The UEFA Champions League is in the process of whittling itself from 16 teams to eight. This process is not off to the most compelling start.
These are all two-leg matchups. The first legs will run until Feb. 26, while the second legs will be held from March 11-19.
The early results don't set up for much drama in the second fixtures.
The first four home teams all dropped the opener, and not one of them managed to even notch a goal. Now, to survive, all four will have to go on the road and reverse the outcome against an opponent they couldn't score against at home.
Have a look at the results and the dates for the second leg of the Round of 16, and then I'll examine some of the developing storylines heading into the second leg.
|Home Team||Score/Date||Away Team|
|Bayer Leverkusen||0-4||Paris Saint-Germain|
|AC Milan||0-1||Atletico Madrid|
|Zenit St. Petersburg||Feb. 25||Borussia Dortmund|
|Olympiakos||Feb. 25||Manchester United|
|Schalke 04||Feb. 26||Real Madrid|
|Date||Time (ET/GMT)||Home Team||Away Team|
|March 11||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Atletico Madrid||AC Milan|
|March 11||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Bayern Munich||Arsenal|
|March 12||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Paris Saint-Germain||Bayer Leverkusen|
|March 12||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Barcelona||Manchester City|
|March 18||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Chelsea||Galatasaray|
|March 18||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Real Madrid||Schalke 04|
|March 19||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Borussia Dortmund||Zenit St. Petersburg|
|March 19||3:45 p.m./8:45 p.m.||Manchester United||Olympiakos|
Top Storylines Heading into Second Leg
Is AC Milan doomed with a 1-0 aggregate deficit?
They sure are.
Of the first four matches, only one of the home teams leaves facing a deficit of less than two goals. That is AC Milan, who fell to Atletico Madrid 1-0.
This is not a terribly daunting hole considering Milan would need just two goals in the second leg to win the tiebreaker, should it come into play.
Still, Milan may as well be facing a 100-0 deficit because they aren't coming back. Milan played Atletico tough and the game-winner was not netted until the 83rd minute, but the problem is that Milan needed to win on their home pitch.
The Italian side is ninth in the Serie A Table yet have won just two away matches in the league this season.
On top of this, they will be facing an Atletico side that has yet to drop a home match in La Liga play and has outscored league opponents 41-7 while playing at home.
Milan blew any opportunity they had in advancing when they lost at home.
How about the other three home teams in the first two days of the Round of 16?
They are all just as doomed.
Manchester City will travel to Camp Nou facing a 2-0 deficit. The Citizens have the firepower to overcome such a deficit but they can't in this particular matchup.
Barcelona, as they are wont to do, used a superior midfield to dominate possession against the Citizens in the first leg. City can't score if they can't control the ball.
Also, much like Milan, the Citizens needed to win on their home soil. Manchester City have been dominant at home this year. They have been both more prolific and consistent at Etihad than on the road.
If they couldn't score against Barca on friendly soil, they will not erase a two-goal deficit while playing in Spain.
Arsenal has a better shot of succeeding, as the Gunners travel to Bayern Munich also facing a two-goal deficit. The Gunners have been solid on the road this year, and it was just last year when Arsenal forced Bayern to advance in UCL play on the strength of away goals after the Gunners went into Germany and pulled out a win.
However, let's not get carried away over Arsenal's chances. They only controlled 21 percent of possession in the first leg, and this team is better suited to playing low-scoring matches.
As for Bayer Leverkusen? Facing a four-goal deficit, they may as well just forfeit. Especially considering the form of the player I'm about to highlight.
Can Zlatan be stopped?
I wouldn't bet on it.
Paris Saint-Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on a tear. The talented Swede has never made much of an impression in Champions League play in the past in his stints with Juventus, Milan, Inter Milan and Barcelona, but the 33-year-old is making up for lost time.
Check out this tweet from OptaJean:
10 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals in his last five Champions League games. Monster.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 18, 2014
On Tuesday, Ibra helped bury Leverkusen.
He drilled a low penalty to give his team a 2-0 lead and then blasted a beauty just minutes later to give his team a 3-0 lead. See for yourself in the GIF below from imgur:
That blast wasn't even with his dominant foot, which he pointed out as only he could:
Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) February 18, 2014
Ibrahimovic appears to be a man on a mission, and I don't see that mission coming to an end anytime soon.