Teams in three of the four Champions League quarter-finals are separated by one goal or fewer heading into this week’s second legs.
Manchester United face a return to the Camp Nou 20 years after their dramatic final victory over Bayern Munich at the ground, Manchester City have to turn around a deficit at home to Tottenham while Juventus have discovered Ajax are no pushovers.
Even Liverpool’s 2-0 advantage from the home leg against Porto is not decisive. Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the issues surrounding this week’s matches.
NOU EASY TASK FOR UNITED
United have a 1-0 deficit to overturn as they go back to the Camp Nou in the year of their 20th anniversary of that last-gasp final win over Bayern. It is a formidable task considering the Catalans have lost at home just three times in the last three years in all competitions. They need their big players to step up and none more so than £80million striker Romelu Lukaku.
He has scored just six times in the last 16 games and those came with three back-to-back doubles, including the win over Paris Saint-Germain which got them through to this stage.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a decision to make on whether to persist with the big Belgian or opt for the more mobile, pacy Marcus Rashford and try to hit their hosts on the break.
GUARDIOLA HAS TO GET IT RIGHT
City’s quest for the quadruple mean their focus is being split three ways but being a goal down to Tottenham from the first leg is sure to concentrate minds. With Pep Guardiola’s side going toe-to-toe with Liverpool in the Premier League title race they are aware of the perils one slip-up could have, so must-win games have become the norm in the last four months.
Guardiola was criticised for his tactics last week, leaving out the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane but he is unlikely to make the same mistake twice.
Bernardo Silva’s return to fitness will help but Fernandinho remains a doubt after missing Sunday’s win at Crystal Palace. At home, City will look to overwhelm Spurs early on so they can hold some in reserve for when the two teams meet again in the league three days after.
WITHOUT KANE, WHO IS ABLE?
Harry Kane’s ankle injury in the first leg puts the onus on others to come up with the goods for Tottenham. The clean sheet last week was only Spurs’ second in the last 17 encounters against City so the chances are they will need to score at the Etihad.
Lucas Moura fired a hat-trick at the weekend but he is unlikely to find City as accommodating as relegated Huddersfield while Son Heung-min, rested on Saturday, performed well in Kane’s absence earlier in the year and it was he who made the difference in the first leg.
Christian Eriksen has scored just three times since the turn of the year but with possession likely to be at a premium he may be required to make the most of what ball Spurs get.
CAN LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE FOR AJAX?
Juventus will be confident, with an away goal, of seeing off Ajax, but the Dutch side have already proved they are no respecters of reputations.
They overturned a 2-1 home defeat to beat holders Real Madrid 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu and Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri is taking no chances having rested most of his players – Cristiano Ronaldo was given the weekend off – as the runaway Serie A leaders slipped to only their second league defeat at mid-table SPAL.
Ronaldo is the one obvious threat and the omens are not good for Ajax, who despite being unbeaten in their last four matches away to Serie A sides have lost nine of the 12 European ties in which they drew the home first leg, including four European Cup quarter-finals.
Factor in influential midfielder Frenkie De Jong is an injury doubt and Ajax’s hopes of pulling off a second successive shock result look slim.
NO PORTO WALKOVER FOR REDS
It is the forgotten tie of the round. Liverpool’s current form is so good (11 wins and five draws) that their trip to the Estadio do Dragao, where they won 5-0 last year, is seen as a formality.
But, complacency is the one thing which could do for Jurgen Klopp’s side as Porto showed enough potential threat at Anfield to suggest this will be far from comfortable.
Pepe and Hector Herrera return from suspension to strengthen the hosts and if Moussa Marega discovers the shooting boots he left at home last week it could be an uncomfortable night.
Klopp will make minimal changes, most likely at centre-back and in midfield, as he believes in maintaining a consistent rhythm and will not be looking ahead to Sunday’s trip to Cardiff.
That slight advantage makes them favourites to go through to their first semi-final appearance in four years, but they will be wary of another United comeback.
Here’s a look at the talking points for Ernesto Valverde’s side.
BARCELONA LOOK TO HIT HIGHS OF LYON WIN
The first leg was by no means vintage Barcelona, but it didn’t need to be. An away goal and a lead to defend at home was a perfect outcome, especially given the scrappy performance.
Nonetheless, Valverde will expect an improved showing from his players. He gave most of them the weekend off, fielding a much-changed side against Huesca on Saturday, and though that game ended in a surprise draw, with the La Liga title effectively already sewn up the two dropped points matter far less than the potential for injury or fatigue going into Tuesday’s game.
In the last round, they came home after a 0-0 draw in Lyon and duly put the French side to the sword, taking a 2-0 lead into halftime and then blowing their opponents away with a late burst for a 5-1 win. This team knows what it’s capable of; now it’s a matter of delivering.
