Wednesday 13 December 2017

This week's champions league last 16 previews


Tuesday 7.45

The Champions League is the only forum available to Fernando Torres, in the short-term at least, to show that his decision to move to Stamford Bridge in pursuit of trophies was worthwhile. It may well be next season -- after a summer of rebuilding -- before the best of Torres is seen in a Chelsea shirt but for the time being he has to find some way to gel with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

Harry Redknapp said he was happier Tottenham were playing Milan rather than Copenhagen, but you would have to suspect Carlo Ancelotti was pretty pleased to draw the Danish champions.

Copenhagen have reached the knockout stages for the first time in their history, and realistically won't expect to go any further. Ex-Chelsea winger Jesper Gronkjaer will aim to make an impression against his former club but it is Copenhagen's 22-year-old Brazilian Claudemir who is most likely to cause Chelsea problems.


Tuesday 7.45

Lyon knocked Real Madrid out of the competition at this stage last season and were deserved winners over two legs on their way to the semi-final. In fact, this is the seventh time the clubs have met in the Champions League since 2005 and Lyon are yet to lose.

Yoann Gourcuff has been the big addition to a squad which finally delivered on owner Jean-Michel Aulas's desire for the side to be one of Europe's major players, but Gourcuff has endured a miserable season so far although there have been some signs in recent weeks that he is starting to justify his €22m fee.

But this is Madrid's tie to lose and Jose Mourinho is already talking about the possibility of winning the competition with a third different club. Despite his side's attacking nature -- and Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo will be key to any success -- Mourinho's main influence is on a defence who, Manchester United aside, have conceded fewest goals of any team in this season's Champions League.



Wednesday 7.45

Marseille will have designs on emulating Lyon's achievements last season and the scalp of Manchester United could do for manager Didier Deschamps's reputation what it did for Mourinho's back in 2004.

The former French captain guided Monaco to that year's final, where they lost to Mourinho's Porto, and he has assembled a team at Marseille who are more than capable of causing United problems. Having never really needed to move out of second gear to advance from the group stage, Alex Ferguson will know his side need to offer a lot more than they have done if they are to advance.

Wednesday's fixture at the Stade Velodrome will be crucial. United need to keep a close eye on Loic Remy and Andre-Pierre Gignac, who have both struggled at times this season, but are capable of troubling any defence with pace and composed finishing.


Wednesday 7.45

A repeat of last year's final is an opportunity for each of these clubs to reflect on the changes that have occurred since last May in Madrid.

On the face of it, Inter have suffered the most. The departure of Jose Mourinho was followed by the brief reign of Rafael Benitez and they are now coached by Leonardo who is attempting to impose an attacking style that was absent even in success last season.

Wesley Sneijder has spoken of his pleasure at playing under Leonardo as opposed to Benitez and the Brazilian seems to have revitalised the squad since talking charge at the San Siro. Inter may be without their star man Sneijder for the first leg, although given the importance of the game Leonardo will be desperate for him to play some part.

Bayern have the same coach, Louis van Gaal, and largely the same set of players but they seem to have forgotten how to hold on to a lead and are way off the pace in the Bundesliga. Their away form has been poor all season and they will need fix that on Wednesday if they are to give themselves a decent chance at progression.

-- Evan Fanning

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