Race for the Champions League quarter-finals tighter than ever
With the Champions League last-16 first-leg ties done and dusted, the battle to make the quarter-finals could not be tighter.
Only Bayern Munich look to have one foot in the quarters following their 3-0 win at Chelsea on Wednesday night.
We have seen some amazing second-leg turnarounds over the years, none more so than last season when both Liverpool and Tottenham pulled off the unthinkable on their way to the final in Madrid
AS Roma also stunned Barcelona the season before, and it would take a performance of equal magnitude for Chelsea to go to the Allianz Arena and score the four goals they will need to go through.
The only other first-leg tie to end in a convincing victory saw Italian side Atalanta thump Valencia 4-1 on home soil, albeit at Milan’s San Siro.
However, you get the feeling that Valencia may not be out of this one and Atalanta will have work to do at a hostile Mestalla stadium.
Before getting their act together to make it through the group stage, Atalanta had lost 4-0 at Dinamo Zagreb and 5-1 at Manchester City, so they cannot count their chickens just yet.
All the other ties are on a knife edge, and the pressure will be on one or two clubs in particular heading into the second legs.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 27, 2020
Some of the big guns lost away from home by a single goal, but it will not be easy making up the deficit on home soil.
One of the biggest surprises came on Wednesday night when Lyon defeated Juventus 1-0 and the French side will travel to Turin ready to fight for their lives. It seems all is not quite right at Juve and Lyon could sense an opportunity to go through.
Paris Saint-Germain are another club under pressure and, like Juve, all is not well behind the scenes if reports are to be believed. They are desperate to win the Champions League but trail Borussia Dortmund 2-1 and will need to be at their best in the return leg at the Parc des Princes.
Considering BVB have the hottest young striker in European football right now, in the shape of Erling Haaland, PSG could be in trouble.
Liverpool are also trailing 1-0 to Atletico Madrid following the first leg in the Wanda Metropolitana. However, there is certainly less pressure on Jurgen Klopp’s men, who can do no wrong in the eyes of the fans as they close in on the Premier League title.
You would back the Reds to come back from 1-0 as they have been in devastating form at home, but the knives will not be out even if Atletico prevail.
Elsewhere exits at this stage are unthinkable for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City but one from the latter two is going out. The second leg at the Etihad Stadium, where City will start with a 2-1 lead, has all the makings of a classic and the tie of the round.
Barca drew 1-1 with Napoli in Naples and should progress, but after their recent Liverpool and Roma debacles, nothing can be taken for granted.
In the one remaining tie of the round, it goes without saying that Tottenham have it all to do to turn around a 1-0 deficit against RB Leipzig away from home, but it is doable.
Whatever happens it looks like we are all set for a thrilling, exciting and dramatic set of fixtures before the quarter-finals are decided.