Champions League last-16 second legs previewWhere each tiwil
Just four more places remain in the quarter-finals of the 2022-23 Champions League, with Benfica, Bayern Munich,ChelseaandAC Milanthrough and waiting patiently to learn who they get paired with in Fridays draw.
With potential opponents from England, Germany, Portugal, Italy and Spain,The Athletics Thom Harris analyses the prospects of progress for the eight teams playing on Tuesday and Wednesday after four dramatic first legs.
First-leg result: RB Leipzig 1-1 Manchester City
We seem to say it every year, but this season really feels like an excellent opportunity for City to break their Champions League curse.
With some of the usual heavyweights not quite at their best so far, a convincing performance to see off a spirited Leipzig side would leave Pep Guardiolas men looking rather healthy in the final eight.
Champions League nights at the Etihad are usually productive for City, who are unbeaten across their last 23 home matches just one game away from the English record racking up an aggregate score of 69-19 along the way.
Having said that, there is plenty of room for improvement on their first leg in Germany and particularly the second half of that match, where City had just 49.2 per cent of the possession the fifth-lowest figure recorded from their 78 halves of football this campaign.
74% 49% Manchester City had 74% possession and a passing accuracy of 94.6% in the first half, while only facing one shot. In the second half they had 49.2% possession and a passing accuracy of 84.7%, facing six shots. /qHVX5ioT1M
OptaJoe (@OptaJoe)February 22, 2023
One of 11 unused substitutes that night wasPhil Foden, whose season has sparked back into life after four goals and an assist in Citys four games since, putting him right into contention for aChampions Leaguestart.
Able to punch through the defensive lines with incisive forward carries, as we saw against Newcastle United last weekend, the 22-year-old will undoubtedly add an extra edge to Guardiolas multi-pronged attack.
The speed with which Foden was able to control the switched pass here before driving into the space between the lines and into the penalty area demonstrates the potency that he can offer particularly if Leipzig find themselves penned in and defending deep.
After the self-confessed lowest point of his career recently, Foden has attempted 31 take-ons across his last 407 minutes of football nearly seven a gamean illustration of the renewed vigour in his game.
While Guardiola repeatedly stated his desire for control in the first leg, being particularly wary of the threat Leipzig possess on the transition, perhaps Fodens energy can help City turn that side-to-side possession into a more focused forward thrust.
Now heading into his fourth Champions League knockout-phase match all against City, bizarrely Leipzig coach Marco Roses courageous tactical switch-up during half-time of the first leg means we still have a tie on our hands.
Replacing a more defensive Lukas Klostermann with wing-back Benjamin Henrichs, the former Borussia Monchengladbach boss encouraged both full-backs to attack more aggressively in the second half, looking to exploit the wide space behind Citys advanced defensive line.
Focusing their attacks down the left with 60.2 per cent of their attacking touches coming down that flank in an encouraging second half left-back Marcel Halstenberg didnt hesitate to attack around the outside of an adventurousKyle Walker.
His attacking team-mates were also brave, attempting to overload the left flank to dragNathan Akeinside, leaving Henrichs with space to attack over on the right.
Leipzigs best chance before their eventual equaliser came from such a move
For a side renowned for their counter-attacking capabilities and quick, transitional play, Leipzig were surprisingly measured in their build-up, recording their lowest direct speed in their Champions League history. In fact, all six of Roses European games as their coach fall in Leipzigs bottom 10 in that regard, outlining a team with increased confidence in their technical ability to build slowly alongside their more familiar sudden bursts forward.
Still able to launch those devastating attacks, as shown below, getting in behind Citys advanced full-backs may well be a more reliable attacking route for them certainly away from home.
Without the electric Christopher Nkunku for the second leg because of a thigh injury the Frenchman scored a hat-trick last time he played at the Etihad Stadium it will be up to Timo Werner to pick up the attacking reins, following his sensational near-post drive in the 3-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach at the weekend.
There are few players more adept at getting in behind now would be the time to prove he has that clinical edge we saw little of in his Chelsea days.
First-leg result: Inter Milan 1-0 Porto
In arguably the most finely-poised tie of the four, Sergio Conceicaos Porto will be looking to make up for a wasteful first leg performance, in which they lost to a late Romelu Lukaku volley in Milan.
