City, Madrid lead contentions as Champions League knockouts begin
Man City is away to a Copenhagen team playing in the knockout stage for the first time in 13 years and Madrid is at Leipzig for the first leg
LONDON: The Champions League narrative is so often about Manchester City and Real Madrid and the past two champions of Europe were the only teams to sweep through the group stage with six wins. They are also first in action on Tuesday when the most prized competition in club soccer resumes in the round of 16.
Man City is away to a Copenhagen team playing in the knockout stage for the first time in 13 years and Madrid is at Leipzig for the first leg.
Erling Haaland confirmed his return to action after a foot injury after scoring both the goals in Man City’s 2-0 win over Everton, his first since Nov. 28 when Leipzig was beaten 3-2 in its Champions League group.
Haaland has a Premier League-leading 16 goals and Madrid’s Jude Bellingham has a La Liga-best 15 after also scoring twice in a 4-0 rout of second-place Girona, which is owned by the same Abu Dhabi group as Man City.
But Bellingham has an ankle injury, having asked to be substituted Saturday, and is a doubt to face Leipzig.
At the same time Madrid was imperious in its domestic title-chasing clash, Bayern Munich was falling to an embarrassing 3-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen in its own table-topping game.
Bayern now trails Bundesliga leader Leverkusen by five points and its run of 11 league titles is at risk again after barely holding on to the trophy on the last day last season.
Bayern visits Lazio on Wednesday with its aura dimmed despite Harry Kane’s 28 goals this season and coming through the group stage unbeaten for the sixth straight year.
Also Wednesday, Paris Saint-Germain hosts Real Sociedad, which was the surprise winner of a group ahead of last season’s beaten finalist Inter Milan.
PSG is the in-form team though it was edged for first place in a tough group won by Borussia Dortmund.
The French champion — with Kylian Mbappe in the last few months of his contract — is unbeaten in all competitions for three months, since a 2-1 loss at AC Milan.
“From what I can feel around the club and the city, all I have seen for the last three weeks is that we are playing in the Champions League. It is as if our life was at stake,” PSG coach Luis Enrique said Saturday. “We have to treat the competition calmly.”
Real Sociedad has just one win in eight league games.