Another week of Champions League football is upon us and as always, it will bring many an interesting fixtures for football fans all around. With only two more games set to be played, all teams will be hoping to put their best foot forward as qualification to the next round is on the line.
With 5 teams already qualified for the Round-of-16 stage, we take a look at five things to watch out for in the upcoming round of group matches:
#5 – Cristiano Ronaldo returns to where it all began
Cristiano Ronaldo will be making a return to his ‘home’, as Real Madrid travel to Portugal this week to face Sporting CP in the UEFA Champions League. Ronaldo, coming on the back of a hat-trick in the Madrid derby over the weekend, will be hoping to make his return a memorable one.
The Ballon d’Or contender needs two more goals to reach hundred goals in UEFA club competitions and what better occasion than to bring up this special milestone at the club where he started his professional career?
Madrid won the previous encounter against Sporting at the Santiago Bernebau with Cristiano scoring in that game and he will be hoping that he leaves a mark at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, where it all began for him.
#4 – Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain go head to head at the Emirates
It will be the clash of titans in Group A as PSG travel to North London to face Arsenal. The top spot will be on the line in this match, with qualification sealed for either teams.
Arsenal will come into the game after scraping through a draw against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford thanks to an Olivier Giroud header in the dying moments of the game, while PSG won their previous encounter 2-0 against Nantes.
Angel Di Maria, recovering from an injury, is expected to play some part in the game for the Les Parisiens while it remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger decides to start with Giroud who has been on a good goal-scoring form in the Premier League.
The last time these two sides met at the Parc des Princes, Arsenal rode their luck to eke out a 1-1 draw, thanks in main to the ghastly wastefulness of Edinson Cavani. But rest assured things will be much different this time around.
#3- Will history repeat itself at Celtic Park?
Celtic are all set to face champions Barcelona on Wednesday at the Celtic Park and the fans will be hoping that their team can conjure up a performance similar to the one in 2012 when Barcelona came to town.
It was a huge night for the club and the fans at Celtic Park four years ago, as goals from Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt gave Celtic a memorable 2-1 victory against the Catalans in their group stage fixture.
But the recent 7-0 thrashing at the Camp Nou, where the Barcelona attackers tore apart the Celtic defence, will still be fresh in the minds.
Will history repeat itself? Or is there another thrashing on the cards for Celtic? Not long before we find out.
#2 – How will the English clubs fare?
It will be an important night for English clubs as three of the four Premier League teams qualified for the Champions League will battle it out for a chance in the next round of European football’s premiere event.
While Arsenal have sealed their qualification from Group A already with some impressive performances in the Champions League, last season’s Premier League winners Leicester City look all set to create history and go through to the Round-of-16.
They are currently at the top of their group with 10 points and a draw against Tuesday’s opponents Club Brugge should be enough to send them through.
Manchester City will be needing a win against German opponents Borussia Monchengladbach to qualify from their group that also features Barcelona and Celtic. Pep Guardiola’s side defeated Barcelona last time around at the Etihad in the previous round of fixtures and the confidence will be high as they go into this clash.
But it will be a tricky one for Tottenham Hotspur as they travel to France to take on group leaders Monaco. Spurs tasted their first victory in any competitions since October 2nd over the weekend against West Ham as Harry Kane came to their rescue with a brace. Spurs will hope he stars in France as they hope to provide a much-needed boost to their Champions league campaign.
#1 – Will Atletico bounce back to maintain perfect record?
Atletico Madrid were left battered and bruised as derby rivals Real Madrid claimed the bragging rights with an emphatic 3-0 trouncing over the weekend.
The performance and the match left a bad taste for the Los Colcheneros, with manager Diego Simeone admitting as much after that match. He said, “Losing hurts me. It’s not good. I’m hurting for everyone.”
But Wednesday night will provide them with an opportunity to vindicate themselves as they face PSV Eindhoven at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico are the only team in the Champions League with the perfect tally of points after four games. They will be hoping to continue their good run and maintain their perfect record and in the process put behind the demons of the derby day.