The Portuguese side battled well, accumulating 1.7 xG (expected goals) from their 10 shots on goal, and will be relishing the chance to make their Estadio do Dragao a cauldron as they look to claw back a slender, very attainable deficit.
Before losing the influential Otavio to a second yellow card, Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi probably should have given them the lead, seeing his close-range volley which had anexpected goals on targetvalue of 0.82 miraculously saved by a grounded Andre Onana.
Despite that miss, Taremi continued to look incredibly dangerous around the penalty area and will certainly be Inters biggest headache tomorrow (Tuesday).
Of all players in the Champions League this season, Portos No 9 has generated the highest individual xG tally of 5.5 (with penalties included).With nine chances created and 18 shots from inside the box alone, Taremis movement and awareness in tight spaces set him apart.
In the following example from the first leg, his desire to offer an option in behind even when the opponents back line is so deep shows his tireless work rate, darting in on the blindside of Alessandro Bastoni
before producing a deft backheel to tee up Marko Grujic for the shot.
With elusive penalty box movement and alert, incisive decision-making, dont be surprised to see Taremi make a mark on the second leg.
Having watched their city rivals see out a 1-0 aggregate win over Tottenham in London last week in this round of 16, Inter will be desperate to defend their own one-goal lead and join them in the quarter-finals.
If it happens, it will be the first time in 17 years both Milan clubs have made it through to that stage of the Champions League.
Hakan Calhanoglu has played for both clubs very recently, but its in Inter colours that the Turkey international has really kicked on, quickly becoming a key creative component in Simone Inzaghis non-negotiable 3-5-2.An excellent tempo-setter who is very adept at retaining possession and moving his side up the pitch, Calhanoglu has developed into a quietly well-rounded midfielder, to go alongside his eye for the spectacular.
Announcing his arrival on the European stage back in 2014 with an outrageous free kick against Borussia Dortmund, the 29-year-old certainly hasnt lost his appetite for a long-range effort, as shown by his shot map since joining Inter two seasons ago.
(If youre struggling to see where he scored his fifth goal from, by the way, try looking to the corners)
More importantly, though, with 17 assists to his name across the past two seasons 11 of those coming from dead-ball deliveries Calhanoglus wicked set-piece delivery has seen him retain an average of 3.0 shot-creating passes per 90 minutes this season.
With the prolific foul-winner Lautaro Martinez leading those precious breakaways, drawing four in the first leg, his deliveries could be a valuable pressure-reliever in northern Portugal tomorrow.
Particularly after the weekends loss to Spezia winning their first home league game for almost six months the hosts will be looking to pounce.
First-leg result: Eintracht Frankfurt 0-2 Napoli
With an unassailable 18-point lead at the top of Serie A, along with what looks to be an unassailable lead in this tie, Napoli are on the verge of history.
Not only are Luciano Spallettis side closing in on their first Serie A title in 33 years, but a first-leg 2-0 win in Germany leaves them just 90 minutes away from the clubs first-ever Champions League quarter-final.
The data suggests they should secure their place in the draw comfortably.
Having smothered their opponents away from home, accumulating 2.9 xG to their hosts 0.45 while having 70 per cent of the ball, Napoli welcome a faltering Frankfurt to a stadium where they have lost just one of their past 16 games, and thumpedLiverpoolandJuventus4-1 and 5-1 respectively this term.
Even after a recent defeat to Lazio took the wind out of their sails, the Italians should have enough to see this one through.
And while theres been plenty of admiration for the unstoppable duo of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of late, South Korean defender Kim Min-jae has been equally colossal at the back.
As well as making the second-most passes of any player in Europes top five leagues this season, the 26-year-old also maintains the second-highest tackle win rate against dribblers across the continent, with an astonishing 88.2 per cent of his tackle attempts ending with his side back in possession.Such defensive abilities allowed Kim to completely annul the threat of the trickyRandal Kolo Muaniin the first leg, with his five tackles, alongside a 100 per cent aerial duel win rate and a huge 125 passes, capping off another immense performance at the back.
An even remotely similar shift on Wednesday and Kim will be guiding Napoli safely through to the last eight.
