The knock-out stages are finally upon us! It was a couple of weeks of anticipation after the draw was made back in December 2017. Finally, the wait is over and those in love with the greatest game could turn their attention to some huge clashes coming up this week. Here is a quick preview of the games from Champions League.
Basel v Manchester City, Tue, 13/02
The Swiss champions are hosting the run-away leaders of the English Premier League Manchester City and will be hoping for a good result before the return tie later this month. Pep Guardiola said in the build-up that reaching the quarters will be enough for the Citizens, but knowing that City reached the semis 2 years ago, certainly, the Spaniard and his players will be hoping for a good European run starting from this away fixture. City has dominated domestically this season and currently lead in the League by 16 points. They are also still in the FA Cup and have already booked a place in the Carabao Cup final later this month. Leroy Sane will be available earlier than expected and could return, but Gabriel Jesus remains injured. Basel is not finding that easy in the domestic league, but Raphael Wicky will be hoping his team to extend their good run against English sides at home – they won 4 from their last 5 games, including a famous win against Manchester United.
Juventus v Tottenham, Tue, 13/02
The Italian giants paid the price of finishing runners-up in their group when they face one of the good performing English sides in the last few years – Tottenham. The Londoners impressed and progressed with Mauricio Pochettino domestically, but are yet to make their mark on the European stage. Beating Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund will give confidence to Spurs, who are coming back after a derby win against Arsenal. The game in Turin could see their deadline day signing Lucas Moura make his debut. Despite all this, the Argentine manager is under no illusion that Juventus will be a massive test for his side. Harry Kane already has six goals in five Champions League games this season, but Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini says the Italians will be looking to stop the entire Tottenham team, not just their talismanic striker. Toby Alderweireld has not traveled with the squad and will miss out. The Italians will be without Blaise Matuidi but could have Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa who recently returned to training.
FC Porto v Liverpool, Wed, 14/02
Liverpool travels to Portugal for the first knockout game under Jurgen Klopp in the Champions League and will be hoping to get a good result against Porto. The hosts have never beaten the famous Reds from Merseyside and will be hoping to do so at the fifth time asking. Despite the bad record, Porto boasts more knock-out experience and will be looking to gain a good result at home. The visitors will be with their majestic front trio – Mo Sallah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino – all of the three seem to find their top form this season and to minimize the loss of the departed Phillipe Coutinho. Emre Can is suspended and can not play, meaning that either James Milner or Adam Lallana could feature as a holding midfielder for the English side. Porto is currently on a 4 match unbeaten run in the league and is leading with 2 points from their rivals Benfica and Sporting, with a game in hand.
Real Madrid v PSG, Wed, 14/02
The defending champions Real Madrid begin their defense of the trophy in the knockout stages with a glamorous tie against the French giants Paris. Real finished their groups as a runner-up and were the team everyone wanted to avoid but got Neymar’s Paris side. The speculation of the Brazilian future is just of the many talking points before the game at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. After his controversial move from Real’s arch-rivals Barcelona last summer, now Neymar is returning in Spain in a hunt to establish himself as one of Europe’s best players by defeating the most successful club. The visitors will be hoping to have their main striker Edinson Cavani back for the game but will be without injured Layvin Kurzawa, Thiago Motta and Kevin Trapp. Real are without their suspended full-back, Dani Carvajal. After recent form improvement in the league, the Spanish giants will be eager to produce another big European night and Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema & company will try to outscore Neymar, Mbappe, and their French opponents.