Champions League Preview: Will Arsenal Survive?

Atlético Madrid vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Aggregate 0-1)

Diego Simeone’s men come into this match only scoring once in their previous four matchups, including their 1-0 loss two weeks ago in the first leg of this fixture, and the Spanish outfit is winless during this run as well. Despite this poor run of form, many will still favor Atlético Madrid to advance into the quarterfinals and continue their run to return to the finals. The team from Madrid hasn’t lost a home game during this year’s European campaign or last year’s magical run. To make things more difficult for Leverkusen, no team has scored while visiting the Spanish capital since March 11, 2014 and even then AC Milan lost 4-1.

In stark contrast to their Spanish counterparts’ scoring drought, Leverkusen come into the second leg having scored 11 goals in their previous five matches, and they haven’t allowed a goal during this five-game winning streak as well. However, star midfielder Lars Bender will be unavailable for Tuesday’s trip due to an ankle injury. During their European travels this campaign, the German side have fared quite well away from home. They have won two out of their four away games, and tied another. They will have to carry this impressive form and a bit of luck to the Vincente Calderón if they hope to shock last year’s runner ups and take a trip to the last eight.

With all things considered, I am going to side with the upset tomorrow night. Leverkusen are in inspired form, and its hard not to side with momentum. The Germans will leave Spain with a 2-1 loss, but they will score the all-important away goal to send them on in the tournament.

AS Monaco vs. Arsenal (Aggregate 3-1)

Arsenal loses to Monaco

Image: Clive Mason

In perhaps the biggest upset of the Round of 16, Monaco travelled to the Emirates and completely dismantled a highly favored Arsenal side 3-1. The focus will be on the Ligue 1 side’s backline Tuesday night as Arsenal will send wave after wave of attack for the full 90 minutes, and Danijel Subasic will have to provide some heroics to keep the Gunners out of the net. The French side have yet to concede at home this season in European competition and haven’t lost at home domestically since September 27th. The Stade Louis II has been an absolute fortress this year with goals few and far to come by for visitors (only seven away goals in the 14 league games against Monaco).

Arsene Wenger, who previously managed Monaco earlier in his career, will face even more criticism from a harsh Arsenal fan base if his side limps out of the competition to what many consider an inferior side. Since their humiliating defeat to Monaco, Arsenal have managed to string together four straight wins, including a famous victory at Old Trafford to knock Manchester United out of the FA Cup. The play of Olivier Giroud will be instrumental in determining the London side’s fate. The big French forward has scored three goals in his last four matches, and if he is able to continue this habit, the pipe dream of advancing past the Round of 16 may become a reality. Also, it will take a concerted effort from the Arsenal backline to improve on their three goal shellacking two weeks ago and keep a clean sheet. If Monaco scores just once, Arsenal’s Champions League dreams are all but finished.

I can’t see Arsene Wenger pushing his men to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Also, it may be time for the Arsenal boss to prioritize his season and focus on more realistic goals such as finishing in the top four and winning the FA Cup this season. I predict that Monaco advance after a 1-1 draw.

Barcelona vs. Manchester City (Aggregate 2-1)

I’ve never seen a crowd react so well after losing 2-1 at home. The Manchester City faithful acted as if they had shocked the world and knocked out Barcelona in the first leg after they saw a Lionel Messi penalty kick go wide to escape the Etihad only down by one goal in aggregate. This “momentum” was short lived domestically however as they lost two of their next three games, with one of those to relegation-threatened Burnley. Many believe that if City fails to advance it will be the final strike for Manuel Pellegrini. It will take a strong effort from players like Sergio Agüero, who scored the side’s lone goal two weeks ago, Yaya Toure and David Silva in the midfield if the English side has any hope of winning at the Nou Camp.

Barcelona enters this matchup on a five-game winning streak scoring a whopping 16 goals during that span. Luis Suarez seems to have finally settled into his new surroundings, netting six of those 16 goals, including both of Barca’s goals at the Etihad. Not to be outdone, Messi has also scored six goals since his late miss against City, with three of those coming against Rayo Vallecano. The attacking trio of Suarez, Messi, and Neymar show no signs of slowing down, and it’s hard to imagine the current La Liga leaders letting a 2-1 lead slip away at home and crashing out of the Champions League.

I may be biased due to my love of Manchester United, but I would love to see City get knocked out here. Hopefully, Barcelona will continue their dominant form and bring an end to Pellegrini’s short reign over the Sky Blues. Barcelona will win the match 2-1 and march on in Europe.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Juventus (Aggregate 1-2)

Can anyone stop Paul Pogba? Juve’s young French midfielder, who was one of, if not the best player on the field for the Italian side during this fixture’s first leg will have the spotlight focused on him Wednesday night as Andrea Pirlo will miss the game due to injury. In the first leg, Pogba provided the key assist for Albaro Morata’s game-winning goal and has grown to be a cornerstone of a Juventus side who currently sit atop Serie A. The former Manchester United man provides an unmatched creative spark in the midfield and serves as the catalyst for any attack, while also being able to score highlight reel goals that would make any FIFA player gaze on in amazement. If Juventus can avoid the sort of defensive lapses that created Marco Reus’ goal in the first leg, they have an amazing opportunity to continue their dream European season.

However, it’s not easy for any team to travel to the Westfalenstadion and come out with a result. For MLS fans, imagine the Seattle Sounders’ fanbase x10 and a whole lot closer to the action. Dortmund have not lost at home during this Champions League run, and are in the middle of a revitalized league run that has seen them climb from 17th all the way to 10th in the table. The rise seems to have stalled, however, with Jürgen Klopp’s side failing to score in their previous two matches. The attacking power is there in the German side with players such as Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ciro Immobile scoring a combined 10 goals in the sides seven Champions League fixtures this season. The international strike force will need an inspired performance if they want to distract their fans from a disappointing season in the Bundesliga with a miracle run in Europe.

I’m a sucker for home field advantage when it comes to games like this. When a team has its back against the wall and nothing to lose like Dortmund, I can only imagine them winning. Despite their stalled league run, I predict that Dortmund continue their push through Europe with a well-deserved 2-0 victory Wednesday night.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.


 

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