.In UEFA Champions League –
The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with a quartet of ties that look fascinatingly poised as some of Europe’s biggest names chase a quarter-final spot.
Former winners Porto, Bayern Munich and Chelsea still have plenty to do if they hope to reach the last eight, though all three hold an advantage after posting away draws last time out.
As for holders Real Madrid, they downed Schalke 2-0 in the first leg but are far from safe as they struggle to boost confidence levels that have slipped since the turn of the year.
The history books nonetheless favour the heavyweights, with previous results in the competition suggesting all four ought to prevail.
Chelsea and Porto will go into their games on Wednesday with a 74.6 per cent chance of progressing, after drawing 1-1 at respective rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Basel, while Bayern’s 0-0 stalemate at Shakhtar Donetsk has left them with a 66.3 per cent probability of going through.
Madrid can take comfort from their 97.3 per cent chance, meanwhile, but the beauty of sport is that nothing is ever decided on paper.
Having clawed back a two-goal deficit at home to PSG in last season’s quarter-finals, Chelsea enjoy the luxury of letting their French opponents take all the risks this time around. Comfortably clear in the Premier League, the Blues are aiming for a fourth last-eight berth in five years and their seventh in the last nine campaigns, and they also go into the game fresh from a weekend off.
Paris had to tackle Lens, in contrast, but Laurent Blanc’s men raised spirits with a commanding 4-1 victory. “We’ll need to score away against Chelsea,” said the Paris coach. “I hope we’ll be more clinical and that we’ll have a higher ratio of goals to chances than we did today.”
Blanc will thus be delighted that he can call on a full squad, with Thiago Motta a notable option again after injury. The midfielder’s return should mean former Chelsea player David Luiz dropping back into defence, though not before he has given Blanc a full briefing on how Chelsea approached the decider against PSG last season.