PUNDIT’S PREVIEW: LEICESTER CITY V SEVILLA, JUVENTUS V FC PORTO

Event: UEFA Champions League – Round of 16, 2nd Leg

Date: Tuesday, 14th March 2017

KICK OFF: 8:45pm (Nigerian time)

Venue: King Power Stadium, Leicester, England.

 

 

Sevilla come into this clash with a slender 2-1 lead from the first leg at home even though the score margin could have been so wide but for their profligacy in front of goal. They even had a penalty saved by Leicester goalie Kasper Schmeichel.

 

Goals from Pablo Sarabia and Joaquin Correa sent the Andalusia team 2-0 up at the Sanchez Pizjuan. However, a late strike from Jamie Vardy revived the hopes and kept the Foxes firmly in the contest. Suffice to say, it was Vardy’s first ever Champions League goal.

 

Unfortunately, the defeat at Seville was the last match of Clauido Ranieri as Leicester manager. Craig Shakespeare, Ranieri’s assistant who took over the reigns oversaw The Foxes’ win against Liverpool and Hull City, both at home by 3-1 margin. He is confirmed to remain in charge at King Power Stadium until the end of the season.

 

Since the home win against Leicester, Sevilla have been involved in four league fixtures. They won the first two and drew the most recent two. Jorge Sampaoli has, recently, admitted in public that his team is scoring less than they deserve. Also, there are concerns about the overall team performance.

 

Plenty of rotations to the playing eleven were made as Sampoli opted to give key players like Vitolo, Franco Vazquez, Samir Nasri, Sergio Escudero, Wissam Ben Yedder and Steven N’Zonzi some much needed rest. All of them will be back in contention in the starting eleven in Leicester tonight.

 

Nampalys Mendy is sidelined for the second leg at the King Power Stadium after the midfielder sustained a knee injury in training.

 

Molla Wague is also sidelined with a dislocated shoulder and is unlikely to play again this season having only joined on loan – and made one appearance – in January.

 

Sevilla are at full strength, barring long-term absentees Benoit Tremoulinas and Michael Krohn-Dehli, while Spain international Vitolo returns following a domestic suspension.

 

Sampaoli is expected to recall key midfielders Steven N’Zonzi and Samir Nasri, both of whom have Premier League experience.

 

 

 KEY STATISTICS TO BEAR IN MIND AS THE COUNTDOWN TICKS AWAY

Sevilla’s 2-1 win against Leicester at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is the only competitive meeting between the two sides.

 

Leicester City are yet to register a win in 5 matches against Spanish clubs. Their only other opponent from Spain other than Sevilla is Atletico Madrid, whom they met on 4 occasions. The overall record is 1 draw and 4 losses. At home, they drew 1 and lost 1 from 2 matches.

 

Sevilla have a decent record against English clubs, which reads 5 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses from 10 matches. However, they haven’t won in away trips to England with the 4 matches seeing 2 draws and 2 losses.

 

Seven of the last nine times a side has lost 1-2 away from home in a Champions League first-leg knockout tie, have failed to go on and progress to the next round.

 

Leicester are the first team since Malaga in 2012/13 to finish top of their group on their Champions League debut.

 

Sevilla have reached the Champions League knockout stages in three of their four appearances. However, they’ve never gone past the round of 16.

 

No team has kept more clean sheets this season in the Champions League than Sevilla (5, same as Juventus).

 

The Foxes were one of only four teams to win all three of their 2016/17 Champions League home group games (Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona).

 

 

 

MANAGERS’ QUOTES

 

CRAIG SHAKESPEARE: “I’m expecting the team to really play off the front foot,” Shakespeare, who was appointed Leicester manager for the rest of the season on Sunday, said in his pre-match press conference.

That is not saying we are going to be open, because we know Seville have got some world-class players, but it makes for an interesting game. We knew by getting the away goal it gave us a great opportunity.

 

 

JORGE SAMPAOLI: “With a performance like that we will find it very difficult to get through in the Champions League.

They are strong opponents who will punish mistakes. We were clear that we had to think about two teams for two games with very different obligations.

We have to prepare the best team to be able to qualify in such a difficult game against an excellent opponent.

 

 

EXPERT’S VERDICT

Sevilla have got a good pedigree in European outings but that is just in the Europa League (which they have so dominated over the years) and not in the Champions League. Their current form is suspicious and it is true that the goals have dried up. They are coming on the back of consecutive draws against moderate La Liga teams (Alaves and Leganes) which has seen their La Liga title hopes almost dead. So, one must not consider them as overwhelming favourites to win this one.

 

We witnessed some shock results in the competition last week and this is why Leicester will go in with an equal chance to make it to the quarter finals. This is further strengthened by the fact that Leicester look like a different team since the departure of Ranieri. The Foxes are also boosted by the added rest this week, while the Andalusians were involved in 4 fixtures since the first leg of the corresponding tie. Moreover, the hosts have won their previous three Champions League home matches.

