The UEFA Champions League is back this week as the eight remaining teams in the competition continue to scrap it out in their campaign to be crowned champions of Europe. Here’s our preview of the action this week and where to find it.
Borussia Dortmund vs. AS Monaco – Tuesday April 11
Tuesday’s clash at the Westfalenstadion in the Rhineland pits one of the highest scoring teams in Europe this season against the highest scoring team in France. Only Barcelona have netted more times in the Champions League than Dortmund this season, while Monaco have scored 88 goals in Ligue 1.
Monaco are the leading club in France at the moment, sitting three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the table. Manager Leonardo Jardim pulled off one of the upsets of the season thus far, surprising just about everyone by knocking Pep Guardiola’s heavily fancied Manchester City side out of the competition.
In Europe, Monaco have benefited from the experience of Radamel Falcao. The Colombian striker has returned to his best this season and is the club’s leading scorer in the Champions League. Falcao has a strong supporting cast around him, with teenage goal-scoring sensation Kylian Mbappe having emerged as one of the most exciting young talents in Europe.
Sitting in fourth place in Germany, Dortmund aren’t having anywhere near that kind of high-flying success at the moment. But on their day, Thomas Tuchel’s youthful team is one of the most exciting attacking sides in Europe. Dortmund’s progression in the competition will be of particular interest to U.S. soccer fans, with American teenager Christian Pulisic having played his way to a regular berth in the starting lineup.
Playing at home in the first leg, you could back Tuchel’s team to get a result. And they’ll need to get something if they want to go into next week’s second leg at the Stade Louis II Stadium, where Monaco have only lost twice this season.
Watch Borussia Dortmund vs. AS Monaco, Tuesday April 11 at 2:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 2.
Juventus vs. Barcelona – Tuesday April 11
Despite some inconsistent form in the league of late, Barcelona are heavy favorites to prevail over two legs against Italian champions Juventus. The last time these two teams met was in the final two years ago. Barça prevailed handily, winning 3-1 to claim the title. Both sides have experienced some turnover since then, with Juve in particular having seen the departure of key players like Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba and the addition of striker Gonzalo Higuain.
In Italy, Juventus continue to dominate Serie A, currently sitting six points clear atop the table. This could provide manager Max Allegri the freedom to focus his team’s efforts towards extending Juve’s domestic hegemony into Europe. Prior to last week’s semifinal loss to Napoli in the Italian Cup, Juve were undefeated since January with Higuain predictably leading in the scoring department.
Barcelona meanwhile, find themselves in a real struggle with Real Madrid for the title in Spain. Luis Enrique’s team has blown hot and cold this season – getting blown out by PSG in the first leg of the Round of 16 and staging a most unlikely comeback in the second to progress. They were lackluster in the weekend’s 2-0 loss to Granada and will need to get their mojo working again if they want to score what could prove a vital away goal against a Juve side that’s only given up two goals in the Champions League this season.
Watch Juventus vs. Barcelona on Tuesday April 11 at 2:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.
Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City
Despite losing to Everton in the Premier League last weekend, Leicester City have seen a complete turnaround since parting company with manager Claudio Ranieri and appointing the Italian’s former assistant, Craig Shakespeare to the post. Under Shakespeare, Leicester put together an impressive six-game winning streak, that included a win over Liverpool and a second leg comeback against Sevilla that saw them into the last eight.
Now the most unlikely champions in Premier League history face a daunting trip to the Vicente Calderon to face an Atletico Madrid side that’s contested two out of the last three Champions League finals.
Although they’ve fallen behind in this season’s Spanish title race, Atletico are still one of the toughest teams in Europe to play against – as they demonstrated in Saturday’s gritty tie against city-rivals Real Madrid. Diego Simeone’s well-drilled side gives nothing away, particularly at home. If there is a case to be made for Leicester, the Foxes will need to minimize damage in the first leg in the hopes that they can get back to the King Power Stadium next week without too much of a deficit. It’s a tall order. But then again, this is a Leicester side that’s made its reputation by defying expectations.
Watch Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City this Wednesday, April 12 at 2:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1.
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
In a match that in any other season would be worthy of a final, two of the standout favorites to win this year’s competition meet at the Allianz Arena in the first leg of a true clash of the soccer titans. Not long ago, Real Madrid were most people’s favorites to win the competition – which would be historic considering no team has ever won it two years in a row.
However, after a bit of wobbly form earlier this year, Bayern Munich are hitting peak form at the optimal time. The Bavarians made mincemeat of Dortmund on the weekend, beating them 4-1 with what could be described as relative ease. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has his team firing on all cylinders with a many-headed attack consisting of the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, and Frank Ribery serving goals and danger up from all over the attacking side of the pitch.
So formidable was Bayern’s attack against Dortmund that the absence of a key player like Thomas Muller – he’s nursing an ankle injury – went virtually unnoticed. Indeed, Bayern were also without starting keeper Manuel Neuer. However, the defense is so formidable that backup keeper Sven Ulreich was barely tested.
Real Madrid on the other hand, failed to build on an early lead against Atletico, gave away a late equalizer and dropped points in the tight La Liga Race. Zinedine Zidane’s team has all components to match Bayern but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to be coming together for Los Blancos in the same way it is for Bayern right now. While Madrid boast world-class attackers like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Zidane has nowhere near the experience of Ancelotti – and indeed cut his managerial teeth as the Italian’s number two.
Judging by Bayern’s current form, few teams, if any, would realistically head to the Allianz looking for a win. For Madrid, the key will be to come away without a heavy loss, or possibly a draw, in order to keep the tie alive for the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Watch Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid on Wednesday April 12 at 2:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 2.