What to watch out for in the Champions League

22 Feb

Suárez enjoying form of his life
Arsenal will need to keep quiet arguably the in-form striker in Europe when they take on Barcelona this week. Luis Suárez has struck 15 goals in his last nine games in all competitions and has found the net 25 times in 24 league appearances this season.

The Uruguay forward was prolific in his three and a half years with Liverpool and registered twice in five visits to Arsenal during that period, while also scoring twice in an Azulgrana victory at Manchester City last term. Suárez, with no little help from Neymar and Lionel Messi, has helped Barça to 32 matches unbeaten and counting – two short of Real Madrid’s record for a Spanish club.

©AFP/Getty Images

Alexis Sánchez is not quite back to his best

Sánchez set for Barcelona reunion
Suárez’s arrival at the Camp Nou left Alexis Sánchez surplus to requirements, and the Chile forward will be desperate to shine against his old club. Such a dynamic presence since choosing Arsenal as his next destination in summer 2014, Sánchez is a little off his best, however, having struggled to make an impact following his return from injury.

The 27-year-old remains capable of changing a match in an instant, though, and is relishing his time in north London. “It’s been a positive move and I love it at Arsenal,” he said. “I can’t say what my reaction will be if I score. That depends on the moment.”
Arsenal v Barcelona, Tuesday

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Paulo Dybala has yet to score for Juventus in Europe

Dybala key to Juve’s chances
Paulo Dybala’s form has been instrumental in Juventus’s impressive rise up the Serie A table, their remarkable run of 15 consecutive wins only ended by a draw with Bologna on Friday. The Argentina forward is the club’s top scorer in the league with 13 but is yet to register in the UEFA Champions League ahead of the visit of Bayern Munchen.

He came close on matchday six, striking the bar against Sevilla. “I have been thinking a lot about that shot, unfortunately it didn’t go in,” he said. “Hopefully the goal in Europe will come, sooner or later.”

©AFP/Getty Images

Bayern’s David Alaba has been filling in at centre-back

Defensive test for depleted Bayern
With centre-backs Jérôme Boateng (groin), Holger Badstuber (ankle) and Javi Martínez (knee) sidelined for the trip to Juventus, Josep Guardiola faces major selection problems. Medhi Benatia (out since 9 December, thigh) has resumed training but is a doubt, while on-loan defender Serdar Taşçı may return to the bench after his debut against Darmstadt on Saturday.

Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba, the makeshift pairing set to be fielded in Turin, could thus hand an aerial advantage at set pieces to Juve. Not that Thomas Müller is concerned: “I’m not worried about that, even though it may help in some situations to have a player who is 2m tall.” Meanwhile, the hosts will need to beware Müller and Robert Lewandowski, who extended their combined haul in all competitions this season to 56 goals at the weekend.
Juventus v Bayern, Tuesday

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Andriy Yarmolenko is back from injury for Dynamo

Dynamo get back to business
Dynamo certainly cannot complain about fixture congestion as they prepare to host Manchester City, having not played a competitive match since their last UEFA Champions League outing – on 9 December. Nevertheless, Serhiy Rebrov’s side have hardly been inactive during their winter break, playing 13 friendlies in all and winning seven of them.

“One third of all our goals were scored from set pieces and the same number came from crosses from the wings – those are good stats,” said Rebrov of his team’s preparations. Crucially, they also managed to keep hold of their key players over the winter, while Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko is ready to face City after sustaining an ankle injury in December.
Dynamo v Manchester City, Wednesday

©Domenic Aquilina

Phillip Cocu’s PSV face Atlético this week

Plenty of positives for PSV
PSV have been in splendid form since qualifying for the round of 16, winning nine of their last ten fixtures. Although their sole loss in that sequence ended their Dutch Cup hopes, they have taken over from Ajax at the top of the Eredivisie. Much for coach Phillip Cocu to be optimistic about, then, even with key forward Luuk de Jong due to miss Wednesday’s first leg against Atlético Madrid through suspension.

“Obviously I’m annoyed that I can’t play,” said De Jong. “But I have real belief as we’ve already shown what we can do in the Champions League.” With Andrés Guardado poised to return from injury and recent goals coming from midfield and even defence, the Dutch hopefuls will resume their European campaign with little fear.
PSV v Atlético, Wednesday

All kick-offs 20.45CET


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