhaps by Bordeaux after their 1-0 win at Olympiacos left the French club favourites to progress. Sevilla will be similarly optimistic about their chances, having secured a 1-1 draw away against CSKA Moscow last time out.
Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Lyon and Manchester United have already qualified and will take their place in the draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals to be held at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday 19 March. It will be a completely open draw, without seeds and with teams from the same country able to face each other. The quarter-final first legs will take place on 30 and 31 March, ahead of the return meetings on 6 and 7 April.
Tuesday 16 March
Sevilla-CSKA Moscow (1-1 on aggregate)
Chelsea-Inter (Inter lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Wednesday 17 March
Barcelona-Stuttgart (1-1 on aggregate)
Bordeaux-Olympiacos (Bordeaux lead 1-0 on aggregate)
Match of the week
Chelsea-Inter, Stamford Bridge, London, 20.45 CET
The first Anglo-Italian showdown of the knockout stages prompted a renewal of acquaintances between David Beckham and Manchester United, and this time it will be Inter coach Jose Mourinho who finds himself back in familiar surroundings.
The Portuguese trainer’s charges are hardly in the best of form however, having struggled for consistency of late and boasting just one win in their last six Serie A encounters. Four of those matches have ended in draws and their most recent outing yielded a shock 3-1 loss to minnows Catania – far from ideal preparation for the one club capable of preventing a repeat of last year’s disastrous showing by Italian sides.
In contrast, their hosts have regained their rhythm thanks largely to a goal-hungry Didier Drogba, in-form winger Florent Malouda and a John Terry on the way back to his usual standards. Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is sure to be relishing another brush with his old rivals from his Serie A days.
The other matches
Messi on a cloud
Stuttgart’s 2-1 reverse at Schalke on Friday almost certainly put paid to their hopes of returning to the Champions League next season, but the Bundesliga side are still focused on progressing further this term. Having frustrated Barcelona with a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Christian Gross’s men will attempt to engineer a memorable upset at the Camp Nou, where striker Claudemir Jeronimo Baretto – better known as Cacau – will be looking to add to his record of eight goals in the last seven matches.
They will nonetheless need to find a way to contain Lionel Messi, who has been in scintillating shape in recent weeks. Barça may not have hit the same heights they reached last year, but their talented Argentinian forward has struck 22 Liga goals this season and has been carrying the team to victory after victory, as he did with a hat-trick in Sunday’s 3-0 success against Valencia.
Memories will be stirred on Wednesday when Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc masterminds his side’s meeting with Olympiacos, the very last team he scored against as a player with Manchester United on 23 October 2002. The French champions have lost momentum on the domestic scene, taking just five points from their last six Ligue 1 fixtures, but they gave themselves a priceless advantage in this tie with a 1-0 victory in Greece.
That result has left Olympiacos facing a real challenge, particularly as they have lost their last six encounters with French outfits and can hardly claim to be in ominous form. In third and four points behind Greek Super League leaders Panathinaikos, the Piraeus club followed up a 1-0 loss to Iraklis with a 2-2 draw against modest opponents PAS Giannina at the weekend.
Sevilla on top
Buoyed their away goal, Sevilla will be confident of becoming the seventh Spanish club to appear in a Champions League quarter-final after Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Deportivo La Coruna, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid. While they may have lost their way in the Liga of late – not least with Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Deportivo – the Andalusian side will begin Tuesday’s game eager to press home their advantage.
Indeed, CSKA have yet to settle into a regular match routine despite kicking off the new Russian season with a 1-0 win over Amkar Perm on Friday. On the European stage, they have conceded at least once in their last 15 Champions League outings.
Player to watch
Ross Turnbull will fill in between the posts for Chelsea against Inter following injuries to Petr Cech and Henrique Hilario. The powerfully built 25-year-old joined the Blues last summer and made his Premier League debut at the weekend in a 4-1 win over West Ham, though he boasts Champions League experience from a 2-2 draw with APOEL in the group stage. Backing Turnbull up on the bench will be 19-year-old reserve-team custodian Rhys Taylor.
6 - Bordeaux have put together six consecutive victories in the competition, equalling a tally previously reached by AC Milan, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and Spartak Moscow. Success against Olympiacos on Wednesday would take them closer to the benchmarks set by Barcelona (nine) and Borussia Dortmund (eight).
What they said
"Our win on Saturday against West Ham was not a message for Inter especially. It was important to get back on track after our defeat against Manchester City. Now we’re ready,” Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea manager.
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