Soccer Champions League - Play-Offs 22 February 2023
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Napoli - Match Preview
Eintracht Frankfurt kept pace with the Bundesliga top-four by posting a 2-0 win over Werder Bremen at the weekend and with the damage already done by the one-hour mark, Oliver Glasner was able to rest some key players with this game in mind. This is uncharted territory for the Europa League holders though, yet they may be expecting a strong start to this two-legged tie with just four defeats across their last 30 European home games (W17, D9, L4).
Backing up that solid home form is a respectable record against Italian opponents on the European stage (W6, D3, L2), whilst Frankfurt has also progressed from seven of their ten two-legged European knockout ties! The most recent of those was in 2018/19 when Frankfurt eked out a 1-0 victory over two legs against Inter Milan.
Such a low-scoring affair is almost unthinkable when Napoli are involved. The Italians will be charging into this clash with supreme confidence after a run of three straight wins both with clean sheets and 2+ goal margins that have left them 15 points clear at the top of Serie A. That followed up a near-perfect group stage record in this competition (W5, L1), and as the top-scoring side of the Champions League group stage (G20), both short and medium-term form suggests another strong attacking display.
Napoli’s sole group stage defeat was only their third across their last 20 appearances in Europe’s premier competition (W10, D7, L3), raising hopes of their maiden progression to the final eight. Despite their hot form and warm favouritism, a Napoli victory here would go down in history as only their second on German soil at the tenth attempt (W1, D3, L5).
📋 Players to watch: After his goal on Saturday, Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani joined Lionel Messi and Neymar as the only players across Europe’s top-five leagues with a double-digit tally for both goals and assists (G10, A10). Watch out for Napoli’s dynamic duo of Victor Osimhen (G18) and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (G10), who have accounted for half of their team’s SA-high haul of 56 goals between them!
⚡ Hot streak: All six of Napoli’s previous Champions League round of 16 games (W1, D1, L4) have seen both teams score.
Liverpool vs Real Madrid - Match Preview
Arguably the UEFA Champions League‘s (UCL) most blockbuster last-16 tie sees a replay of the 2021/22 and 2018/19 finals, with six-time winners Liverpool taking on defending and record-holding 14-time champions Real Madrid. Liverpool will host the first leg after finishing second in Group A, and Jürgen Klopp’s men may be breathing a huge sigh of relief after back-to-back 2-0 wins in league action have released some of the growing pressure on the German boss and his side.
Despite the Reds’ poor season by their own exceptionally high standards, a fiery Anfield atmosphere on a European night will still be expected. Although they’ve lost only one of their last 23 home games (W16, D6), Liverpool probably couldn’t have handpicked a tougher opponent to extend that record against than Madrid, especially as Klopp's side has failed to get the better of their Spanish counterparts in each of the last six H2Hs (D1, L5).
The reigning UCL, La Liga (LL), and Club World Cup champions punched their tickets to the last-16 by topping Group F, as they bid to take one step closer to a remarkable sixth UCL final in the last ten seasons. Madrid currently looks like the world-beaters they’ve come to be known as, winning each of their last four fixtures with a mammoth 15 goals amassed in that time, most recently securing a 2-0 win against Osasuna as they continue to hunt down Barcelona at the LL summit.
Besides their impressive form, Los Blancos will feel they’ll still be required to up their game, having won only once in their last seven UCL visits to England (D2, L4). A potentially hostile welcome awaits manager Carlo Ancelotti too, especially since he guided Liverpool’s city rivals Everton to a 2-0 win on his last visit to Anfield, meaning he’s lost only twice in his last 11 managerial meetings with the Reds (W6, D3).
📋 Players to watch: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is one UCL goal away from tying Didier Drogba (44 goals) as the highest-scoring African player in the competition. Meanwhile, Karim Benzema could become the first Madrid player to ever score in six different competitions in a single season should he find the net during these two ties.
⚡ Hot stat: Only one of Liverpool’s nine previous matches in the UCL last 16 produced over 2.5 goals in 90 minutes.
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