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The Roar


UCL Preview: Gunners aiming to flip script, Inter and Atleti well poised and a potential belter in Barcelona

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11th March, 2024

The Champions League is back this week, and this time they’re playing for keeps.

All four ties are well and truly alive after the first legs, with two home victories, for Inter and FC Porto, setting up second legs in which the home teams, Atletico Madrid and Arsenal, will have to attack, and two draws that leave Barcelona v Napoli and PSV v Dortmund well in the balance.

It’s a gameweek with something for everyone, and you’ll be able to see it all on Stan Sport – so let’s get going on where the games will be won and lost.

Arsenal v Porto

The Gunners might be top of the Premier League, but they are staring down the barrel in Europe following defeat to Porto in the first game.

Arsenal remain joint third favourites for the whole tournament but will need to overturn a 1-0 deficit against the Portuguese side who, despite sitting third in the league, have smashed rivals Benfica 5-0 since the first leg and won comfortably at the weekend.

It was a late stunner from Brazilian winger Galeno that settled the game at the Dragao, changing what would have been a more than creditable away draw for Mikel Arteta et al into a challenging second leg task.


The Portuguese will back their defence, still marshalled by veteran Pepe, to see them home, but plenty have gone to North London and come away with nothing in recent weeks: Arsenal haven’t lost on their own patch since January 8th and, indeed, have only been defeated once in that time anywhere, which was the game in Porto.

It’s been a barrage of goals, too. In the three matches since the first leg, the score collectively is 12-2 to Arsenal, so they won’t worry about having the firepower to erase that Galeno goal and push on into the next round.

Barcelona v Napoli

With neither side going great guns in the league, the Champions League is all that is left to dispute and, with the first leg a 1-1 draw in Naples, the return game in Catalonia is perhaps the pick of this week’s fixtures.

Aside from the obvious romance of Barcelona and Napoli, two grand names of European football, there is the dynamic at play between a resurgent Partenopei, unbeaten in a month and off the back of a statement victory over Juventus, and a blaugrana side who have rediscovered the defensive form that delivered the Spanish title last year.

On the park, all eyes will be on the strikers. Both Victor Osimhen and Robert Lewandowski scored at the Maradona and will carry the biggest threat again in Montjuic.


If Barcelona can keep the backdoor shut, you’d back them to nick one eventually, while Napoli will have to go forwards and threaten.

As ever, if they can get Kvitcha Kvaratskhelia, who scored at the weekend, into the game, then Osimhen will have all the service he needs.

It’s on a knife-edge and should be a belter.

Atletico Madrid v Inter

Inter got the job done, just about, in the first leg, thanks to a late Marko Arnautovic goal that finally reflected their superiority across the game.

On reflection, the nerazzurri will think that they could have settled the tie there and then, such was their dominance.

Instead, they face a classic Atleti smash and grab, with the hosts building a reputation on turning over sides at the cavernous Metropolitano in Madrid.


Diego Simeone’s side are a far cry from the defensive masters that regularly batted deep into the competition and will see the stage as set for them to attack with only that solitary goal to overturn.

Atleti are in a fight domestically to play in next year’s Champions League, having lost at the weekend, and are also out of the Spanish Cup, so this game holds extra importance for them in keeping their season alive.

They need to start fast and hope that their big names, notably Antoine Griezmann, show up.

Since the first game, Inter have continued to solidify their place as champion-elect in Italy and are on a 13-game winning run, without so much as a draw so far in 2024.

They’ll love the chance to play on the break and won’t lose a second’s sleep about handing the ball over to their opponents. Expect a classic Italian counterattack, then a shutting of the door at the back.

PSV v Dortmund


PSV remain unbeaten for the year in the Netherlands and are ten points clear at the summit of the Eredivisie, but will have been disappointed to have only drawn with Dortmund in the first leg on home soil.

Now, they have to make the short trip over the border to Germany knowing that a win is required against a team that appears to have discovered a little form.

BVB won away at Werder Bremen at the weekend despite playing the second half with 10 men and, ominously, Jadon Sancho had his best game since returning to the club on loan from Manchester United.

In the first game, PSV had the bulk of the ball and plenty of shots but weren’t able to turn it into goals and required a penalty to get back into the game after Donyell Malen, returning to Eindhoven, had given his new club the lead.

This time around, expect the Germans to take all the ball while PSV are forced to play on the break – which might actually suit them given the occasionally chaotic nature of Dortmund’s defence.