Preview: Champions League matchups as Man United hosts Atletico

AP , Monday 14 Mar 2022

A look at the last-16 second-leg games being played in the Champions League this week:

 Man United


Manchester united vs. Atletico madrid (1-1)

Winning the Champions League could be Manchester United's only route back into the competition next season. United players were buzzing over Cristiano Ronaldo's first hat trick of his first season back at United in its 3-2 win over Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday. But collecting only four points from three Premier League games has led to Arsenal moving ahead of United into the fourth Champions League spot. Ronaldo has impressed in Europe with six goals in his six appearances this season. United could see Luke Shaw return from illness for the visit of the Spanish champions. Atletico is carrying momentum from three wins in a row in the Spanish league since the draw against United. Coach Diego Simeone is hoping for the return of midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia from injury. Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez hasn't started for Atletico since a 3-0 win at Osasuna in February, when he scored his last goal with the Spanish club.

Ajax vs. Benfica (2-2)

Ajax was one of the surprises of the group stage _ joining Liverpool and Bayern Munich as the only teams with six victories from six matches _ but it twice relinquished leads in a 2-2 draw at Benfica in the first leg of the round of 16 in Portugal. Ajax is in the last 16 for the second time since 2006, though it reached the semifinals the last time it got this far three seasons ago. The Dutch club is led by striker Sebastien Haller, the first player to score in his opening seven Champions League games and the quickest to 11 goals in the competition's history. Ajax has already equaled its most prolific Champions League campaign with 22 goals. Benfica, a two-time European champion looking to reach the quarterfinals for the fifth time, hopes to count on the return of Roman Yaremchuk, Nicolas Otamendi and Gilberto, who were nursing injuries and didn't play in the team's 1-1 draw against Vizela in the Portuguese league on Friday.


Juventus vs. Villarreal (1-1)

Juventus, the last Italian team still standing in the Champions League, is desperate to avoid a third successive last-16 elimination. The Bianconeri are hoping that three of its top players return for the match in Turin. Captain Giorgio Chiellini, fellow defender Leonardo Bonucci and forward Paulo Dybala have been out _ part of a long injury list that also includes long-term absences for Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie. ``We're facing a strong team but we need to go for it and we can do it, maybe even over 120 minutes,'' Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. If the match goes to penalties, Juventus can count on the recent form of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has saved three straight penalties in Serie A _ the first to achieve that feat in four years. Villarreal may be without key players because of injuries, including Raul Albiol, Etienne Capoue, Gerard Moreno and Juan Foyth.

Lille vs. Chelsea (0-2)

So much has changed for Chelsea since the first leg was played before Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine. Now Chelsea is dealing with the impact of sanctions hitting owner Roman Abramovich and the team having to operate under spending restrictions imposed by the government. New spending on away trips is capped at 20,000 pounds, although Chelsea says the trip to Lille was already paid for. Manager Thomas Tuchel said: ``I think practically things have changed more for the guys who for example organized the journey to Lille, because they had to figure out how we arrive there.'' Abramovich is having to sell the club he was on the field to celebrate winning the Champions League with last May. Now Chelsea needs to advance to the quarterfinals not just in the pursuit of defending the title but to collect about another $10 million from UEFA without the owner's cash injections to rely on anymore. Chelsea's qualification for the Champions League for next season at least looks on track through the Premier League, with the team in third place. Lille is the defending French champion and is starting to defend like it did last season. The only time coach Jocelyn Gourvennec's side has conceded a goal in the past six games was against Chelsea. But apart from one heavy win against promoted side Clermont, scoring has proved more problematic. Top scorer Jonathan David is still short of his best form and midfield creator Renato Sanches is out after limping off Friday with a thigh injury.

Already qualified

Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid reached the quarterfinals last week.

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