Chelsea, Man United face uphill task in CL
LONDON (AP) — Once again, English clubs look set for a premature exit in the Champions League. On Wednesday, Manchester United must beat Bayern Munich or earn a high-scoring draw following their 1-1 result at Old Trafford, and Chelsea must overcome a 3-1 deficit from the first leg to reach the semifinals at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
If Man United and Chelsea fail to advance, it will be the second year in a row with no English representation in the last four of Europe’s top club competition, which is currently dominated by Spanish and German clubs.
In this week’s other matchups, Real Madrid travels to 2013 finalist Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday with a 3-0 first leg advantage that all but secured the Spanish powerhouse’s fourth consecutive semifinal. In the all-Spanish meeting between Atletico and Barcelona, a goalless home draw on Wednesday will be enough for the Madrid side to oust the Catalans and reach its first semifinal since 1974 following their 1-1 draw at Camp Nou last week.
Here is a lookahead to this week’s second legs in the Champions League quarterfinals:
ATLETICO MADRID-BARCELONA: With only four combined goals in four meetings this season, something has to give as Atletico tries to make good on its slight away-goal advantage when hosting Barcelona with their quarterfinal poised at 1-1.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone has the upper hand on fellow Argentine Gerardo Martino so far, as Atletico has dictated the pace, kept the scorelines low and managed to leave Lionel Messi without a goal.
But Atletico may be without leading scorer Diego Costa who left the first leg with a right thigh injury, even though the team’s supporting cast has proven it can pick up the scoring slack in its last two matches.
Barcelona will be without injured center back Gerard Pique.
Atletico leads the Spanish league by one point over Barcelona and both sides showed signs of having weary legs when they eked out wins in the domestic competition on Saturday, so fitness could be a decisive factor.
“There is little margin for error,” Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Pinto said. “The small details will make the difference.”
Although PSG star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out with a thigh injury, Chelsea needs to defend better and be more aggressive at Stamford Bridge, where Paris Saint-Germain is defending a two-goal advantage from its 3-1 win at home. The French club built its lead without too much effort last week, prompting Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho to bemoan the lack of real strikers in his squad and lament his players’ defending.
At the Parc des Princes, Chelsea was indeed made to pay for its sloppy defending and incapacity to transform first-half domination into goals. The Blues are still hopeful they can overcome the deficit with a repeat of the performance that helped them defeat Napoli in the last 16 round two years ago when the Italian side came to London with a 3-1 lead from the first leg.
“They (PSG) are in the driving seat and that is not ideal so we are not kidding ourselves,” Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. “The pressure is on us to be at it from the word ‘go’. I’ve played in these big Champions League nights at Stamford Bridge before and we have got a big home performance in us.”
BAYERN MUNICH-MANCHESTER UNITED
Bayern’s aura of invincibility has lost its shine after failing to win any of its last three games. Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Augsburg brought the side’s 53-game league record unbeaten run to an end, while Bayern had drawn the previous two, against Hoffenheim and — more importantly — United.
“The Bundesliga is over for us. Our target is the Champions League,” Guardiola said before resting a host of regulars against Augsburg. Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Philipp Lahm were left out of the squad, while David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Mario Goetze, Dante and Thomas Mueller all started on the bench.
“For us the most important thing today was that nobody got injured — that’s the be all and end all,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. “It’s about Wednesday, the game against Manchester. Everything else is all the same.”
The German champion is wary of United after failing to win any of its last four fixtures against English sides in Munich. This season, Bayern lost 3-2 at home to Manchester City with progress from the group stage already secured and then drew 1-1 with Arsenal in the return leg of their round-of-16 tie. There were losses to Arsenal and Chelsea, on penalties in the 2012 Champions League final, before that.
“Next Wednesday we have a final. It’s about life or death,” Guardiola said.
United can take heart after winning both their last two games in Germany.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND-REAL MADRID
Dortmund gathered self-belief for the daunting task against Madrid by coming from behind to beat Wolfsburg 2-1 on Saturday. It was the second Bundesliga game in a row that Juergen Klopp’s side had overturned a deficit to emerge victorious, giving a timely boost ahead of Tuesday’s game.
“There’s still a glimmer of hope,” Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl said.
Another reason to hope is Robert Lewandowski, who scored four goals when the sides last met in Dortmund in the semifinals last season. The Bundesliga top-scorer is back after sitting out the 3-0 defeat in Madrid through suspension.
“We won’t give anything away,” Klopp said. “On Tuesday we want to play two second halves, and then we’ll see.”
Associated Press writers Joe Wilson in Barcelona and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report.