WILL VALVERDE FLIP THE TABLES ON UNITED?
Equally, however, Valverde must be wary of an improved showing from United. Though recent form has seen Tuesday’s opponents struggle both defensively and to create chances in attack, their 3-1 win in Paris in the previous round to overturn a two-goal deficit from the home leg against Paris Saint-Germain shows that when they’re at their best, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side can be resilient and pounce on whatever opportunity comes their way.
Though it’s the sort of gameplan that draws ire from the diehard Blaugrana faithful, perhaps Valverde will consider handing over some of the initiative to United. Barcelona are deadly themselves on the break – there’s no weapon on the counter quite like Lionel Messi – and United tend to be ponderous and bereft of ideas when in possession.
Barcelona’s own possession-heavy game would suit Solskjaer’s side. Why not flip the tables? After all, it’s United who have to make all the running in this game.
TIME FOR MESSI TO END STREAK
A curious stat that invariably gets trotted out in the Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo debate is the Barcelona talisman’s record in Champions League knockout games.
After failing to score in the first leg Messi has now gone nearly 1000 minutes without scoring a Champions League quarter-final goal, with his last strike coming against PSG in 2013. In that time Barcelona have made it past the quarter-final stage only once, when they won the competition in the 2014/15 season.
Memories of last year’s defeat to Roma will be fresh for everyone in Barcelona, but especially Messi, who produced an uncharacteristically quiet display during the stunning 3-0 defeat in Rome that sent him and his team-mates crashing out despite having won the first leg 4-1 at home.
This time they have the advantage of being at home for the second leg, which should help Messi as well. He’ll want to end his personal barren streak.
Last 1️⃣2️⃣ CL quarter-final appearances:— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 10, 2019
1️⃣6️⃣ goals – Cristiano Ronaldo
0️⃣ goals – Lionel Messi
Messi’s last CL quarter-final goal came against PSG in April 2013 pic.twitter.com/sZLRBpqmDA
Paul Pogba is confident Manchester United can turn around their Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona, despite riding their luck against West Ham.
Two decades on from sealing the treble at the Nou Camp, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will attempt to secure another memorable win at Barca’s home this Tuesday.
United suffered a 1-0 first-leg loss to the Spanish league champions but picked themselves up with a victory on Saturday, although United were sloppy and more than a little fortunate to overcome the Hammers.
Pogba’s brace from the spot sealed a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford and the World Cup winner is now looking to cause a shock in Catalonia.
“I think it’s a really important three points,” the midfielder said.
“We know about that. We wanted to do obviously better and score more goals, but we get the result that maybe we deserve.
“Now what we have to think about the next one, the next game, get some rest and get focused on Barcelona.
“That’s why we play football, to play against those teams, to play those games. A Champions League quarter-final is just beautiful. We just have to enjoy it, give our best and trust ourselves.”
United face an uphill battle at the Nou Camp but Barca certainly looked beatable in the first leg.
Solskjaer’s side have also proven their mettle when the chips are down, having made Champions League history in the previous round against Paris Saint-Germain by becoming the first team to progress after a first-leg home loss by two or more goals.
“The game is not done, it’s not closed,” Pogba said.
“I know it’s Barcelona, we’re playing in their home, but it’s never closed. It’s still 90 minutes.
“The first half is gone, now it’s the second half.”
Pogba missed that remarkable return leg at the Parc des Princes through suspension and will be looking to make his mark after a welcome return to form on Saturday.
One of few players to emerge from the West Ham match with any credit, the 26-year-old took his goal tally for the season to 16 with a pair of spot-kicks that saw him move away from his favoured stuttered run-up.
“Yeah, I can still go back to the old one!” Pogba told MUTV with a laugh.
“I just changed it because I think the keepers, they know how I shoot penalties and I just changed it to make a little difference.
“The most important thing is that the ball goes in and the victory, the three points.”
Pogba struck the killer blow just moments after David De Gea produced his latest moment of magic. Guilty of giving away possession in the build-up to Felipe Anderson’s goal, the United goalkeeper more than made amends with an outstanding stop to claw away Michail Antonio’s header.
“David is David,” Pogba said.
“We know about this. This is not something incredible. We’re used to it. And hopefully we’re going to keep being used to saves like that.
“I told him ‘this is normal for you, so I don’t congratulate you, I just don’t say anything, it’s normal’.
“He’s a top-class goalkeeper and this save showed it again. We’re really lucky that we have him.”
Luck certainly was not on West Ham’s side on Saturday evening, with Anderson seeing a goal wrongly ruled out for offside early in a match that the visitors dominated for large patches.
Versatile Arthur Masuaku said: “We played really well, everyone is frustrated about this game and I don’t even know how we lost this game. We should have won.
“I think everyone is happy about the performance and we need to take the positives and move onto the next one.”