It’s February 14th and you know what that means, it’s time for the return of the UEFA Champions League with exciting matches, thrilling affairs and intense quality football at it’s display as big names from Europe go head to head for the biggest prize there is at club level in the sport.
We preview the first round of fixtures that will take place in the Round Of 16 this week and there are 4 big matches that will be worth staying up all night and enjoying your popcorn with.
Bayern Munich vs Arsenal
There is just no hiding from Bayern Munich if you are an Arsenal player and as like many times in previous seasons, the two teams come face to face in the round of 16, with Bayern having gone through each time, a challenge Wenger will be certainly looking to overcome this time around.
The kick off is on Thursday night 1:15am IST, with the venue being Allianz Arena, which makes Wenger’s task even tougher, who will be avoiding an exit from the competition at this stage for the 7th year in a row.
The German giants lead their league and will look to take this dominant form into the competition and carry an advantage with a win once they travel to the Emirates and make their away game easier.
Arsenal will be without Cazorla and Ramsey for this game but the likes of Xhaka and Bellerin will return for selection and striking options remain a mystery with Giroud, Iwobi, Perez, Sanchez and Welbeck all available as decent options to face a formidable Bayern defence. On the other hand, Bayern will be without Boateng due to injury while Alonso and Ribery remain doubtful.
Benfica vs Borussia Dortmund
This exciting affair takes place at Benfica’s home stadium and an inconsistent run of form shown by the visitors in recent games along with the lack of goals and a leaky defence will be a positive sign for the home team who will look to draw first blood.
Dortmund are a team which is unbeaten in the competition so far but that does not make Estadio da Luz an easier place to play for the German side. Both teams will rely on attackers Aubameyang and Mitroglou to bag in the goals while a draw is the popular prediction for this match’s outcome. The kick off is on Wednesday, 15th February at 1:15 am IST.
Real Madrid vs Napoli
The Italian side are in for a mountain sized task as they prepare to meet the defending champions in their own fortress for an European tie. The positive stat for the Italian side might be the recent run of inconsistent form over the past month shown from Zidane’s men and a chance of taking back an away goal might be an achievable target.
Real Madrid are without super winger Gareth Bale as the away side miss out on defender Lorenzo Tonelli due to injury. The Spanish side are on the top of the La Liga table and a home victory seems to be the order of the day when the clash take place on Thursday night ,1:15 am IST on the 16th of February.
PSG vs Barcelona
Possibly the clash of the week, the defending league champions from France and Spain go head to head in Paris in a match that has been played in previous years and promises to be better than ever before. PSG have appointed Unai Emery for matches of exactly such importance with his European success to come in handy while the likes of Messi and co. know all about these knockout stages and how to beat big names in order to win the title.
The most exciting thing to look forward to will be the clash of Uruguay striker Cavani and Suarez, both in red hot form this season. Barcelona will be without Alex Vidal who could be out for the remainder of the season. The match starts at 1:15am on Wednesday, IST on 16th February.
Such matches is what we love about the Champions League as it brings the best clubs from across Europe to face each other and no matter what the outcomes, all footballing fans are always in for a treat as the action never disappoints.