It’s been two full months, but THE CHAAAAAAAAMPIONS is back!
Most of the Champions League matchups set to get under way Tuesday afternoon have a clear favorite and a clear underdog. Thanks to unfavorable draws for a couple of teams still in the mix, they are underdogs despite having title aspirations.
PSG and Shakhtar both host title chasing Chelsea and Bayern Munich in the first leg. They must take control in leg one if they have any hope of bucking the recent trends. With that in the back of your minds, let’s take a look at what’s in store for us tomorrow.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea
With a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal match that ended in heartbreak for the Parisians, things are different this time around, mainly because both sides are better than last year. Chelsea, as David Luiz put it, is better now than when he was sold in the summer, with the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa.
PSG has improved as well (on paper), but they have suffered a dip in form recently and come into this match wounded. They’re sitting ducks. Yohan Cabaye, Serge Aurier, Marquinhos and Lucas Moura are all injured, and while not all starters, those players play important roles. Meanwhile, they have dropped points in two of their last three league matches, including blowing a late 2-0 lead this past weekend to Caen. Now, manager Laurent Blanc must take on a title favorite knowing that this year, a league title may not be able to stave off another year of Champions League disappointment for an ownership group looking for European glory. They came so close to knocking off Chelsea last season, but this year will be just as difficult.
One way through for PSG: It appears Fabregas may miss the game with an illness. Could that be the break PSG needs?
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Bayern Munich
This one is somewhat straightforward. For Bayern to go out here would be an utter disaster on the part of the Germans. This game will be played in Lviv, 600 miles from Shakhtar’s home Donbass Arena, due to the violence taking place in Ukraine. That should prove an even further disadvantage for Shakhtar, although they have been playing league games there for some time now. Still, their captain said it’s “a problem” they aren’t playing at home, and the club had a better away record in the group stage than in Lviv.
To make matters worse, Bayern is welcoming back Jerome Boateng from a league suspension, they rested midfield engine Xabi Alonso this weekend, and Franck Ribery could return from injury. Good luck, Shakhtar!