Alex Keble picks out four key battles ahead of the second batch of Champions League round of 16 ties, predicting Chelsea will lose against Bayern and end-to-end action in Real v Man City...
"Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and Kingsley Coman will surge in waves on the break, moving subtly into gaps behind the flying Chelsea wing-backs in a repeat of the wide-open game we saw at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium."
Chelsea v Bayern Munich
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Chelsea fans will be worried by memories of Tottenham's 7-2 defeat at home to Bayern Munich earlier this season, mainly because they know Frank Lampard is unlikely to have come up with a specific plan to prevent something similar happening to their team. Chelsea always look to play on the front foot, spreading too wide to then re-compress when opponents trigger a counter-attack, and so they will be vulnerable despite a new formation.
Lampard's 3-4-2-1 against Spurs worked well, Olivier Giroud interacting superbly with dual number 10 Mason Mount and Ross Barkley. When Giroud came short the two playmakers span in behind and vice versa, and having extra bodies in attacking midfield gave Jorginho and Matteo Kovacic the option to play incisive forward passes. However, the system is unlikely to be as effective against such a powerful Bayern midfield.
What's more, Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and Kingsley Coman will surge in waves on the break, moving subtly into gaps behind the flying Chelsea wing-backs in a repeat of the wide-open game we saw at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. It won't be anything like seven, but the German outfit should get the win.
Napoli v Barcelona
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Gennaro Gattuso has overcome a difficult start to life as Napoli manager (there were rumours he might resign in January, just a month after arriving) to win six of the last seven, but only one of these games, a 1-0 victory at Inter, is relevant to Tuesday's Champions League tie. A fortnight ago Gattuso masterminded a win with a 'very defensive' strategy, in the words of Antonio Conte.
It is highly likely Napoli will repeat this system to blunt Barcelona. Their 4-3-3 becomes a flat 4-5-1 when off the ball, and - unusually in the modern game - Gattuso teams don't press high. Napoli took that approach to extremes at the San Siro, dropping back to limit Inter before pouncing on the counter-attack via Fabian Ruiz and Dries Mertens.
Quique Setien is being saved by Lionel Messi. Barcelona's football is drab and predictable, their possession the kind of stale tiki-taka that no longer cuts it at the highest level. Consequently a deep Napoli shell ought to keep the score down, especially with injuries forcing Arturo Vidal to play in one of the three forward positions.
Real Madrid v Man City
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Man City have quietly improved over the last few weeks and now look quite a lot like their old selves, with Kevin de Bruyne re-emerging as a creative force through the middle of the park (rather than drifting out to the right wing as he did for the first half of the season) and Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez coming to the fore. These three together have the technical ability to carve open a disorganised Real defence.
Each of the last three goals Zinedine Zidane's side have conceded (in a 1-0 defeat to Levante and 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo) have come from through balls that easily split the Real defence, while their 4-3 loss to Real Sociedad was riddled with careless lapses. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane simply aren't working well together at the moment, and consequently De Bruyne, Silva, and Mahrez should cause damage.
However, Aymeric Laporte's struggle for fitness means City remain vulnerable. This promises to be an open contest with large amounts of space in the final third at both ends. There should be plenty of goals, with City ultimately taking an advantage back to the Etihad.
Lyon v Juventus
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Lyon's 4-2 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month showed the best and worst of Rudi Garcia's tactics. In a 4-2-3-1, they kept the four defenders back in a line while the rest of the team pressed high in a man-to-man system, following the PSG midfielders as they dropped deeper to pick up passes from the centre-backs. Inevitably this meant a big gap opened between the back four and the rest of the team.
Juventus should be even better than PSG were at evading the press and passing their way into dangerous positions. Maurizio Sarri's detailed possession football is designed to patiently recycle until gaps appear. Juve will wait for the chance to get behind the high Lyon midfield and then burst forward at high speed towards the back four.
Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo are getting better each week at the top of Sarri's 4-4-2. They should have enough quality to score a couple between them against such an aggressive Lyon team, particularly with Ronaldo in sensational form. He scored in his 11th consecutive Serie A match on Saturday in a 2-1 win at SPAL.