As the Champions League last-16 round embarks on its crucial second-leg matches, Sky Sports’ football writers pick out the key talking points from the standout ties.
Champions League last-16 fixtures
- Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund (agg 0-1), Tuesday, kick-off 8pm
- Benfica vs Club Brugge (agg 2-0), Tuesday, kick-off 8pm
- Tottenham vs AC Milan (agg 0-1), Wednesday, kick-off 8pm
- Bayern vs PSG (agg 1-0), Wednesday, kick-off 8pm
Potter’s biggest Chelsea match so far?
Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund (agg 0-1), Tuesday, kick-off 8pm
Graham Potter vowed to “look into everything” to try and halt an alarming run of form that had seen Chelsea win just once in 2023 prior to the cagey 1-0 victory over Leeds on Saturday.
Wesley Fofana’s powerful header was the first time his side had scored at home since January 15, and only a second goal anywhere across seven games in all competitions.
After three straight clean sheets in January and February, Potter will hope he has found a temporary solution to cover for Thiago Silva following his knee ligament injury, but the result papered over the cracks of the performance.
It was unconvincing but stopping the rot was all that mattered. It has bought Potter time when there is yet to be a clear sign that players signed in January at a cost of £315m are gelling into a cohesive unit.
Still 11 points off fourth in the Premier League, Chelsea’s best hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League would appear through winning the competition. It is make or break for Potter.
The owners’ attitudes to the manager’s long-term future, until now unwavering in their support, have begun to shift.
Chelsea must improve on their poor record of recovery when falling behind. This is when they must show character.
Potter’s side have lost their last nine matches in which they have conceded first, and confidence visibly drained from the team once they went a goal down early in the second half of the 2-0 defeat by Tottenham towards the end of last month.
Chelsea must now show they have started to turn a corner, that there is no problem with mentality, but any sense of momentum will be derailed if Borussia Dortmund dump them out of Europe.
Can record-breaker Mbappe get what he wants from PSG – and without Neymar?
Bayern Munich vs PSG (agg 1-0), Wednesday, kick-off 8pm
It has been a good week for Kylian Mbappe, who broke the Paris Saint-Germain goalscoring record with his 201st goal for the club on Saturday evening.
It is a major landmark for the 24-year-old forward – but now the attention turns back to the Champions League, the only trophy to have evaded the Frenchman in his career.
PSG go into Wednesday night’s last-16 second leg at Bayern Munich trailing 1-0 from the first encounter in Paris. The French champions will need a major performance to progress and will likely turn to their talismanic No 7 for inspiration.
However, they will be without fellow star forward Neymar. The Brazilian has been ruled out for the remainder of the season as he undergoes surgery on an ankle injury picked up in February. The French side have lost one of their key players in one of the most crucial parts of the season – and Mbappe will need to play an even bigger role.
But should PSG go out of the competition at this early stage, it would open up a wave of speculation about Mbappe’s future in Paris. Can PSG deliver Mbappe the trophy he really wants?
The player himself is adamant that Champions League fortunes will not dictate his future, but Mbappe would be 25 by the time the next knockout stages come around. He will be entering his prime and would want to be at the best possible club to achieve multiple European honours to match his stature.
Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund (agg 0-1), Tuesday, kick-off 8pm
Jude Bellingham is not the only Englishman who will be eager to impress when Borussia Dortmund face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening. In fact, his London-born team-mate Jamie Bynoe-Gittens might be even more motivated.
The winger, a year younger than Bellingham at 18, is not yet a household name in England but he is certainly known to Chelsea – and not just because of his cameo in last month’s first leg. As a boy, he spent time in their academy before opting to join Reading.
From there, his career has followed a similar path to that of Jadon Sancho. England call-ups at youth level; a move from the outskirts of London – in Sancho’s case it was Watford – to Manchester City; then a leap into the unknown with Borussia Dortmund.
The move to Germany came in the summer of 2020, a decision made, like Sancho, with a first-team pathway in mind. Recent evidence suggests it has paid off. Having shone at U19 level, Bynoe-Gittens is now a fully-fledged member of Dortmund’s senior squad.
A shoulder injury stalled his progress in the first half of the season but there have been three goals and an assist in just 417 minutes of Bundesliga action so far and a deeper look at the numbers underlines his effectiveness. He ranks top in the division for shots on target per 90 minutes and second for goals from open play.
