City to book first quarter-final
The first knockout round of the Champions League was short on shock results, but superb away performances by Manchester City and Wolfsburg helped to light up the competition.
A heavyweight clash between European giants Bayern Munich and Juventus lived up to expectations with a four-goal thriller in Turin, while Benfica narrowly beat Zenit in Lisbon.
Here’s what we have to look forward to when the second legs get underway on March 8th.
Bayern Munich v Juventus
Juventus being pitted against Bayern Munich was undoubtedly the tie of the round and a 2-2 draw at the Juventus Stadium left the match finely balanced ahead of the return game in Bavaria.
Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben put Pep Guardiola’s men firmly in control, but a spirited fightback by the Old Lady, including first ever Champions League goals from Paulo Dybala and Stefano Sturaro, made sure Juventus are well in the tie.
Bayern’s two away goals will make them favourites on home soil, but Massimiliano Allegri’s Juve are unbeaten in 17 European home games – since Bayern won 2-0 in Turin back in 2013.
Robert Lewandowski has hit seven goals in this year’s Champions League – only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more times – while Müller has found the net six times.
The second leg promises to be absolutely unmissable as Müller and Lewandowski once again do battle with one of the finest goalkeepers in the game’s history, 38-year-old Gianluigi Buffon.
Barcelona v Arsenal
Arsenal’s task looks even tougher than Roma’s, with Arsène Wenger’s men also losing their first leg 2-0 at home to one of the giants of the game.
Barcelona had to be patient at the Emirates Stadium, but a second half brace by Lionel Messi gave Luis Enrique’s side a clear advantage ahead of the return fixture at Camp Nou.
Messi had failed to score against Petr Čech in six previous meeting but swept home Neymar’s pass before putting the game out of Arsenal’s reach from the penalty spot after being fouled by Mathieu Flamini, who had only come on as a substitute moments earlier.
Arsenal have exited the Champions League at this stage five years in a row and it looks highly likely to become six.
Atlético Madrid v PSV Eindhoven
The only goalless game of the eight first legs was at the Philips Stadion, where Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid battled to a 0-0 stalemate against Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven.
Atléti, led by imperious Uruguay international defender Diego Godín, have built one of Europe’s most impenetrable defences, while 13-year-old stopper Jan Oblak is superb in goal.
Simeone’s men will be strong favourites to progress, with Antoine Griezmann given another chance to prove himself on Europe’s elite stage. The 24-year-old has hit 22 goals for Atléti this season, including four strikes in seven Champions League matches.
PSV will be without Gastón Pereiro after he was sent off in the first leg and the Dutch side have history against them – they have not won a Champions League knockout match since 2012.
Dynamo Kyiv v Manchester City
Have Manchester City finally arrived in the European elite? City’s draw against Dynamo Kyiv – in the middle of the Ukrainian league’s winter break – was a kind one, but their 3-1 win was ruthless.
Manuel Pellegrini prepared for the trip to Kyiv by making wholesale changes for an FA Cup tie at Chelsea, his young XI duly losing 5-1 at Stamford Bridge, but that decision was justified by City’s vibrant performance, as goals from Sergio Agüero, David Silva and Yaya Touré put City on the brink of reaching the Champions League quarter-final stage for the first time in the club’s history.
Agüero looked particularly sharp and his 16th Champions League goal, from just 17 UCL starts, is a clear indicator of the Argentina striker’s brilliance, while Touré netted his seventh of the season to stop City’s run of three successive defeats in all competitions.
City’s defenders were also in resilient form with both Vincent Kompany and Nicolás Otamendi outstanding, while goalkeeper Joe Hart made big saves at key moments in the game. With three away goals in the bank, City’s progression to the last eight looks virtually certain.