With Champions League action having returned for the knockout stages last week, we got a taste of what is to come. With all the top seeds on the road, matches can get a bit cagey at times as they look to defend well and hit on the counter for an away goal or two.
There’s plenty of storylines in tomorrow’s pair of matches, as we get two exciting matchups coming our way. Will history repeat itself for Manchester City and Juventus? Does Dortmund’s domestic uptick translate to Europe? Let’s dive through it all.
Manchester City vs Barcelona
Top villain Luis Suarez makes his return to England, and he’s already called out his opponent for “weaknesses at the back.” This should go well. Barcelona has no injury problems other than long-term problems for defenders Douglas and Thomas Vermaelen. Meanwhile, Manchester City is also fully fit, but Yaya Toure still has one more game to serve of his three-match suspension for a red card against CSKA in November, a big loss. James Milner is back and fit, and Wilfried Bony could make his first City start.
Manchester City looked every bit inferior last year during this same matchup, and this time around, if things don’t go well, it could put Manuel Pellegrini’s job in jeopardy with ownership expecting their manager to get over the hump in European play, something no City boss has managed to do in the recent going. Domestic success has not translated into success abroad, and that will be a bit talking point throughout both legs.
These two teams are coming off very different weekends. Manchester City torched Newcastle United 5-0 in league play. Barcelona, meanwhile, has had a roller coaster of a season, with 11 straight victories ruined this weekend by a head-scratching 1-0 loss to Malaga. Those, however, shouldn’t have too much of an effect on this first leg.
Juventus vs Borussia Dortmund
The narrative for Juventus continues to grow stronger. Every year they dominate Serie A but flame out in the Champions League, the questions slowly build. Can they recapture the European form of the early 2000’s? They have a favorable draw here in the Round of 16 should they play their cards right. Unfortunately, they almost didn’t even get here, barely squeaking through the group stage.
None of that matters now, as they host Borussia Dortmund in their matchup’s first leg. Both these teams are almost completely healthy as well, with Arturo Vidal expected back from a groin injury. Former Juventus striker Ciro Immobile likely won’t get much time against his former club, with having been benched the last three league games. Side note: Dortmund has won all three of those games, their first good spell in the league all year. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been in fine form up front, and will likely be the man to play.
If there’s one player you look out for on this pitch, it’s Paul Pogba. Keep your eyes peeled. The moment is coming.