Preview: LaLiga clubs in the Champions League

Real Madrid and Barcelona are in action in last-16 second legs against Manchester City and Napoli this week, with Atlético de Madrid already into the quarterfinals.

Following the successful completion of the 2019/20 LaLiga Santander season, focus now turns to the remainder of the Champions League. The coronavirus lockdown hit Europe during the Last 16 stage of the continental competition, meaning that half of the two-legged ties in this round have been completed and half have not.

Atletico Madrid are already into the quarter-finals after a spectacular extra time triumph over defending champions Liverpool at Anfield, while Valencia have already bowed out of the competition by losing to Atalanta after topping their group in the previous stage. Real Madrid and Barcelona, meanwhile, are the other two Spanish sides still alive in this year’s Champions League and they have the second legs of their Last 16 ties this coming week.

Here comes a look at the situation of each of the Spanish sides who are still dreaming of achieving European glory this season.

Real Madrid vs Manchester City (August 7th, 9pm CEST)

The first leg of the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City took place in Spain’s capital way back on February 26th, before the coronavirus lockdown. Real Madrid took the lead in that clash between these two European heavyweights thanks to an Isco strike, but the English side mounted a comeback to secure a 2-1 away win thanks to a Gabriel Jesus goal and a Kevin De Bruyne penalty.

Perhaps even worse for Real Madrid was the fact that Sergio Ramos was sent off late on, meaning that Los Blancos will be without their captain for the second leg at the Etihad on Friday night.

It’s a huge blow to be without Ramos for this game, especially since the centre-back was so impressive during the 11 post-lockdown rounds of LaLiga Santander action. Real Madrid clinched the LaLiga Santander title with a round to spare by winning ten out of eleven matches, a rundown in no small part to Ramos’ six goals at one end and his masterful marshalling of the division’s best defence at the other.

Eder Militão is expected to start in central defence alongside Raphaël Varane against Manchester City, but it is still a huge blow for Real Madrid to be without their leader. That said, Ramos is expected to be their only missing starter, as other key men such as Thibaut Courtois, Casemiro, Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema are all ready to go.

FC Barcelona vs Napoli (August 8th, 9pm CEST)
Barcelona and Napoli’s last 16 tie is also set to be completed this weekend, following the 1-1 draw between these two sides in Italy back on February 25th. There was huge anticipation for this tie when the draw was made, as this is the first-ever time these two clubs have met in official competition.

It was Antoine Griezmann who scored Barca’s goal in Naples in the first leg and there is good news for Quique Setién as the Frenchman is set to return for this second leg at the Camp Nou, following an injury picked up at the end of the LaLiga Santander campaign – in which the Catalan side finished runners-up to Real Madrid.

Still doubtful due to injury, though, are Griezmann’s countrymen Ousmane Dembélé and Samuel Umtiti, while Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal are both suspended.

Barcelona, therefore, are missing some key players and it certainly won’t be easy for them against Napoli. However, they have such a dangerous front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Griezmann that they’ll be confident that they can outscore Gennaro Gattuso’s men – who finished in seventh in Serie A – to keep alive their hopes of finishing 2019/20 with a trophy.

Even a goalless draw would be enough to see Barcelona through due to the away goals rule and a clean sheet is always possible when Marc-André ter Stegen is between the posts.

Atletico Madrid vs RB Leipzig (August 13th, 9pm CEST)

Having already completed and won their Round of 16 tie against Liverpool, Atlético de Madrid can begin to look ahead to the quarter-finals, where they’ll face RB Leipzig.

This is the German side’s first-ever trip to the final eight of this competition, but Diego Simeone knows and has been insisting in interviews that they are not to be underestimated after finishing third in the Bundesliga.

Atleti also finished third in their domestic league after a very strong final sprint following the resumption of LaLiga Santander. While champions Real Madrid were the strongest side post-lockdown in LaLiga, Atleti had the second-best record over the final 11 rounds by taking 25 points from a possible 33.

Simeone’s side seems to have found form at just the right time and they’ll be confident as they approach their quarter-final tie – to be played as a one-off game on neutral ground in Lisbon – without any major injuries or suspensions.

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