8 Issues to Watch in Round of 16 Champions League Ties
The UEFA Champions League finally returns this week as we enter the knockout stages.
We've got some ridiculously enticing matchups, with only potential dead rubber in the form of Manchester United vs. Olympiakos, and the pick of the ties seems to be Barcelona vs. Manchester City.
Here, we've picked out a key issue or headline running through each of the eight fixtures. Take a look inside!
Manchester City vs. Barcelona
How will Manchester City line up given their injury/suspension situation?
Three weeks ago, when the draw was made, this result seemed a pretty clear-cut victory for Manchester City.
Barcelona were housing an injured Neymar and a returning Lionel Messi, while City could boast an uber-strong central midfield core and some of the world's finest in-form strikers.
Now, though, with Fernandinho a question mark for the fixture, Sergio Aguero out, Alvaro Negredo struggling recently with a shoulder ailment and James Milner suspended, how will Manuel Pellegrini set out his troops?
Martin Demichelis will surely get destroyed in midfield, so Javi Garcia's good showing versus Chelsea is all the more encouraging.
This one's on a knife-edge.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Can Bayer Leverkusen's suspect full-backs resist an irresistible attack?
Ordinarily, news that Edinson Cavani has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's clash with Leverkusen would be met with leaps of joy in Germany.
Playing in an unfamiliar right-sided role the Uruguayan has been fantastic, scoring 17 goals from 22 starts and settling in alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But as much as losing his quality hurts, it presents Laurent Blanc with the chance to play Lucas Moura on the right for an even better tactical matchup.
Sebastian Boenisch, the Werkself's left-back, is lumbering, slow and physically inferior to Lucas; on the other side, Ezequiel Lavezzi could have Giulio Donati on a platter.
Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich
Will Arsenal accept they cannot dominate possession?
Arsenal's tussle with Bayern Munich will see two teams who love to dominate the ball lock horns.
According to WhoScored?, the Gunners have averaged 57 percent possession on the season, while Die Roten top Europe with astonishing 70.4 percent.
It's rare to see Arsenal out-possessed at home, it's happened only once this season, according to Squawka, but they'll be lucky to manage even 40 percent of the ball against this Bayern Munich machine.
Can Arsene Wenger make the necessary adjustments and hit them on the counter?
Milan vs. Atletico Madrid
Will Milan play a (suicidal) high defensive line against Atletico Madrid?
Adil Rami leads a pretty high defensive line at San Siro for Milan, and under Clarence Seedorf so far that's worked rather well.
The Frenchman himself has been adept at reading through balls and making crunching challenges in advanced areas, using all of his defensive wit to stall attacks high up the field.
Doing that against Atletico, though, probably isn't a wise idea: Los Colchoneros excel on the break and boast two incredibly tricky strikers in Diego Costa and David Villa.
The speed at which they have ripped teams apart this season, and the fluency with which they do it, should lead to an entirely different outlook for the Rossoneri.
Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Borussia Dortmund
Which side will outscore the other?
On paper, Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Borussia Dortmund has goals written all over it.
BVB's defence has been much better following Lukasz Piszczek's return to fitness and Manuel Friedrich's catching up over the winter break, but can it hold steady in Russia?
Hulk leads an eviscerating attack in blue, complemented by Andrey Arshavin, Axel Witsel and Alexander Kerzhakov; can Sokatris and Friedrich keep it together, and can Nicolas Lombaerts' line resist Robert Lewandowski and Co.?
Our bet is neither side takes a clean sheet to Signal Iduna Park.
Olympiakos vs. Manchester United
Can Manchester United get the convincing win they need to right the ship?
Olympiakos were, in all honesty, a little fortunate to reach the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Weather played a huge part in Benfica's downfall and they looked a side far better equipped for the latter stages.
The Eagles' loss is the Red Devils' gain, but with an easy tie comes heaps of pressure. Can David Moyes secure the dominant victory his side requires to reignite hope of finishing the Premier League top four?
The Greek outfit will be stubborn but toothless—more so now they've sold Kostas Mitroglou to Fulham—and will be gunning for an upset.
Galatasaray vs. Chelsea
The return of Didier Drogba
It promises to be a special occasion for Didier Drogba next week, who will make his highly anticipated competitive return against Chelsea with Turkish outfit Galatasaray.
In case you've been living under a rock, the Ivorian fired the Blues to UEFA Champions League glory in 2012 by heading home an equaliser in normal time and scoring the winning penalty in the shootout.
He then departed in a wild blaze of glory and is adored by Chelsea fans worldwide.
He returns spearheading a strong Gala side under Roberto Mancini, and with Wesley Sneijder and Burak Yilmaz lining up alongside him, there's a chance the cheers from Chelsea fans could be short-lived.
Schalke vs. Real Madrid
A close-up glance of future players?
Schalke are a talent factory, and two prestigious graduates are currently coming into their own as prime attacking players.
Arsenal's January target Julian Draxler, linked to Real Madrid by The Express last summer, is seemingly a few years away from becoming a world-class forward. His frame and innate power ticks the same boxes as Ross Barkley, Jese and Cristiano Ronaldo, and he could well be converted to a lone striker given time.
Max Meyer, at 18 years of age, has already made 16 starts for the Royal Blue this season and looks every bit the silky, technical playmaker many top clubs want.
This is an audition for the two boys, be it directly to los Blancos in person or to the rest of the Champions League.