Champions League: English clubs to dominate in race to the quarter finals

It would be a major disappointment if three of the four English clubs left in the Champions League didn't reach the quarter finals ...


It was a mixed bag for the English clubs in the Champions League round of 16 first legs, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. With three of the four English sides in with a great chance of securing a quarter-final berth, we took a look at their upcoming second legs.

Borussia Dortmund vs Tottenham, Tuesday, 8pm

Tottenham couldn’t have asked for a better result in the first leg and even they couldn’t ‘Spursy’ it up at this stage. At 3-0, it’s hard to see anything other than the Londoners progressing comfortably to the quarter-finals.

Looking back at previous cases, it is easy to see why. Liverpool’s quarter-final elimination of Manchester City last season consisted of 45 minutes of Manchester City pressure at the Etihad in the second leg before Roberto Firmino scored on the break and ended the game as a contest. A season earlier, Atletico Madrid took a quickfire two-goal lead against Real Madrid in the semi-finals before Isco netted against the run of play and ended their challenge.

All it takes is one away goal and the home team will need to score five times, and no team in the last-16 of the Champions League should be conceding five goals.  Tottenham can afford to sit in and frustrate Dortmund in Germany, with the knowledge that a goal on the break will effectively kill the tie off.

It would take a bottle job of epic proportions if Tottenham are to fail to reach the last eight of the Champions League, although they have been badly out of form recently. Ironically, they have failed to win a game since Harry Kane has returned from injury, having won every league game without him.

Spurs’ dip in form has seen them extract themselves from the title race and cast doubt over their top-four credentials in one disastrous week that saw them pick up one point from a possible nine. They still should have too much for Dortmund on Tuesday night, though.

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PSG vs Manchester United, Wednesday, 8pm

No team has ever qualified after suffering a 2-0 home defeat in the first leg, and an injury hit Manchester United who are also missing Paul Pogba through suspension are unlikely to be the first team to do so.

However, most would have said the same of Barcelona two years ago when they became the first team to overturn a four-goal deficit in Champions League history, also against Paris Saint Germain. The French Champions are notoriously mentally weak in Europe, most notably in that infamous two-legged affair with Barcelona, along with prior defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City.

United’s away record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been impeccable and if they can grab an early goal in Paris, who’s to say they can’t exploit the Parisian’s mental fragility. It is extremely unlikely given the comfortable nature of PSG’s victory at Old Trafford and the extent of United’s absentee list, but it is something of a free hit for United and those can be the most dangerous types of fixtures.

The visitors have nothing to lose – but they probably will.

Manchester City vs Schalke, Tuesday, March 12

City were far from their best in Gelsenkirchen, conceded two penalties and had Nicolas Otamendi sent off; and still had too much for their German opponents.

With absolutely everything going their way, Schalke still couldn’t beat City and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that they will do so in Manchester. Schalke also have to win by two clear goals (unless they win 3-2 or 4-3) and that simply isn’t happening.

The Germans are 14th in the Bundesliga and are only in the Champions League knockout stages by virtue of being in the easiest group of the competition. Schalke were beaten 4-0 at home by Fortuna Dusseldorf at the weekend, so the chances of them inflicting a two-goal defeat on Manchester City are non-existent.

Skip this one. It will be a training match.

Jurgen Klopp Xherdan Shaqiri Liverpool

Bayern Munich vs Liverpool, Wednesday, March 13 

Contrary to what the statistics suggest, a 0-0 draw suits Liverpool a lot more than it does Bayern. In the history of the Champions League, there have been 31 knockout games that were goalless after the first leg. 21 of those ties were won by the team playing at home second, Bayern Munich in this instance.

But Champions League football has changed drastically since its inception and the onus is now unequivocally on attacking football. The average goal per game has shot up this decade in the Champions League, jumping from 2.63 goals per game in 2008/09, to 3.21 goals per game last season. That’s a difference of 72 goals in actual figures.

The perception of a 0-0 draw away from home has also changed from a positive one to a largely negative one in recent years, and there will be a nervous atmosphere inside the Allianz Arena when Liverpool go there next week. Liverpool were by far the better team at Anfield and have the capability to score goals in Munich.

With Virgil Van Dijk also returning from suspension, the Reds have to be considered favourites to progress to the last eight.

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