Champions League – Round of 16 Return Legs
Juventus – Porto (Aggregate: 2-0)
I watched Juventus’ controversial last gasp winner against AC Milan over the weekend, in what was a fabulous match. Now, I could talk about how Juventus deserved the win for their attacking prowess, how refereeing decisions always seem to go the Bianconeri’s way, or how Porto could try and nullify them, but it doesn’t matter. If you lose at home in a two-legged tie, you’re out. That goes double when you’re up against a team who pays off the referee.
Leicester City – Sevilla (Aggregate: 1-2)
You know, Leicester could still pull of something incredible here. Despite firing Ranieri for not living up to the incredible standards set by the owner, Leicester’s makeshift replacement seems to have adapted to life quite magnificently. If Shakespeare can script (sorry) a magical ending to Leicester’s European tale, he should be able to convince the board to give him the job full-time. He’ll never come down from that high, just ask Roberto Di Matteo. OK maybe not him. Well, not Ranieri either…there must be someone who kept their job after an unexpected early success? Put your hand down, Arsene.
Monaco – Manchester City (Aggregate: 3-5)
Ah, here we are, at the insanely beautiful match of the week. If last week’s events were anything to go by, this should be another absolute belter. I mean, 13 goals in matches involving Bayern and Barcelona? That’s nothing compared to what Pep is going to do at his new club. He even admitted that City would have to score to get through this round. Should be an absolute classic, a where-were-you-when-that-happened moment.
Atletico Madrid – Bayer Leverkusen (Aggregate: 4-2)
Before we go any further, I urge you to re-read the bit about Juventus. Now, swap out dirty Turin cheats for a ridiculously passionate and organised Simeone defence. That’s right, this isn’t going to be a good night for the Germans. Can’t say I didn’t warn you that Bayer would lose the first leg though – there’s no way of erasing the scars from a 5-0 home battering by a David Moyes side. Yes, I know I’m just repeating myself but I’ve been thinking about this match for about 3 years, 3 months and 15 days (yep, the number’s right, I did the math – probably shouldn’t be so proud of that). Ryan Giggs and Phil Jones in midfield. It’s disgusting enough for you to throw up. Imagine how the Leverkusen survivors feel.
Europa League – Round of 16 Return Legs
Manchester United – Rostov FC (Aggregate: 1-1)
In light of the rough turf and lack of injuries, Mourinho claimed that the draw was a good result last week. You can see his point, especially considering Rostov have beaten both Bayern Munich and Ajax at that grassy beach that passes for a pitch in Russia. Just to reiterate, this is the pitch of the European representative of Russia. You know, the Russia that needs to host a World Cup in 16 months? Sure, there weren’t any bribes involved Mr. Blatter.
Roma – Lyon (Aggregate: 2-4)
A decade ago, this would’ve passed as one of THE unmissable matches of a European matchday. It wouldn’t have been out of place at the same stage of the Champions League considering the performances of the two teams (well, if you ignore the 7-1 thrashing of the Italians at Old Trafford almost ten years to the day). Today, it’s a no-win match for Roma. The Italians might secretly prefer to go out to focus on their ultimately fruitless quest for success in Serie A, but, as they found out last week, the fans are not going to be happy with another loss. Roma’s only hope is to stage a dramatic comeback that falls just short of achieving anything real. You know, the Arsenal Special.
Prediction: 3-1, with Lyon scoring in the last minute
Genk – Gent (Aggregate: 5-2)
So, this is the opening blurb on UEFA’s match preview: “Three goals, 125km and a letter separate Genk and Gent as they come together for their all-Belgian UEFA Europa League round of 16 decider.” Considering Genk (is that pronounced jenk or ghenk anyway?) scored five goals away from home in a two-legged aggregate tie, you can’t just say ‘three goals’ separates them like that’s nothing. I mean, it’s a fine way to try to distract us from the fact that this is the most useless fight back since, well, last week when Arsenal took on Bayern Munich, but I’m not falling for it. However, I did choose this match to write about instead of the other more interesting ones, so maybe I did fall for it. Well played, UEFA, well played.