Atalanta will hope to keep Italy’s Champions League interest alive in Tuesday’s last-16 second legs.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have the simple tasking of overturning a 1-0 deficit away to Real Madrid, the most successful club in the competition’s history and winners of four of the past seven tournaments.
Zinedine Zidane’s men have struggled for consistency in 2020-21 but the Champions League traditionally brings out their best, while Atalanta’s visit could also be one to celebrate for Toni Kroos.
Madrid may be confident in their chances, but Manchester City are in an even more enviable position, having won 2-0 away to Borussia Monchengladbach in their first leg.
Gladbach have struggled badly since the announcement that Marco Rose will be leaving for Borussia Dortmund ahead of next season, losing six games in a row in all competitions, and they could represent good opposition for Sergio Aguero, who is chasing a milestone goal.
Real Madrid (1) v Atalanta (0): Can Gasperini’s men restore national pride in Spain?
Atalanta enjoyed their only previous visit to Spain in European competition, winning 4-3 at Valencia at this stage of last season’s competition to secure a sensational 8-4 aggregate victory, with Josip Ilicic scoring all four goals.
However, history is not on their side this time. Italian teams have lost 11 of their previous 12 games against Madrid and conceded at least twice in 10 of those matches. You have to go back to Juventus in November 2008 to find an Italian side who stopped Los Blancos scoring.
Madrid have progressed from eight of the past nine Champions League knockout ties in which they have won the first leg, the exception being two years ago, when Ajax caused a shock with a 4-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, more recent form may give them reason for concern.
Madrid have gone four home knockout games without a win, while Atalanta have not conceded an away Champions League goal this season and are enjoying a five-game winning run on their travels, the best such sequence of any side in the competition.
Toni Kroos could be in for a milestone match. The midfielder could become only the second German outfield player to start 100 Champions League matches, after Bayern Munich great Philipp Lahm, who finished on 110.
With Eden Hazard injured once more, Zidane could do with Marco Asensio ending his goal drought. The Spain international has attempted 14 shots in six games, the most of any player left in the competition who has failed to score a goal.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) March 15, 2021
Manchester City (2) v Borussia Monchengladbach (0): Bundesliga side hoping for miracle
Gladbach’s last visit to City ended in a 4-0 loss, their joint-heaviest away defeat in the competition. In fact, City are unbeaten in five meetings with Tuesday’s opponents and have scored at least twice in each of their four victories.
Pep Guardiola’s first Champions League game in charge was a 4-0 home win over Gladbach, with City having won more games (16) and scored more goals (59) in home matches than any other English side in the competition in that time. They are on a run of 10 wins in 11 European games at the Etihad Stadium, in which they have averaged 3.5 goals per match.
Gladbach enjoyed a superb group stage but, since consecutive 6-0 and 4-0 wins over Shakhtar Donetsk, they have lost three games in a row and failed to score in their previous two. It is hard to look beyond a comfortable City victory.
Aguero will hope for another start, and should the Argentinian score, he will reach 20 goals in 29 Champions League games under Guardiola. That would draw him level with Thomas Muller and leave him behind only Lionel Messi (43) for the most goals scored in the competition under the former Barcelona boss.
When Manchester City scored SEVEN against Schalke, #OTD in 2019
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 12, 2021