Not only do last seasonsEuropa Leaguewinners have two of the continents most terrifying attackers to contend with, but Frankfurt will be without their own as 16-goal Kolo Muani serves his suspension for a first-leg red card.
Able to complete just 247 passes, their lowest tally of the season in the first leg, and mustering just nine touches in the Napoli box, things are looking rather bleak for their hopes of being in the quarter-final draw.
Without theFranceinternational to lead the line, much of the attacking impetus will be placed on 23-year-oldJesper Lindstrom, who is enjoying a fine second season in Germany after firing his hometown side Brondby to their first Danish Championship in 16 years.
Expected to be working with slim pickings once again, Lindstroms ability to drive the ball forward and into dangerous areas will be crucial if Frankfurt are to pick up any scraps on the counter-attack.
Only two players in theBundesligahave carried the ball into the opposition penalty area more often than the Dane this campaign, while his eight in the Champions League are more than double the total of any available team-mate.
Having seen their heroes reach the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since the old European Cups reinvention in 1995, Frankfurt fans cant be too dismayed with this seasons European journey.
So long as it doesnt get embarrassing in Naples, anyway.
First-leg result: Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid
For a side so often in crisis, there quite simply is no other side like Champions League Real Madrid.
Despite going two goals down at Anfield in the first leg, Carlo Ancelottis men scored five without reply to record a scarcely believable comeback win.
Since then, however, they have dropped four points in their quest to catchBarcelonain the race forLa Liga, either side of losing to their eternal rivals at home in the first leg of aCopa del Reysemi-final falling into a mini-slump, effectively.
As always in this competition, though, Real Madrid have history on their side. Having progressed from 26 of their previous 27 Champions League/European Cup knockout ties following a first-leg away win, the competitions 14-time winners have one foot and at least another toe in the quarter-finals already.
Despite a handful of lacklustre performances in domestic competition of late,Federico Valverdehas continued to shine.
In a 0-0 draw atReal Betisthe weekend before last, the Uruguayan was almost uncontainable on the right side of a midfield three, charging into attacks down the right half-space and unleashing two incredible drives from distance to add to his collection of 34 outside-of-the-box shots this campaign.
A revelation this season, Valverdes unmatched ability of keeping blockbuster strikes under control has seen him over-perform his expected output by almost four goals a remarkable improvement on his previous shooting seasons.
Ancelotti famously claimed he would retire if he couldnt get the Uruguayan to score 10 goals in a season.
As Valverde will be aiming for his 13th of 2022-23 on Wednesday at the Bernabeu, the Italian can safely say hes done his job.
In the most extraordinary two-week period, Liverpool have been both bludgeoned and blessed by the xG gods.
That 5-2 defeat to the Spanish, European and world champions, in which their opponents overperformed their expected goal value by 3.4, has been followed up by a 4.2 over-performance of their own, dramatically putting seven past their fierce rivalsManchester United, before losing to thePremier Leagues bottom clubBournemouthon Saturday.
In a first leg marred with defensive errors, goalkeeperAlissonconceded five goals for the first time ever in a Liverpool shirt and only the second time since he moved to Europe from Brazilian side Internacional in 2016.
The other time, you ask? Also a game that finished 5-2 at Anfield this timetoLiverpool, when Alisson was playing for Roma.
If Liverpool are to miraculously find a way back into this tie, this seasons Champions League top scorerMohamed Salahis almost certainly going to have to play a starring role. The Egyptian has surged back into form, with two goals and two assists against United, and was one of few bright sparks for the home side in the opening leg.
Of Liverpools touches this season, 40.4 per cent have come down their right-hand side in the Premier League (onlyWolveshave focused their attacks more intensely down that flank), with some encouraging triangles reemerging betweenTrent Alexander-ArnoldHarvey Elliottand Salah.
Already so far behind in this tie, Liverpool have an opportunity to let loose.
Its not every day you beat Manchester United 7-0. Its also not very often you have a free hit at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Whichever way it goes, well surely see goals.
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Thom Harrisis a football data writer at The Athletic, with particular interest in data analysis and visualisation. Born and bred on the blue side of Manchester, he is also passionate about the Spanish game, having spent time working for Villarreal C.F in the past.Follow Thom on Twitter@ThomHarris_