Manchester City managed to make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League last night but Chelsea’s prospects look very bleak and Bayern Munich can confirm their place in the last 16 this evening.
Hansi Flick’s appointment as assistant coach was expected to be temporary but he’s now potentially on the verge of a treble for the club, after yet another Bundesliga success and a dominant German Cup final victory, with Bayern 10/3 second favourites for European glory now.
Munich looked a class above when winning the first leg 3-0, with Serge Gnabry’s second half explosion of two goals in four minutes putting the visitors in the driving seat before Robert Lewandowski, who set up Gnabry twice, effectively sealed the tie. They were ably assisted by Thomas Müller, who created havoc in between the lines and was unlucky not to score, but Bayern were outstanding all over the pitch.
165 days have passed since that tie, and there’s no doubt that Chelsea have improved a good deal since then based on an impressive ending to the domestic season which saw them seal a top four finish and a spot in the FA Cup final, but those exertions have told physically and that spells trouble for tonight.
Bayern Munich v Chelsea
UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg
20:00 BT Sport 1 / BT Sport Extra 1 / BT Sport Ultimate
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, since 2010)
MAR 2020 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Chelsea 3-0 Bayern Munich
AUG 2013 UEFA SUPER CUP Bayern Munich 2-2 Chelsea
MAY 2012 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea
A particularly brutal FA Cup final saw Christian Pulisic, Cesar Azpilicueta and Pedro all sustain injuries at Wembley and those are bad enough absences without Marcos Alonso and Jorginho being suspended. Those absences leave the Blues extremely vulnerable infront of a defence that’s already been targeted with plenty of aplomb since the restart and Pulisic’s absence is the last thing that they need going forward.
Bayern’s excellent end to the season should have put them spot on for a Champions League challenge, with the German Cup hopefully acting as a decent springboard, and whilst Hansi Flick would be entitled to make changes, Chelsea have conceded two or more goals six times since the restart and maybe the value in this game is in backing Munich to do the same, perhaps whilst keeping a clean sheet.
There’s a much more competitive second leg in the shape of Barcelona and Napoli, both battling it out for a quarter-final place after a 1-1 draw in the first leg. Barcelona will be disappointed with their post lockdown league form – a two point lead over Real Madrid in La Liga ended up being a five point loss – and there are many issues on and off the field, with coach Quique Setien under serious pressure despite only being there since January.
However, they did end La Liga in style with a 5-0 win over Alaves when Lionel Messi looked a happy figure on the field in scoring a brace, and in that game Luis Suarez was on the scoresheet whilst Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati also showed plenty of promise with such displays.
They will need to improve collectively against Napoli, however – despite a strong showing in the first leg when taking a draw. Gennaro Gattuso has made a team in his own image, one that compresses space between the lines whilst also attacking with serious pace and variety – led by Arkadiusz Milik, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne. However, Mertens hasn’t scored with his usual fluency this season and has only completed 90 minutes once since Febuary) and overall their top three scored 28 goals in Serie A compared to 43 in the last campaign.
That could well be a result of a more pragmatic style of play under Gattuso but they also conceded 50 goals in Serie A despite the best efforts of Kalidou Koulibaly and that, combined with away form, tempers enthusiasm for backing an upset slightly. Napoli lost all their away games against the top five in Italy – including against the same Inter side Barcelona beat behind closed doors – and if Lionel Messi can get rolling, Barcelona can find the gaps to make it through here. The 2-1 correct score appeals however, as Napoli will hope to find gaps with midfielders Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal suspended and centre-back Samuel Umtiti also injured.
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