English hopes in the balance in Champions League
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — England will be without a representative in the Champions League quarterfinals for the second time in three years if Arsenal and Manchester City fail to mount improbable comebacks away from home in last-16 second legs this week.
Arsenal is trailing 3-1 to Monaco heading into the return match in France, while City must overturn a 2-1 deficit to Barcelona to reach the last eight of Europe’s top competition for the first time.
It’s a big ask for the Premier League sides but inspiration can be found from the battling away performances from Schalke and Paris Saint-Germain in the first week of second-leg matches, which showed there is no such thing as a lost cause at this level.
Titleholder Real Madrid held a 2-0 lead over Schalke from the first leg but ended up only scraping through 5-4 on aggregate, and PSG played with 10 men against Chelsea from the 31st minute — and then went behind twice — but still advanced thanks to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
The other two matches this week are much more in the balance. Bayer Leverkusen leads 2014 runner-up Atletico Madrid 1-0 from the first leg in Germany and Juventus is protecting a 2-1 lead heading to Borussia Dortmund.
Here’s a look at the upcoming second legs:
Arsenal has recovered from what was widely described as a shambolic display in the first leg, when there appeared to be an element of underestimating Monaco.
Wins over Everton, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham in the Premier League and Manchester United in the FA Cup has put Arsenal’s domestic campaigns back on track, and the team has the attacking players to score the minimum three goals required at Stade Louis II.
Monaco’s defense has been rock solid this season — conceding just 20 goals conceded in 28 games in the French league — but the team has also showed its limits against bigger clubs, losing to PSG and Bordeaux. Also, Arsenal has never lost in France and boasts a perfect record against French league teams in two-leg confrontations.
However, Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim got his counter-attacking tactics spot on in the first leg and the team can play the same way three weeks on.
ATLETICO MADRID-BAYER LEVERKUSEN
Atletico Madrid’s hopes of winning a major piece of silverware for a fourth straight season likely depend on them reaching a second straight Champions League final.
Out of the Copa del Rey, Atletico has also slipped to fourth place in the Spanish league and its chances of defending its title are quickly fading after one win in five rounds.
Diego Simeone’s side was outplayed by Leverkusen in a 1-0 first-leg loss, and will also be without suspended defender Diego Godin and midfielder Tiago Cardoso for the second leg.
Leverkusen warmed up for Tuesday’s game with a 4-0 rout of Stuttgart in the Bundesliga on Friday. It was the side’s fifth consecutive victory without conceding across all competitions - a run that started with the 1-0 defeat of Atletico in the first leg.
Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt had the luxury of taking off Karim Bellarabi and Roberto Hilbert early in preparation for Atletico.
Lionel Messi appears primed to make up for his failed penalty attempt near the end of the first leg, a mistake that gave the English champions hope of overturning the result at Camp Nou.
Messi has scored five goals in his last two games, taking his overall tally this season to 43 goals in 39 appearances for Barcelona.
Barca coach Luis Enrique will be missing injured midfielder Sergio Busquets, but he rested Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu during its 2-0 win at Eibar on Saturday as Barcelona protected its lead of the Spanish league.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini pledged to continue playing 4-4-2 despite being over-run in midfield in the first leg, although he only selected one up front — an unfit Sergio Aguero — in last year’s second leg at Barcelona.
Former Barca midfielder Yaya Toure returns from suspension but left back Gael Clichy is banned after his red card in the first leg.
City is reeling after a surprise 1-0 loss to Burnley on Saturday that further dented its title chances in the Premier League.
Dortmund has stopped its slide in the Bundesliga and has lifted itself decisively from the bottom. But it has another problem now: the team has played two successive 0-0 draws, and didn’t look threatening against Cologne on Saturday.
Dortmund has possession but can make little out of it, with director Michael Zorc saying: “We need a major improvement on Wednesday if we want to advance.”
Juventus heads into the match after grinding out a 1-0 win at Palermo on Saturday despite resting key players Patrice Evra, Arturo Vidal and Alvaro Morata.
Juve was again without the injured Andrea Pirlo but is hopeful the midfield maestro will recover in time for Dortmund.
“It’s a game in which we need to score, perhaps more than once,” said Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri, “so we need to play on the front foot and perhaps also have a slice of luck.”