Soccer Champions League - Play-Offs 15 March 2023
FC Porto vs Inter - Match Preview
Porto left it late last weekend to see off Estoril in Liga Portugal action with a 3-2 win, but nonetheless remain eight points adrift of first-placed Benfica. It’s likely then that maintaining their place in both this and future UEFA Champions League (UCL) editions will remain a priority. Yet, after the 1-0 defeat away to Inter Milan last month, history indicates their prospects of progressing look slim, especially as the Portuguese side has been eliminated from six of their last seven two-legged UCL ties when trailing after the first leg.
Despite the defeat, Sérgio Conceição praised the performance from his side following the away leg clash, especially as Porto lost midfielder Otávio to a second yellow card several minutes prior to Romelu Lukaku’s winning goal. The Dragons have won each of their last four home European games against Italian sides which should give the hosts some confidence that they can advance to the last eight for a third successive time.
Similarly to Porto, Inter Milan comes into this clash second in their domestic league but some way off leaders Napoli (18 points). They’re also reeling from a shock 2-1 defeat at Serie A strugglers Spezia on Friday night, one in which Simone Inzaghi pulled no punches in the wake of the loss, admitting it was “not right that Inter lost to Spezia - we won’t sleep tonight.”
The three-time UCL winners will look to immediately bounce back by building on their advantage from the first leg, but a less than inspiring record of just one win from their last eight away matches to Portuguese sides in European competition (D3, L4) indicates there is still plenty of work to be done.
📋 Players to watch: Scorer of the winner against Estoril, Porto’s Mehdi Taremi boasts seven goal contributions (G5, A2) across his six UCL appearances this season. Lukaku also netted at the weekend and he is now aiming to score what would be his ninth goal from his last 13 UCL matches for Inter.
⚡ Hot stat: Only Juventus have been shown more red cards in UCL competition history than Porto (22).
Manchester City vs RB Leipzig - Match Preview
Manchester City will tackle two knockout fixtures prior to the international window, beginning with the second leg of their UEFA Champions League (UCL) Round of 16 ties against Germany’s RB Leipzig. After securing a 1-1 draw in Leipzig last month, the defending Premier League (PL) champions are warm favourites to progress to the quarter-finals of this competition for a sixth consecutive season.
Further boosting their confidence will be a four-game winning streak across all competitions since last meeting Leipzig, in which they amassed ten goals to one along the way. Guardiola said he was “delighted” with the 1-1 draw in the previous leg, and should therefore be bullish about clearing this obstacle, particularly considering his club are on a nine-game winning streak at home to German opponents in UEFA competition, which includes a 6-3 thrashing of Leipzig in the 2021/22 group stage.
Leipzig’s last entry into the UCL Round of 16 saw them eliminated at the hands of English opposition, one of two multiple-goal defeats they suffered on trips to England (5-0 and 2-0) in 2020/21. Not yet assured of their place in the next UCL, they steamrolled Mönchengladbach after half-time at the weekend (3-0) to get back into winning ways after a 2-1 loss away to Dortmund that was “hard to accept” for boss Marco Rose.
They have improved sharply under the management of Rose, closing out their group stage campaign with four consecutive victories, including wins ‘to nil’ at Shakhtar Donetsk and Celtic. The Germans were able to follow home leg draws with away wins both against Real Sociedad and Atalanta in the knockout stages of last season’s Europa League, but becoming the first side since Lyon in 2018/19 to conquer the Etihad in a UEFA game is an entirely different challenge.
📋 Players to watch: Phil Foden pressed his case for a start here by scoring before half-time in three of City’s four wins since not being selected for the previous leg. Emil Forsberg was not on the scoresheet that evening but will fancy another opportunity after scoring in all three of Leipzig’s Bundesliga games since.
⚡ Hot streak: Each of Leipzig’s last 16 UEFA games away from home (including neutral venues) produced a winner in regular time.
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