The second leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 matches resumes this week.
At this point, it is a do-or-die affair for most of the teams- desperation time, throwing everything at the opponent, including the kitchen sink. And with the away-goal rule scrapped, it makes for an even more fascinating showdown.
Except for something overly dramatic happening, Manchester City and Liverpool have their feet firmly planted in the next round.
There is a lot to be excited about from this set of return matches.
Bayern Munich vs Salzburg
This encounter looks finely poised. This feels particularly safe to say now, but it was not so before the first leg.
Indeed, the Bundesliga champions scored in the final minute in Austria to avoid what would have been a shocking loss.
Julian Nagelsmann’s men have dropped below their usually high standards in recent weeks, dropping points in seemingly winnable matches in the league.
Playing at the Allianz Arena, the Bavarians are still favourites to progress. However, they will need to avoid complacency.
They will need to keep the tempo high until the final minute as hinted at by the German coach. Of course, the style of play will remain; aggression out of possession, looking to win the ball in dangerous areas.
Robert Lewandowski will prove important in this tie. Thomas Muller will need to up his performance, especially with chance creation.
Salzburg, on the other hand, will draw confidence from the first leg. The aim will be to score early and limit Bayern’s forward men.
The Austrian team has also been in superb form in the Bundesliga. However, they are sweating on the fitness of players like Noah Okafor and Oumar Soulet for this encounter.
Karim Adeyemi and first-leg scorer, Chukwubike Adamu will hope to hurt the former UCL Champions on the break.
This tie looks sure to be settled in normal time. Bayern will nick it by the odd goal.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2-1 Salzburg
Liverpool vs Inter Milan
The Reds have a healthy two-nil lead ahead of this game. It would take something extraordinary to knock the Premier League team off their perch.
So far, Jurgen Klopp’s men have defeated all comers in this season’s Champions League and are on a run of 12 unbeaten matches. They are fighting on every front, even with the Carabao Cup already in the bag.
Luis Dias has become a fantastic addition to the forward line. The Colombian could prove pivotal in this encounter, especially knowing that the Italians will likely take more risks in attack.
The English team never backs off in intensity, in reality. Yet, they will hope to be more efficient on the counter.
Inter Milan have no other option, nothing to lose anymore. The objective will be to score early and put pressure on the opponent. However, they will need to be perfect in all aspects.
Lautaro Martinez, who got back to scoring at the weekend in Serie A will be desperate to hit a streak. Similarly, Edin Dzeko will be keen to get and take chances.
This looks like a tough task for the Nerazzurri. Liverpool is poised to win once again and progress.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-0 Inter
Manchester City vs Sporting
This is a dead rubber affair. The Portuguese side, if anything, will be playing for pride.
The English Champions were rampant in the first leg, hitting the opponent for five right in their backyard.
Of course, knowing Pep Guardiola and his ridiculously high standards, he will leave nothing to chance. There will be a few rotations, but the Spanish coach will head in with a strong squad.
The likes of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling will likely start. Kevin de Bruyne who was inspirational in last weekend’s Manchester derby will likely watch from the bench.
Sporting will need to approach this as another game to avoid another mauling. Islam Slimani will fancy his chances with Ruben Diaz injured.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Sporting
Real Madrid vs PSG
The Ligue 1 giants hold a slight 1-0 advantage going into this tie. However, this seems too little an advantage considering the quality of the opponent.
Real Madrid remain top in La Liga and was outstanding against Real Sociedad at the weekend.
And yet, Carlo Ancelotti will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the first leg performance. The Los Blancos were easily dominated and seized the initiative to the French side.
Casemiro is suspended for this encounter. This may prompt the use of new signing, Eduardo Camavinga or Federico Valverde.
Karim Benzema and Vinicius remain the key men in attack. However, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos must aim to dominate the midfield.
PSG continues to huff and puff. The play seems very uncoordinated. Yet, Mauricio Pochettino’s men can hope to replicate their first-leg performance.
Kylian Mbappe will look to pass a late fitness test after sustaining a thigh injury. Lionel Messi and Neymar will have to pull off some synergy tomorrow night.
Marco Verratti was excellent in Paris. The Italian will be important again to how they perform.
This tie is too close to call. It will likely go down to the wire- extra time possibly.
Prediction: Real Madrid 1-0 PSG (tie to be decided in extra time).