UEFA Champions League 2013: First-Leg Matchups and Players to Watch

Justin OnslowContributor IIFebruary 12, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 09:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts during the la Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Sevilla FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 9, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

The time for more Champions League action has arrived. A couple of months since the last leg, the knockout stage will prove to be well worth the wait.

Sixteen teams wait in the wings for their chance to elude elimination in the first leg of the knockout round, set to begin with two Tuesday matches between four storied clubs.

The final two matches of the first week will take place on Wednesday, and the action will then resume on Tuesday, Feb. 19 and 20 with the final four matches of the round.

We’ll take a look at each matchup during the first week of the knockout round and highlight some of the most intriguing players in that half of the round of 16.


Celtic vs. Juventus

Where: Celtic Park, Glasgow

When: Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 2:45 p.m. ET

Players to Watch: Nicolas Anelka, Andrea Pirlo, Georgios Samaras, Gary Hooper



Celtic has a chance to make a statement at home on Tuesday. They haven’t lost a match in Glasgow against a Serie A opponent since 1969, but they haven’t fared well against Italian sides in recent matches, winning just five of 19 (per UEFA). It will be interesting to see how much competing on their own pitch works in Celtic’s favor.

This match should be fairly even, and Juventus also has some history on their side. They haven’t lost on the road in Europe since 2010 but have lost three of their last four matches on Scottish sides (per UEFA). Traveling to Glasgow will be a test, but Juventus should be ready to increase their European win streak.


Valencia vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Where: Estadi de Mestalla, Valencia

When: Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 2:45 p.m. ET

Players to Watch: Roberto Soldado, Jonas, David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimović



The Spanish side have won all eight previous home matches against the French, and Valencia are primed to make a splash in the knockout round on Tuesday. They haven’t lost a home match against any opponent in their last nine (per UEFA).

The French side have reason to be confident, though. They played well in the group stage, scoring 14 goals and allowing just three—fewer allowed than any other club (per UEFA). PSG recently added David Beckham to the roster, and the superstar brings his talents with the hopes of helping them advance to the next stage with a strong performance in the knockout round.


Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Dortmund

Where: Donbass Arena, Donetsk 

When: Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 2:45 p.m. ET

Players to Watch: Fernandinho, Eduardo, Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze



Shakhtar is vying for a second appearance in the quarterfinals, but they’ll have to go through a Dortmund squad that has never lost to a Ukrainian club in six matches (per UEFA).

Dortmund should be the favorite to win the contest. They have played well thus far, especially on the road against tough opponents.


Real Madrid vs. Manchester United

Where: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

When: Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 2:45 p.m. ET

Players to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Ryan Giggs, Robin van Persie



This match should prove to be the most entertaining of the round, aided by the intrigue of Cristiano Ronaldo facing his old club for the first time since leaving (per UEFA).

Real and United are two of the most exciting clubs in Europe, and while United lead the Premier League by a wide margin after playing some terrific football this season, they have never beaten Real on the road (per UEFA).

Given the offensive prowess of both clubs, this match should provide fans with a lot of scoring at both ends of the pitch.