What’s in store as Uefa Champions League kicks off again?

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The draw for the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals and semifinals was conducted in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday. Picture: Reuters
The draw for the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals and semifinals was conducted in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday. Picture: Reuters

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The Uefa Champions League returns tonight with the remaining places at the final tournament in Lisbon up for grabs.

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 Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

AFP Sport looks at the four outstanding Last 16, second legs – all being played behind closed doors – for a reminder of where they stand:

Tonight’ matches kick off at 9pm and they will be screened live on SuperSport channels SS3, SS5 and SS11

Juventus vs Lyon (Lyon won the 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 Covid-19 cases surged in northern Italy.

Yet the game was played in front of almost 60 000 spectators, including nearly 3 000 Juventus supporters.

Lucas Tousart’s goal gave Lyon a surprise 1-0 win on the night, but much has changed since then. Tousart is no longer at Lyon, having signed for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga.

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.

READ: Percy Tau finds new home with RSC Anderlecht in Belgium

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 they may be reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo’s appetite for more Champions League success in Europe.

Madrid, in contrast, have been there and done that so many times, winning the competition four times in the past six years alone

Manchester City vs Real Madrid (City won the first leg 2-1)

Pep Guardiola’s City have already claimed one major European victory this year 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 even more 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 quarterfinals after a 2-1 victory in Spain in the first leg, when Kevin De Bruyne’s penalty won the game.

READ: Egbo’s feat in Europe is a sign of victory for African coaches

Nevertheless, they are without the injured Sergio Agüero, 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 semifinals in 2016.

Madrid, in contrast, have been there and done that so many times, winning the competition four times in the past 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 remains suspended after being sent off in the first leg. – AFP

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