The Roar
The Roar


UCL Previews: Red hot Gunners, a clash of champions and two returning villains with Diego and Bosz back

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19th February, 2024

It’s back, and back with a bang.

Europe’s premier football tournament rarely fails to deliver and last week was no exception, with a shock in Rome as Lazio downed one of the competition favourites, FC Bayern, and one of the Champions League’s greatest ever goals scored in Leipzig, with Brahim Diaz’s stunning solo effort enough to garner a first leg lead for Real Madrid.

In the other games, FC Copenhagen gave Manchester City a scare in Denmark before the reigning champs’ class won out, and PSG belied their poor history in the competition to defeat Real Sociedad.

This week, we have four more clashes in the Round of 16, and all of them are set to be crackers. Let’s get into this week’s fixtures.

Inter v Atletico – Wed 21st Feb, 7am, live on Stan Sport

Last year’s finalists failed to top their group and were rewarded a tough tie against Atleti, but in the form that they are in, Inter will fear no one.

The Nerazzurri have been battering all comers in Serie A and looked nailed on for the title: just since the turn of the year, they have defeated main challengers Juventus, reigning champs Napoli and traditional heavyweights Lazio, Roma and Fiorentina by a collective score of 10-2 – and only Roma scored against them.


They will face an old favourite, Diego Simeone, who played for the club in the 1990s and is now a legendary coach in the Spanish capital. The Argentine remains one of the best tacticians around and, crucially for an away fixture at one of the best teams in the world, a master of the dark arts.

Watch every match of the UEFA Champions League exclusive & ad-free, live & on demand on Stan Sport.

Inter will come in all guns blazing with Lautaro Martinez scoring at about a goal a game in the league and Hakan Calhanoglu blossoming into an elite midfielder after being moved further back.

For the Spaniards, they will be looking to lean into their famed defensive resolve knowing that the second leg is at home, but this version of Atletico poses a huge threat going forwards and can more than trouble Inter.

Antoine Griezmann was rested at the weekend in a 5-0 thrashing of Las Palmas, and Alvaro Morata, who would usually lead the line, is injured but Marcos Llorente and Angel Correa, who started up front, both got doubles.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Leandro Trossard of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at Emirates Stadium on February 04, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Leandro Trossard celebrates scoring. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)


Porto v Arsenal – Thurs 22nd Feb, 7am, live on Stan Sport

Arsenal are in the middle of an extremely tight title race in the Premier League, but know just how important the Champions League is and will not be taking anything lightly.

They have been sparkling in this competition – winning four from six in the groups – and are on a real hot streak in the league that has seen them go unbeaten since January 1, in which time they have collectively defeated opponents 21-2.

Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Leandro Trossard have all fired at the top of the field, but it is the defensive control that has kept out everyone and will be the most important part of their visit to Portugal.

Porto are sitting in third in the league, seven points back from Benfica and four from a resurgent Sporting, and have been in mixed form of late.

In the groups, it took a final matchday win over Shakhtar Donetsk to take them through, though all of their games were super entertaining, with 21 goals across six matches including a 5-3 in that victory over the Ukranians.

This isn’t a classic Porto vintage like the 2004 and 2011 teams that won European trophies – or even the 2019-2021 side that made the quarters twice with the likes of Eder Militao and Luis Diaz, but they still boast the evergreen, ever-evil Pepe at centre back and striker Evanilson, a player with a Champions League hat trick this season.


Napoli v Barcelona – Thurs 22nd Feb, 7am, live on Stan Sport

Fallen greats? These are the reigning Italian and Spanish champions and we should be salivating about a meeting of the two so early in the competition, but both have underwhelmed in their domestic title defences.

Then again, that means that the Champions League is essentially all they have to play for. Napoli are ninth and would be happy merely to qualify again, but still have some of the continent’s most exciting players, not least Victor Osimhen, who is back from the Africa Cup of Nations and will play against Barca, and Kvitcha Kvaratshkelia, aka Kvaradona, arguably the best dribbler around.

Barca did at least get back to winning ways by defeating Celta 2-1 at the weekend, but it took a 97th minute penalty from Robert Lewandowski to do it.

It’s been thin gruel for cules in 2023/24, but with new wing pairing Vitor Roque and Lamine Yamal – just 16 – offering hope either side of the Polish striker, there is hope that they can take this one back to the Camp Nou and finish the job.

Jadon Sancho. Talent

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)


PSV v Dortmund – Wed 21st Feb, 7am, live on Stan Sport

PSV have been one of the most impressive sides in Europe this year under Peter Bosz, registering a ridiculous 17 successive wins – a feat last matched in 1987/88, when they won the then-European Cup with a side featuring Ronald Koeman, Soren Lerby and Eric Gerets.

This year’s vintage remain unbeaten through 22 matches in the Eredivisie and have an unlikely success story up front in Luuk de Jong.

He has had multiple shots in the big five leagues at Gladbach, Newcastle, Sevilla and Barcelona, where he registered around a goal in every five games, but at PSV, his record is ridiculous, going at better than one in two.

This year he’s on 19 in 22 league games and seven in nine in the Champions League, so no prizes for guessing the major threat.

Dortmund are a mixed bag this year but, for perhaps the first time in 2023/24, have genuine options in attack.

They came through a tough group with PSG, Newcastle and AC Milan and will now look at this as a more than winnable tie.


Striker Niclas Fullkrug is in form and Sebastian Haller is back following a match-winning performance in the AFCON Final, while supplying the ammunition will be loan signing Jadon Sancho, young gun Youssoufa Moukoko, pacy winger Donyell Malan – himself ex-PSV – and evergreen Marco Reus.

An extra frisson will be the managers: Bosz was a total disaster at BVB, taking over from Thomas Tuchel and ending up sacked within just six months.

Since then, however, he rebuilt his reputation at PSV and goes into this match in the best situation of his career.