Seven ties in the balance
© AFP

No less than 15 of the last 16 sides preparing for their second-leg ties in the UEFA Champions League can be optimistic of making it through to the quarter-finals. Four first-leg matches ended in draws, and three others involved single-goal winning margins. Only Sporting, 5-0 losers at home to Bayern Munich, are effectively out of the running to progress.

The trio of English sides who took on Italian counterparts a fortnight ago are all slight favourites to advance. Chelsea and Arsenal won 1-0 at home to Juventus and Roma respectively, while Manchester United held Inter Milan to a goalless draw at the San Siro. The other continental giant taking on a side from the Premier League, Real Madrid, have an even more arduous task against Liverpool, as they travel to the north-west of England attempting to overturn a 1-0 defeat. Should the nine-time champions not prove up to the task, they will fail to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the fifth consecutive year.

With so little to choose between the sides, the absence due to injury of players like Juventus midfielder Mohamed Sissoko, Barcelona's Carles Puyol, Inter Milan defenders Marco Materazzi and Nicolas Burdisso, and Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira could prove vital.

The big match
Juventus-Chelsea (0-1), Tuesday 10 March, 20.45 CET, Stadio Olimpico, Turin

Chelsea dominated the first leg at Stamford Bridge, without putting a shaky-looking Juventus defence under enough sustained pressure to add to Didier Drogba's first-half strike. The Blues may live to regret that lack of urgency should David Trezeguet get a clear sight on Petr Cech's goal and Gianluigi Buffon keep Drogba and Co out at the other end.

The Turin side have a formidable home record in the competition, having won ten and drawn three of their last 13 games. The last time the Bianconeri lost at home was a 1-0 defeat by Deportivo way back in March 2004. Last year's finalists Chelsea should also remember they have twice been knocked out of the Champions League after failing to defend a one-goal advantage from a home leg.

The other games
Reigning champions Manchester United go into Wednesday's return match with Inter Milan in fine spirits. The Red Devils are unbeaten in 18 Champions League matches at Old Trafford and remain on course for an unprecedented haul of five trophies this season. That dream could still evaporate in an instant though. Inter do not even need to win to progress. A score draw would suffice, so United will need to keep the back door firmly shut as they go in search of victory. The Premier League champions will be hoping Julio Cesar is on less inspired form than in the first leg, when his heroics kept Jose Mourinho's side in the tie.

Looking to overturn a one-goal deficit at home to Arsenal, Roma will definitely be without Daniele De Rossi, Cicinho and Simone Perotta. To make matters worse, Alberto Aquilani, David Pizarro and, perhaps crucially, Francesco Totti are all doubtful too. Arsenal will take heart from last year's fabulous performance at AC Milan, where, after a goalless draw at home, they hit the Italians on the break to secure a 2-0 win. Significantly, that was the Gunners' third win in four Champions League trips to Italy.

Three sides came away with precious away goals and a share of the spoils from first-leg ties, and will now hope to transform that advantage into a ticket to the quarter-finals. Barcelona, who drew 1-1 in Lyon, Porto, who held Atletico Madrid 2-2, and Panathinaikos, whose meeting with Villarreal ended 1-1, can all now afford to be patient at home in the knowledge that it is the away side who must score if they wish to progress.

While Bayern Munich are virtually home and dry against Sporting, Real Madrid have their work cut out against Liverpool. After a fifth first-leg home defeat in the history of the competition, Los Merengues will be hoping for better luck than on the four previous occasions, when they subsequently failed to advance. That said, Real can point to the fact that Liverpool have lost return legs at home four times in the last nine seasons after winning away. The Reds would argue that stat counts for little as on each occasion they still progressed to the next round.

Player to watch
Whenever Real Madrid find themselves in a tight spot they invariably turn to their emblematic forward Raul. Fifteen years since his debut in white and 312 goals later, the great man is still a massive threat in front of goal. Liverpool will be well advised to keep him under strict supervision right until the final whistle.

The stat
16 per cent - the chances Atletico Madrid will make the quarter-finals following a 2-2 draw at home. That said, Los Colchoneros are bang on form again, and on their last two away days in La Liga won 4-3 away to Barcelona and drew 1-1 with Real Madrid.

What they said
"Mourinho is an expert in communication, but I'm not concerned. He knows when it comes down to it, it's the guys on the pitch who do the talking. I'm sure they are going to come to Old Trafford to suffocate the game and hold out for penalties," Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United coach

Have your say
Can Real Madrid pull off a shock win at Liverpool? Will the English quartet progress to the last eight?