The UEFA Champions league gets back underway on Tuesday, with French champions Paris Saint-Germain travelling to the BayArena in Germany to face perennial domestic bridesmaids Bayer Leverkusen.
PSG maintained their five-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 with a straightforward 3-0 home win over Valenciennes on Friday, but Sami Hyypia’s side lost 2-1 at home to Schalke 04 and were also knocked out of the DFB Pokal in the quarterfinals by second-tier Kaiserslautern.
Laurent Blanc’s team topped Group C to advance, while Leverkusen finished second to Manchester United in Group A. The Werkself are currently second to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and will be confident that they can be the major surprise of the last 16.
However, on paper at least, PSG are overwhelming favourites to win the tie over both legs.
With no Edinson Cavani in Germany, the current Championnat leaders are shorn of some of their regular firepower, but the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will still be a major concern for the hosts.
Leverkusen are also thought to be sweating over the fitness of German international midfielder Lars Bender and defender Emir Spahic ahead of the clash, while Emre Can and Eren Derdiyok have already been ruled out.
Following last season’s impressive campaign that saw them make a quarterfinal appearance, the side from the French capital will expect to at least equal that this time around. They will have been happy with the draw against the 2002 finalists.
Despite some laboured domestic performances so far this term, PSG raise their game when at full strength in Europe. The Parisians finished their group campaign with 16 goals to their name, eight of those coming from in-form talisman Ibrahimovic.
Prior to the match, there are a number of key battles to look out for during Tuesday’s game.