Paris (AFP) – The UEFA Champions League returns on Friday with the remaining places at the final tournament in Lisbon up for grabs as Europe’s top clubs look to go all the way and lift the trophy on August 23 after a suspension of five months because of the coronavirus.
AFP Sport looks at the four outstanding last 16, second legs — all being played behind closed doors — for a reminder of where they stand:
Juventus v Lyon
(Friday 1900GMT; Lyon won first leg 1-0)
It is nearly six months since officials in Lyon questioned the decision to allow the first leg to go ahead as coronavirus cases took off in northern Italy.
Yet the game was played in front of almost 60,000 spectators, including nearly three thousand Juventus supporters.
Lucas Tousart’s goal gave Lyon a surprise 1-0 win on the night, but much has changed since then — for a start Tousart is no longer at Lyon having signed for Hertha Berlin.
Lyon were a lowly seventh when the French season was brought to an early end. Their defeat on penalties to Paris Saint-Germain in last Friday’s League Cup final — their first competitive game since March — means they must win the Champions League to qualify for Europe next season.
That seems unlikely, but putting out Juventus might not be.
The Old Lady have just won their ninth successive Serie A title, yet there are doubts about Maurizio Sarri’s side.
Juve won just twice and lost four of their final eight league games, and in Europe they may be reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo’s appetite for more Champions League success.
Manchester City v Real Madrid
(Friday 1900GMT; City won first leg 2-1)
Pep Guardiola’s City have already claimed one major European victory this summer after the club’s successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which saw their two-year Champions League ban overturned.
That may mean they are extra motivated to go on and win the trophy for the first time, even if Guardiola insists “this issue is over”.
They are in prime position to reach the quarter-finals after a 2-1 victory in Spain in the first leg, when Kevin De Bruyne’s penalty won the game.
Nevertheless they are without the injured Sergio Aguero, and there is pressure on them. Their campaign was underwhelming domestically and the high point of City’s experience in the Champions League so far remains a defeat to Real in the semi-finals in 2016.
Madrid, in contrast, have been there and done it so many times before, winning the competition four times in the last six years alone.
Zinedine Zidane’s team are fresh from claiming the Spanish title after an exceptional run of post-shutdown form. However, they must do without Sergio Ramos, who is suspended after being sent off in the first leg.
Bayern Munich v Chelsea
(Saturday 1900GMT; Bayern won first leg 3-0)
This is surely a formality, with Bayern producing a stunning display to beat Chelsea 3-0 away in February thanks to Serge Gnabry’s brace and a Robert Lewandowski goal.
The Bavarians picked up where they left off in style when the Bundesliga resumed in mid-May, romping to a league and cup double by winning 11 games in a row post-lockdown.
Overall Hansi Flick’s side have won 17 on the bounce and are unbeaten in 26 matches since early December. Lewandowski has 51 goals this season.
Their focus should therefore be on a quarter-final against Barcelona or Napoli, while the pressure is off Chelsea after they achieved their aim of finishing in the top four in the Premier League.
Frank Lampard’s team lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup final last weekend and lost Cesar Azpilicueta and Christian Pulisic to injury in the same game. It looks an impossible task for them.
Barcelona v Napoli
(Saturday 1900GMT; First leg 1-1)
After missing out to Real Madrid in La Liga, Barcelona cannot contemplate being knocked out of the Champions League already, but they are far from safe against Napoli.
They drew 1-1 in the first leg in Italy with Antoine Griezmann cancelling out Dries Mertens’ opener, so Barca have the upper hand. However, all is not well at the Camp Nou, with coach Quique Setien under intense scrutiny.
Barca are looking for a sixth European Cup, five years on from their last success. Lionel Messi has turned 33 since the first leg and time is running out for the Argentine to lift the trophy again.
Napoli are a club on the up under Gennaro Gattuso, witness their triumph on penalties over Juventus in the Italian Cup final in June and their recent statement signing of Lille’s Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen for a fee that could reach 80 million euros ($94.2m).