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UEFA Champions League talking points

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Napoli face Barcelona Photo SportsKeeda
Napoli face Barcelona. Photo/ SportsKeeda
  • We look at the major talking points ahead of the UEFA Champions League last-16 matches featuring Dortmund, Arsenal, Barcelona, and Napoli.

We look at the major talking points ahead of the UEFA Champions League last-16 matches featuring Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Barcelona, and Napoli.

PSV looks to upset Dortmund

Luuk de Jong of PSV Photo Sky Sports

Luuk de Jong of PSV. Photo/ Sky Sports

Tuesday night, PSV Eindhoven will play Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16, with the Dutch squad being among the best in Europe this year.

With 22 games played thus far this season without a loss, PSV is the clear leader in the Eredivisie under the direction of former Dortmund manager Peter Bosz. Only on January 21 did PSV lose their first league point of the season after winning 20 of those matches and drawing twice.

PSV is hoping to make it to the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2006–07, having only lost twice in all competitions.

PSV will go into their matchup with Dortmund with confidence, even though just three teams from outside of Europe’s top five leagues—Benfica, Porto, and Ajax—have advanced to the competition’s last eight in the previous five seasons.

The club’s chances of defeating their Bundesliga opponents will mostly depend on veteran attacker Luuk de Jong, who has scored 27 goals in 34 appearances across all competitions this season.

Will Arsenal’s curse end?

Arsenal

Arsenal. Photo/ Arsenal.com.

On their first participation in the tournament since 2016–17, Arsenal has made an outstanding comeback to the Champions League this season, easily navigating through a small group-stage draw.

The task of advancing from a two-leg last-16 tie falls on Mikel Arteta’s men after they easily defeated their group. Having lost in the round of sixteen in each of their last seven Champions League seasons, Arsenal has a dismal record at this point in the competition.

Since the second group stage was abolished in 2003–04, no team has been eliminated from the Champions League more often than Arsenal. The Gunners have not advanced to the quarterfinals since 2009–10 (9).

Arsenal, who have suffered defeats on their last two trips to The Estádio do Dragão, will also need to improve on previous showings in Porto.

Inter looking to reach the quarters

Inter Milan

Lautaro Martinez. Photo/ Laredo Morning Times.

Last season, Inter Milan went above and above to make it to the Champions League final, their first trip there since winning three titles under Jose Mourinho in 2010. The Nerazzurri shone in Europe to earn a spot in the final against Manchester City, despite finishing third in Serie A.

Inter appears to have improved from the previous season and is on track to win a 20th Scudetto this year. With a game remaining, Simeone Inzaghi’s team leads the division by nine points. They are riding high after six straight Serie A victories going into this week’s matchup with Atletico Madrid.

With 20 goals in 21 league starts, Lautaro Martinez has been in incredible form. Summer acquisition, Marcus Thuram, and the outstanding Hakan Çalhanoğlu have provided strong assistance. But, Diego Simeone’s team will be difficult opponents for any side, thus Atletico Madrid will pose a strong challenge to the team’s credentials.

On the other hand, Inter can advance and emphasize their status as possible underdogs to contend for European glory.

Napoli meet Barcelona

Last season, Napoli and Barcelona had seasons to remember after winning their respective league titles. Napoli’s sensational Scudetto victory marked the team’s first title success in almost thirty years under Luciano Spalletti.

After Rudi Garcia and Walter Mazzarri’s brief tenures, Spalletti’s decision to resign after that victory has resulted in a lackluster crown defense for Napoli, who are now managed by Francesco Calzona as their third manager of the year.

The news of Calzona’s appointment breaks just before their Champions League matchup with Barcelona, who are also facing uncertainty. With the Barcelona team eight points behind Real Madrid in the fight for the La Liga championship, Xavi has announced that he would leave his position as head coach at Camp Nou in the summer.

Barcelona must turn around a dismal recent home record in Europe as the Spanish team gets ready to visit the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium. In their past ten road games during the Champions League knockout stages, the Blaugrana have only triumphed once.

I am an ardent sports enthusiast interested in writing about football, motorsport and athletics.

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