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Champions League Round of 16 preview

Last week’s Champions League fixtures were captivating to say the least.

Other than Atalanta’s 4-1 hammering of Valencia, all of the other three ties are finally balanced going in to the second leg. For just the third time this season, Liverpool lost – 1-0 against Atletico Madrid – but they will be confident of getting the job done at Anfield, whilst Tottenham lost by the same scoreline against RB Leipzig. Elsewhere, an Erling Haaland-inspired Borussia Dortmund beat PSG 2-1, but they have still have plenty of work to do to get the job done at the Parc des Princes.

This week Chelsea host Bayern Munich, Barcelona face off against Napoli, Juventus travel to Lyon and Real Madrid play Manchester City.

Here, we preview those matches ahead of Tuesday’s clashes in London and Naples.

Chelsea vs Bayern Munich

After a difficult start to the season that saw the Blues win just two of their opening six Premier League matches, Chelsea bounced back and won six games in a row.

Since then, though, they returned to that early-campaign form, losing seven of their last 15 matches in the league. Still, there are plenty of positives for Frank Lampard – they are still fourth in the league, and are in both the FA Cup and Champions League.

On Tuesday, they will face a Bayern Munich side who themselves have recovered from a poor start – they were in 4th place after losing 5-1 against Eintracht Frankfurt, which saw Niko Kovac lose his job, but they have now won eight of their last nine Bundesliga games.

Both sides come into the clash off the back of narrow league victories, meaning this is a finely balanced encounter which will provide a true barometer of where the Blues currently are. The German side will be hoping that Philippe Coutinho – a reported recent target for Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United – can shine on his return to English soil.

Napoli vs Barcelona

It has been a turbulent campaign for the Blaugrana. Ernesto Valverde was recently sacked, with Quique Setien replacing him, whilst there have been rumours of discontent surrounding star player Lionel Messi and others. In the past week, they have signed Martin Braithwaite from Leganes for €18m (£15m) due to a long-term injury to Ousmane Dembele.

However, that pales in to insignificance compared to Napoli’s troubles. Lying in sixth place in Serie A, there has been an in-house war between Aurelio di Laurentiis and the squad, with the former taking legal action against the players following a training retreat boycott.

There has been one managerial change there as well, with Gennaro Gattuso replacing Carlo Ancelotti. Still, they may have turned a corner, with them having won five of their last six matches – that included victories against Lazio, Internazionale and Juventus.

Fans would be wise to keep an eye on the likes of Chelsea-linked Dries Mertens and Hirving Lozano, who moved to Italy last summer for €42m (£38.5m) one year after bursting in Mexico colours during the 2018 World Cup.

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Lyon vs Juventus

It has been a disappointing campaign to date for Lyon – they are currently seventh in Ligue 1, seven points behind Rennes in the Champions League play-off spot.

Still, only AS Monaco (42) and PSG (71) have scored more than their 40 goals in the league, so they have the ability to cause plenty of problems going forward.

Meanwhile, Juventus are in the midst of their first real Serie A title battle in years – as it stands, they are just one point ahead of Lazio after 25 matches. There is still plenty of quality in the Old Lady’s side, with Cristiano Ronaldo the stand-out name – he has 21 goals in the league this season to date. Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Dembele are two players to watch out for – both are said to be of interest to Premier League clubs.

The latter is even said to want a move to Manchester United, but Les Gones have an asking price of £83m on his head.

Real Madrid vs Manchester City

The Citizens should enjoy this tie – it may be their last one for two years. Their two-season Champions League ban for breaches of FFP regulations has rocked the Premier League champions, even throwing the future of Pep Guardiola up in the air.

In the short-term, though, there is plenty of talent in this squad to get a result against a Real Madrid side that is not what is was a few years ago, when they won this tournament three times on the trot.

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Still, Los Blancos are a team that relishes European competition, and they have plenty of young, exciting talent in their side with the likes of Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior.

They will be without Eden Hazard, though, who fractured his ankle in Real’s 1-0 defeat against Levante.

Article title: Champions League Round of 16 preview

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