UEFA Champs League |
It's make or break time
Barcelona are out to complete a revenge victory over Chelsea, holders Liverpool face elimination by Benfica and AC Milan tangle with Bayern Munich when Champions League action returns this week.
A place in the quarterfinals is up for grabs in the knockout round's second leg ties and none is more eagerly awaited than Barca's game with Chelsea at the Nou Camp.
Barcelona, who were knocked out by Chelsea over two acrimonious legs at the same stage last season, are in the driving seat this time after winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
But the tone of the bitter rivalry was set within minutes of Chelsea's arrival at Barcelona airport on Sunday, with the London club's website reporting that their Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho had been spat at.
On the pitch, the threat from the hosts will again come from the likes of Brazil's Ronaldinho, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o and marauding Argentine prodigy Lionel Messi.
All three will look to get behind the defence of a Chelsea side with little option but to push forward and try to score at least twice to qualify on Tuesday.
The away goals rule also puts a big responsibility on the shoulders of captain and central defender John Terry, who scored an own goal at the Bridge, to keep things tight at the back.
Left back Asier Del Horno and defensive midfielder Michael Essien are both suspended.
Liverpool can ill-afford to concede at Anfield on Wednesday when they try to turn around a 1-0 defeat at Benfica.
It could take another captain's performance from Steven Gerrard to drive his men into the last eight against a Benfica side who knocked out Manchester United in the group stage.
Liverpool have hardly been prolific up front -- with four goals in their last six games -- and Saturday's 0-0 home draw with Charlton Athletic was not the ideal warm-up.
Milan, who were famously beaten by Liverpool on penalties after leading 3-0 at halftime in last season's final, have a tentative foot in the next round after earning a 1-1 draw in Munich.