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Ground Euro

As the top teams gear up for the first leg matches of the KO stage, HT takes a look at how they measure up.
By Mark Meadows | Reuters
UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2008 10:29 PM IST

English biggies set for continental slugfest

ENGLISH PREMIER League clubs will enjoy the international exposure they crave this week when the Champions League returns with a bang thanks to several mouthwatering clashes.

Europe's premier club competition is out to prove its worth after the Premier League unveiled plans for world domination by introducing an overseas round of matches. The idea has been widely condemned by fans and football authorities, leaving the Champions League to lighten the mood and show that nothing else can quite compete.

Holders AC Milan, travelling to Premier League leaders Arsenal on Wednesday, is just one of the delights on offer in the last 16, first-leg matches. The Gunners are reeling from Saturday's 4-0 FA Cup fifth-round defeat at Manchester United. "Now we will try to recover and prepare properly for our next game — we know we need a top-class performance against Milan to have a chance," Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said.

English champions United visit French counterparts Lyon on Wednesday with 2006 European champions Barcelona facing a tough trip to play Celtic. Outside bets Sevilla travel to Fenerbahce in the night's other contest.

Tuesday's menu is equally delicious, with Serie A champions Inter Milan, 11 clear at the top this season, visiting 2005 winners Liverpool, who lost 2-1 to second tier Barnsley in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Free-flowing AS Roma at home to Spanish champions Real Madrid promises to be a footballing work of art while Chelsea's more direct approach takes them to Olympiakos Piraeus. 2004 champions Porto visit Schalke 04, Germany's last remaining hope.

Injuries galore

Several top players will be forced to miss the party though, through injury.

Milan striker Ronaldo is out for at least nine months with a knee injury. The champions are also sweating over the fitness of goalkeepers Zeljko Kalac and Dida, who have finger and back injuries, while 18-year-old Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato hopes to make the Arsenal trip after ankle trouble. Kaka made his comeback from two games out with tendinitis in Milan's 0-0 draw at Parma on Saturday, the latest in a string of disappointing domestic results for the fifth-placed Rossoneri. Real Madrid midfielder Wesley Sneijder will miss the chance of a Roman conquest because of a broken rib with Robinho, Javier Saviola, Pepe and Christoph Metzelder also out. But Raul should shake off a knock picked up in Saturday's surprise 2-1 loss at Real Betis.

Barca are without defenders Carles Puyol and Oleguer while Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o has a thigh strain but is hoping to travel to Glasgow.

As the top teams gear up for the first leg matches of the KO stage, HT takes a look at how they measure up.

AS ROMA V REAL MADRID

Head-to-head

Team won lost draw

Real 4 1 1

Roma 1 4 1

Previous appearances in last eight

Champions League — Real 8, Roma 1

European Cup — Real 27, Roma 2

Roma have lost all three home games against Real Madrid, all in the Champions League.

They have a poor record against Spanish clubs overall, having lost five of their last eight games in Rome.

Apart from their three wins in Rome, Real have a poor record in Italy, losing 15 of their 21 away games.

They have won just one of their last nine league away matches.

LIVERPOOL V INTER MILAN

Head-to-head

Team won lost draw

Liverpool 1 1 0

Inter 1 1 0

Previous appearances in last eight

Champions League — Inter 4, Liverpool 3

European Cup — Inter 10, Liverpool 11

Liverpool have scored 16 goals in their last three Champions League matches are just two short of 500 goals in Europe, a mark achieved by only seven teams. Inter, meanwhile, are on 499 goals!

Liverpool's only defeat in their last six games against Italian teams was the 2-1 loss to Inter's neighbours AC Milan in last season's final.

Inter have won their last five CL games and have conceded just three goals in their last six away matches.

OLYMPIAKOS PIRAEUS V CHELSEA

Head-to-head: none

Previous appearances in last eight

Champions League — Chelsea 4, Olympiakos 1

European Cup — Chelsea 4, Olympiakos 1

Olympiakos have lost 10 of their 14 previous games against English clubs and have been defeated at home in three of the last four.

Chelsea have kept a clean sheet in their last four CL games and have not conceded more than one goal in a game in the last 14. They have lost only two of their last 11 away CL games, winning five.

SCHALKE 04 V PORTO

Head-to-head

Team won lost draw

Schalke 1 0 1

Porto 0 1 1

Previous appearances in last eight

Champions League — Porto 5, Schalke 0

European Cup — Porto 7, Schalke 1

Schalke, who have reached the knockout stage for the first time, have never lost to a Portuguese club. Apart from their previous meetings with Porto, they beat Braga 2-0 on aggregate in the 1997-98 Uefa Cup.

Looking for their 50th win in their 100th match in European competition, Schalke qualified for the knockout stage despite failing to score in four of six group games. They have won only two of their last six European home games at Gelsenkirchen.

Porto have won three of their last four CL visits to Germany, including a thumping 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen in 1993-94. They have won three of their last six away games.

And what they say.........

When you can't win games the pressure is normal. Everybody is disappointed... People can talk about being successful but nobody is winning trophies every year.

If you analyse the last few years since I came to the club we have won four trophies and been in seven finals. How many managers have done the same?

Rafael benitez

Coach, Liverpool

Cup football is like this, you can lose despite coming close to scoring on many occasions. We have to try and do things well without thinking about the return leg at home...

Roberto mancini

Coach, Inter Milan

Tuesday's is different sort of game in a different competition and it will be nothing like the one against Betis. There will be more motivation and more intensity.

Bernd Schuster

Coach, Real Madrid

Future matches can have an effect because the players know what is coming up. We are going to have to play well against Real but tactically we won't change aything.

luciano spalletti

Coach, AS Roma

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