Champions League Round of 16 – 1st Leg Preview and Expected Lineups

After a thrilling midweek full of surprising results, the Champions League knockout stage is set to resume with another four exciting contests. Two Italian underdogs will be pitted against a couple of the biggest clubs in the competition’s history, whilst a tough battle will take place in Bucharest between two contenders. So let’s take a closer look into the four upcoming matches in our Champions League Round of 16 – 1st leg preview and expected lineups.

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea

Although Atletico Madrid have been leading La Liga standing since the early stages of the season, their European campaign hasn’t been as impressive. The Spaniards had been pitted within the same group of defending champions Bayern Munich, and they had to wait until the last match-day to seal their qualification to the second round.

On the contrary, Chelsea were able to comfortably top their group, despite struggling in the Premier League. The Londoners’ negative domestic run costed Frank Lampard his job, as the club legend had been replaced by Thomas Tuchel in January.

Diego Simeone should deploy a 3-5-2 formation, with the striking pair of  João Félix and Luis Suarez supported by Saúl Ñíguez, Koke and Geoffrey Kondogbia in the middle.

On the other hand, Tuchel will probably opt for a 3-4-3 lineup, with Olivier Giroud flanked by Timo Werner and Mason Mount up-front. Ngolo Kanté and Mateo Kovačić will take the double pivot roles.

The Rojiblancos have a long history of success in the champions League knockout stages under the guidance of their Argentine manager. Nonetheless, the appointment of a more experienced manager on the European stage could be a game-changer for the Blues.

ATLETICO (3-5-2): Oblak; Llorente, Savić, Felipe, Hermoso, Lodi; Koke, Kondogbia, Ñíguez; Félix, Suárez

Out: Trippier (suspended), Herrera (illness), Giménez (adductor), Carrasco (knock), Vrsaljko (knock)

Misses next match if booked: Lodi, Savić

CHELSEA (3-4-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rüdiger; James, Kanté, Kovačić, Alonso; Mount, Giroud, Werner

Out: none

Doubtful: Thiago Silva (thigh), Pulišić (calf), Abraham (ankle)

Misses next match if booked: Jorginho, Kovačić, Mount, Ziyech

Lazio vs. Bayern Munich

After 13 years away from the Champions League, Lazio took advantage of being drawn in one of the easier groups to seal their qualification to the round of 16. The Biancocelesti finished second behind Borussia Dortmund after an undefeated run.

Nonetheless, the Italians’ reward is taking on yet a more terrifying German giant. Bayern Munich arguably possess the best squad in world football, and the reigning European and World Champions will be looking to prove their worth by successfully defending their trophy.

Simone Inzaghi should maintain his 3-5-2 formation, with Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa up-front. Sergei Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto and Lucas Leiva should play in midfield.

On the other hand, Hanse Flick will once again rely on Robert Lewandowski to lead his 4-2-3-1 lineup, supported by Leroy Sané, Leon Goretzka and Kingsley Coman.

The Roman side has an uphill battle in front of him, but with the Bavarians looking a bit exhausted after their trip to Doha, this could be the best time for the Laziali to come out with a decent first leg result.

LAZIO (3-5-2): Reina; Patric, Acerbi, Musacchio; Lazzari, Milinković-Savić, Lucas Leiva, Luis Alberto, Marušić; Correa, Immobile

Out: Radu (groin), Luis Felipe (ankle)

Doubtful: Strakosha (knee)

Misses next match if booked: Akpa-Akpro, Hoedt

BAYERN MUNICH: Neuer; Süle, Boateng, Alaba, Davies; Kimmich, Roca; Sané, Goretzka, Coman; Lewandowski

Out: Pavard (illness), Müller (illness), Tolisso (thigh), Gnabry (thigh), Costa (foot), Nübel (ankle), Nianzou (thigh)

Atalanta vs. Real Madrid

Atalanta once again beat the odds to reach the round of 16 of the Champions League. La Dea had to negotiate their way through a tough group, but away wins against Liverpool and Ajax sealed the second spot for the Bergamo-based club.

On the other hand, Real Madrid put their early troubles behind them to top their group in front of Monchengladbach, Shakhtar and Inter. Los Blancos did not enjoy a great first half of the season, but this hadn’t stopped them in the past from going all the way towards an accustomed European triumph.

Gian Piero Gasperini will start in his usual 3-4-1-2 formation, with Matteo Pessina supporting Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic in attack, whilst the in-form Luis Muriel is expected to act as a super-sub.

For his part, Zinedine Zidane will have some tough decisions to make in the absence of star players such as Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard. Therefore, Marco Asensio, Vinícius Junior and Mariano Diaz should start in attack, supported by a strong midfield composed of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric.

The Orobici thrive in the underdog role, but their opponents’ immense experience could prove to be too much for the provincial Italian side.

ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Tolói, Romero, Djimsiti; Maehle, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Iličić; Zapata

Out: Hateboer (metatarsal)

Misses next match if booked: Djimsiti, Romero

REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Courtois; Vázquez, Varane, Nacho, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modrić; Asensio, Vinícius Junior, Mariano Díaz

Out: Sergio Ramos (knee), Carvajal (hamstring), Rodrygo (hamstring), Militão (adductor), Hazard (thigh), Marcelo (calf), Valverde (adductor), Odriozola (hamstring)

Doubtful: Benzema (adductor)

Misses next match if booked: Casemiro

Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Manchester City

Group B proved to one of the most engaging qualification battles in recent memory, with four clubs all vying for qualification until the very last day. In the end, an unlikely contender ended up sneaking into the round of 16 of the Champions League, as Gladbach threw Inter out of the European competitions.

For their part, Manchester City had arguably the easiest road towards the knockout stages, after topping their group with 16 points from 6 matches.

Marco Rose should start with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Alassane Pléa leading the line in front of Marius Wolf, Lars Stindl and Jonas Hoffman.

On the other corner, Pep Guardiola will deploy what looks to be a 4-1-4-1 formation. Gabriel Jesus could start up front, supported by Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, İlkay Gundogan and Phil Foden. Meanwhile, the defense will be shielded by Rodrigo.

The Germans are trying to build a name for themselves in the competition, whilst the English club is currently in the midst of an extraordinary unbeaten run consisted of 22 wins and three draws in all competitions, and will be expected to extend his run further in Budapest.

BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Elvedi, Bensebaini; Kramer, Neuhaus; Wolf, Stindl, Hofmann; Pléa

Out: Doucouré (knee)

Doubtful: Thuram (knee)

Misses next match if booked: Lainer, Stindl

MANCHESTER CITY (4-1-4-1): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri; Sterling, De Bruyne, Gündoğan, Foden; Juan Jesus

Out: Aké (hamstring)