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UCL PREVIEW: Chelsea need heroic comeback at Bernabeu as Man City face wily Atletico

UCL PREVIEW: Chelsea need heroic comeback at Bernabeu as Man City face wily Atletico
April 12
09:28 2022

It is crunch time for the remaining eight teams in this season’s UEFA champions league (UCL). With the cushion of the away goal gone, it all down to the game at hand. When the spine-tingling anthem and the star-emblazoned signature matchday ball of the UCL roll on this week, they will elicit the pregnant tension that bellies drama and excitement that the knockout stages of the competition never fails to deliver.

From the history-rich concretes of Santiago Bernabeu, the neon-lit edifice of Allianz Arena, the cavernous wonder of Wanda Metropolitano to the boisterous caldron of Anfield, football fans are about to be sent into tears of unbelievable defeat or elevated into the goosebumps-inducing lusciousness of improbable victory. The final lap of the journey to UCL’s last four promises to be a giddy ride.

Chelsea, the defending champions, were emphatically shot down by a sublime Karim Benzema hattrick in the first leg against Real Madrid at the Stamford Bridge; it’s essentially a “swim or drown” game for Thomas Tuchel and his boys at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.

Tuchel immediately wrote his team off following the 3-1 home loss last week. However, a 6-0 victory over Southampton has renewed the German tactician’s faith in his boys. He said his team needs a “fantastic script” to turn the tie around, which means going gong-oh, a move that might result in indulging the hot-red Benzema room for another devastation.

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Madrid are not as impeccable as the first leg might have suggested. The ageing midfield trident of Luka Modric, Toni Kross and Casemiro will have their fatigued legs tested by the mobile Mateo Kovacic, who was inexplicably benched for the first half of the first game. Another blow for the Los Blancos is the suspension of Eder Militao at the heart of the defence, and Chelsea have the quality and exuberance to unnerve the shaky partnership of Nacho Fernandez and David Alaba.

Bayern Munich were stunned by Arnaut Danjuma’s eight-minute goal in the first leg at the La Ceramica, and the high-scoring Bavarian machine had no response. Villareal are on a giant-slaying spree that saw them eliminate Juventus in the round of 16. Another 90 minutes of stingy defending and steadfast attack from their skilful and quick attackers might see the Unai Emery-led boys achieve the impossible.

However, they must contend with the might of Bayern, who have loads of experience at this stage of the competition. Julian Nagelsmann has said his team has “have a lot of work to do,” and, with their pedigree, they definitely will play their hearts out.

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Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid frustrated Manchester City in the first leg at the Etihad. They conceded 68 percent of ball possession and sat compact, organised and resilient in their own half of the pitch. It took a moment of exceptionalism from Phil Foden to Kevin DeBruyne late into the second half before City broke the deadlock.

Atletico will undoubtedly return to the game plan that almost snuffed out the ingenuity of Pep Guardiola’s team while hoping to catch the high line of City’s defence on the break with the speed of Joao Felix and Andrea Correa.

However, it will be hard to stop City — a team that has scored in all but one of the last 16 away matches, coupled with the unimpeachable form of DeBruyne. Pep Guardiola knows his side is clearly the favourite and will make it so to the very end.

Liverpool did the heavy lifting in Portugal last week. The encounter at Anfield is mere consolidation of the victory. Going into the game after a demanding 2-2 draw with Man City over the weekend, the sapped energy might take a sting of the ruthlessness of the Scousers, but Benfica must display the wherewithal to exploit the fatigue for the English team to crumble.

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