 

Sevilla dominated the first leg last month but were made to pay for failing to convert their chances after striker Jamie Vardy scored an away goal for the English champions.

 

There is no way Sevilla will not score at least a goal or two even though The Foxes will score as well but I don’t see them outscoring the Spaniards who have got the big stage experience and individual quality players.

 

Leicester, I think, have reached their final ‘bus-stop’, the fairy-tale comes to an end tonight. They’ll go down but will do so fighting.

 

 

 

Event: UEFA Champions League – Round of 16, 2nd Leg

Date: Tuesday, 14th March 2017

KICK OFF: 8:45pm (Nigerian time)

Venue: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy.

 

 

 

 

FC Porto face Juventus in the second leg of the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League tonight, knowing they have to do what no one else has been able to do at European level since Bayern Munich in 2013.

 

Massimiliano Allegri’s men set about completing what they had started in Portugal two and a half weeks ago. They have got an imposing home record in European competitions, so, Porto know they have a herculean task ahead if they are to realize their ambition of advancing to the quarter-finals.

 

Juventus managed to get a crucial result when they visited Porto in late February, aided greatly by the first half dismissal of Porto left back Alex Telles. Despite this, they still left it pretty late to break through the Portuguese side, with two goals in two minutes coming from Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves.

 

Since then, the Serie A giants have followed this victory with three wins and a draw back in domestic competition, with the latest of these being an injury time win at home against AC Milan last week.

 

This makes it 11 wins and one draw from their last 12 matches in all competitions and puts them well clear of Roma at the top of Serie A. At home, Juventus are even better, winning their last nine games in all competitions and remaining unbeaten since August 2015.

 

Porto won their three league matches in style after the disappointing home loss to Juve. They scored a massive 12 goals during the period and kept clean sheets in all of them. The away record of Porto in the current season is not as bright as their prowess at home. They won 10 of their 19 trips in all competitions, while drew 5 and lost 4.

 

Overall Porto’s form is incredibly good with nine wins from their last ten matches, but their competition during this run is far lower than the standard Juventus demands of them.

 

After missing the 2-1 win over AC Milan on Friday with abdominal cramping, Mario Mandžukić is set to return in the starting XI. Giorgio Chiellini has resumed training regularly with the team after recovering from a thigh injury. Andrea Barzagli and Medhi Benatia are in contention to deputize and partner Leonardo Bonucci in defence, should Chiellini not be considered fit enough to start. Dani Alves and Stephan Lichtsteiner are in contention for a place as right-back, while Claudio Marchisio could have a chance in midfield.

Stefano Sturaro is out for this match (stomach).

 

On the other hand, the very good news for Porto on this trip to northern Italy is that their Mexican midfield duo of Héctor Herrera and Jesús Corona have returned to Nuno Espírito Santos’s squad. A nasty foot injury – it required 17 stitches – sustained in the 2-0 first-leg loss against Juventus has kept Herrera sidelined, while Corona has been nursing an ankle complaint of late. Alex Telles is suspended after receiving the red card in the first leg.

 

 

KEY STATISTICS TO BEAR IN MIND AS THE COUNTDOWN TICKS AWAY

Juventus beat Porto 2-1 in the 1984 European Cup Winners’ Cup final in Basel, and recorded an away draw (0-0) and a home win (3-1) when the teams met in the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League first group stage.

 

Juventus’s 12 encounters with Portuguese sides have ended W6 D2 L4; at home it is W3 D1 L1. All four of those defeats came against Benfica. Meanwhile, Porto’s record in 29 European games with Serie A opponents is W8 D9 L12. It includes another defeat on neutral territory, AC Milan triumphing 1-0 in the 2003 UEFA Super Cup in Monaco.

 

No team (13 previous instances) has ever progressed having lost the 1st leg of a Champions League knockout tie by a scoreline of 0-2 (at home).

 

Juventus hadn’t topped their Champions League group since 2012/13 whilst Porto have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 7th time in their last 10 participation.

 

However, Porto have made it past the round of 16 only once in their last six Champions League participation (2014/15), whilst Juventus have done it only once over the last 3 years (2014/15).

 

Juventus have avoided defeat in 10 of their last 11 Champions League knockout games at home (W6 D4).

 

Porto have only won once in their previous nine 2nd leg Champions League knockout matches to have taken place away from home (D2 L6); conceding 18 times across their last five such fixtures, replying with just three in their favour in that time.

 

The last six goals recorded by Juventus in the Champions League have all come in the second half (all by different players).

 

No team has conceded fewer goals than Juventus this season in the Champions League, letting in only two efforts across seven matches.

 

 

EXPERT’S VERDICT

Hard to see an upset tonight, of course, except if Porto are Barcelona…Juventus’ formidable home record remains firm after tonight’s clash and they will go through.

 

 

 

 

 

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