Dortmund see him as their next big thing and comparisons with Sancho, who joined Manchester United for £73m a year after his arrival, are unavoidable, but Bynoe-Gittens is his own man. He will be out to show it on his return to London.
Will Spurs kickstart their season again?
Tottenham vs AC Milan (agg 0-1), Wednesday, kick-off 8pm
Tottenham have not won a European knockout game in any UEFA competition since they reached the Champions League final in 2019.
That is not the only hoodoo Spurs are facing as they prepare to host AC Milan on Wednesday night. It has been a decade since Antonio Conte last made the Champions League quarter-finals as a manager, with last-16 and group-stage exits in each of his last four campaigns at Europe’s top table.
They perhaps will not get a better chance to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League than this year – as they come up against a side in a similar situation to themselves: out of the title race and in the midst of inconsistent results.
Trailing Milan 1-0 from the first leg, Conte and Spurs need a last-eight spot in this year’s competition to kickstart some life into their season and show this side have improved from last season.
An exit and Spurs will be competing for fourth place again, as they were at the end of the last campaign – is this enough for Conte, Harry Kane and others to stay faithful to this project for another season?
Spurs have missed their shooting boots in their last two games – but have managed big derby wins in their most recent home matches against West Ham and Chelsea. Those two matches are something to replicate on Wednesday.
Has Parker Scott to go with another poor result?
Benfica vs Club Brugge (agg 2-0), Tuesday, kick-off 8pm
Less than a year ago, Scott Parker was on Cloud Nine after guiding Bournemouth back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Ten months is a long time in football. The 42-year-old is already staring down the barrel of a second sacking since that promotion.
“He must now conclude that he is not the right man in the right place,” said Belgium’s Het Laatste Nieuws after his Club Brugge side were humbled by relegation-troubled Oostende on Friday night.
A 9-0 defeat at Liverpool in August was enough to spook an overzealous Cherries hierarchy only four games into the Premier League season, and now Parker’s luck is up again. Eleven matches after he took over at Club Brugge on New Year’s Eve, he finds himself back up the creek without a paddle.
There is not much room for error among the canals of Brugge, where the Blauw-Zwart have won or finished second in all of the last eight seasons. They were already 12 points off leaders Genk when Parker arrived, and after only two wins in 10 since that gap has widened to 19.
That Oostende loss has not quite proved the final straw, but a poor showing against Benfica on Tuesday could. The tie is already as good as over after Club Brugge’s 2-0 defeat in the home leg, but with question marks raised this week whether the dressing room are still behind their manager, the manner of the performance in Lisbon is critical for the Englishman abroad to save his future.
Bayern vs PSG (agg 1-0), Wednesday, kick-off 8pm
Speaking to Jamal Musiala in the mixed zone after the German Super Cup win in Leipzig in July, he outlined the challenge of replacing outgoing striker Robert Lewandowski. Musiala had been the first of five Bayern Munich players to score that afternoon.
“With all the goals that he scored, it is not easy to find a player like that. But we have an amazing squad and we have to spread the goals out between all of us and have to find offensive solutions apart from Lewandowski to score goals.”
As the Michael Jordan meme goes, Musiala took that personally. The 20-year-old midfielder is Bayern’s top scorer in the Bundesliga this season, becoming perhaps their most important player. Against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night, the team will turn to him.
As well as the goals, Musiala is second in the Bundesliga for assists this season. He also ranks fifth for the most dribbles in the competition too. His movement, on the ball and off it, is proving elusive – an unlikely feat given that he stands six feet tall.
Julian Nagelsmann has said that the ball sticks to Musiala’s foot like a magnet and the Bayern coach has found an interesting role for him in this team. The rotations around Musiala often change, the formation too, but there is a zone that he has made his own.
“Left-side 10,” that is how Musiala described it that day in Leipzig. “It is pretty open,” he explains. “You can always rotate to go out wide or come inside, there is space inside for me to turn and dribble into and create chances. It all depends on the opponent how we play.”
PSG will be doing their own thing in Munich with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe to call upon, but do not be too surprised if it is Musiala who is the decisive figure in this Champions League tie. The man who has stepped up since Lewandowski’s departure.