Atalanta vs Valencia
Guiseppe Meazza Stadium, Milan
Wednesday, 19-02-2020 @11pm
Ref: Michael Oliver (Eng)
Bosko Sutalo, who arrived from NK Osijek in the January transfer window, is the only player unavailable for Atalanta due to an ankle injury. Rafael Toloi is available for selection after missing their final group game due to suspension. Gian Piero Gasperini expected to set his team up in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Pierluigi Gollini manning the goal for the hosts. The three-man backline ought to comprise of Toloi, Jose Luis Palomino and Berat Djimsiti. Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens will be the wing-backs on the right and left sides respectively and will be in charge of providing width going forward. Dutchman Marten de Roon is expected to anchor the midfield for Atalanta, partnering up with Remo Freuler, meaning Mario Pasalic will have to make do with a place on the bench on Wednesday night. The creativity on the field will come from club captain Alejandro Gomez, who will be slotting in as the No. 10 against Valencia. The two-man strikeforce for Atalanta will be comprised of Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic, while Luis Muriel will provide additional firepower from the bench if needed.
The visitors, unlike Atalanta, have a number of injury concerns heading into Wednesday’s game. Valencia will be without the services of Ezequiel Garay, Cristiano Piccini and Manu Vallejo, but the biggest blow comes with the absence of star forward Rodrigo Moreno. Gabriel Paulista is suspended for the tie, after being sent off in the last group game. With Jasper Cillessen fit again, he is likely to start in goal ahead of Jaume Domenech. Daniel Wass is expected to get the nod at right-back while Jose Gaya is pretty much guaranteed to feature on the left-side of the Valencia backline. With no Gabriel, Mouctar Diakhaby and Eliaquim Mangala ought to form the central defensive partnership for Los Che. Geoffrey Kondogbia scored the second equalizer for Valencia against Atletico last time out. That should earn him a starting berth in the middle of the park alongside captain and key man Dani Parejo. Ferran Torres is a shoo-in on the right flank while Carlos Soler is likely to edge out Goncalo Guedes for a spot on the left-side of the midfield. They will be key in creating chances for the strike partnership of the in-form Maxi Gomez and Kevin Gameiro, who will start in the absence of Rodrigo.
This will be the first encounter between Atalanta and Valencia. It’s also the first time that La Dea will be facing Spanish opposition in a competitive fixture. Valencia have won only one of their eight away games against Italian opposition in the Champions League (D2 L5), a 1-0 victory against Roma in the 2002/03 second group stages. They have also failed to find the net in six of those eight games. Atalanta are the first Champions League debutant to make it to the knockout stages of the Champions League since Leicester City in 2016-17. They also are the first team to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League after losing their opening three group games. Valencia are in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2012/13. It’s been 13 years since they last made it past the round of 16 (2006-07). Valencia have never won an away game in the Champions League knockout stages (D4 L5). They’ve also only ever kept one clean sheet in those nine outings, a goalless draw against Leeds United at Elland Road in the semi-finals back in 2000-01.
Tottenham Hotspur vs RB Leipzig
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Wednesday, 19-02-2020 @11pm
Ref: Cunet Cukir (Tur)
Jose Mourinho has been handed a body blow ahead of his side’s return to Champions League action after Son Heung-min was ruled out of the season due to a fractured arm. Against RB Leipzig on Wednesday, the Tottenham Hotspur manager will be without four first-team players, with attack, in particular, posing a major concern. Apart from Son, who Mourinho confessed will likely not feature again this term, Harry Kane is also a long-term absentee, due to a hamstring injury. Moussa Sissoko (knee) and Juan Foyth (groin) are the other certainties missing out for Tottenham when they take the field against Leipzig. In the absence of Son and Kane, Mourinho is down to his bare bones in attack, especially with Erik Lamela also being doubtful to face Leipzig. Lamela will be assessed ahead of the game and if he is not passed fit, Ryan Sessegnon could start in the final third. Steven Bergwijn, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura, though, are automatic picks in attack. Giovani Lo Celso did not start in the 3-2 win over Aston Villa this past weekend, but should return to the lineup for the Champions League Round of 16 first leg. Lo Celso ought to have the resurgent Harry Winks for company in the midfield double pivot, with the Englishman in charge of harrying the Leipzig midfielders during their build-up play. In defence, Serge Aurier, Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld are certainties. As for the left-back slot, Ben Davies is fit now and should be preferred to Japhet Tanganga. Hugo Lloris picks himself in goal and could be in for a busy evening.
Julian Nagelsmann has plenty of major injury troubles hampering his preparations ahead of the Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie. On Wednesday, the RB Leipzig manager will be without four first-team players due to fitness issues while also missing Dayot Upamecano due to suspension. The likes of Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Willi Orban (knee), Tyler Adams (calf) and Kevin Kampl (ankle) are on the sidelines. The absence of Konate and Orban due to their respective injuries coupled with Upamecano’s suspension means Nagelsmann’s defensive options are heavily restricted. As a result, the Leipzig manager could revert to a 4-2-2-2 formation, having preferred 3-4-1-2 of late. Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann will play as makeshift centre-backs, with Nordi Mukiele anf Angelino being the full-back pairing. Peter Gulacsi will be the man between the sticks. Konrad Laimer is a definite starter in the middle of the park, but in the absence of Adams and Kampl, he could have Christopher Nkunku as his partner. Upfront, Marcel Sabitzer and Emil Forsberg will shoulder the bulk of the creative responsibility, setting up the strikers, who will be Timo Werner and Patrik Schick.
This will be the first encounter between Tottenham and RB Leipzig. It is also the first time Leipzig are facing an English club in a competitive fixture while Spurs will be facing German opposition in the Champions League Round of 16 for the second consecutive season, after knocking out Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate last term. The only previous game between Tottenham and a German team at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ended in a 7-2 win for Bayern Munich, back in October in the current campaign. In fact, Tottenham’s two Champions League games against German opposition this season have produced 13 goals. Tottenham conceded 14 goals in this season’s Champions League group stage, the highest tally among the remaining teams in the competition. Half of those goals came in their home game against Bayern Munich (2-7). RB Leipzig lost their first two Champions League away games but are since unbeaten in their last four matches on the road (W3 D1), scoring 10 goals. Only one of Tottenham’s 21 Champions League home games has ended in a draw (0-0 v AC Milan, March 2011).