Champions League talking points - Bayern Munich
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Four talking points ahead of the Champions League action

Champions League football returns this week in the second leg of four last-16 ties.

Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are all in action, competing for a place in the quarter-finals. We’ve looked at four talking points ahead of the midweek games.

Four talking points ahead of the Champions League action:

Can Bayern Munich save their season?

It’s win or bust for Bayern Munich this week, as the German champions host Lazio at the Allianz Arena. The club’s 11-year grip on the Bundesliga is loosening with each week, with one win in four league games having seen Thomas Tuchel’s side fall 10 points behind Bayer Leverkusen.

Out of the DFB-Pokal, the Champions League could represent a last-chance saloon for silverware this season. However, recent form and a 1-0 defeat in Rome in the first meeting means there’s huge work to be done to turn around the tie.

Bayern have, historically, struggled when losing the first leg of Champions League ties. The Bavarians have been eliminated in each of the last seven ties in which they have suffered a first-leg defeat.

PSG must use Mbappe, he’s their best hope

Kylian Mbappe’s substitution against AS Monaco on Friday has been a talking point in recent days, with the forward withdrawn with the game goalless. Rather than sit in the dugout, the 25-year-old headed to sit with his mother in the stands.

If ever there was a clear sign that PSG and Mbappe, who has agreed a deal to sign for Real Madrid in the summer, are heading in different directions, this was it. But PSG need Mbappe, now more than ever.

Ligue 1 looks like another procession for the perennial French champions, but the Champions League remains a code unable to be cracked. Luis Enrique admitted his side must get used to playing without Mbappe in the near future, but PSG’s best chance of a long run in this competition is with the France captain in the side.

Mbappe has 32 goals and seven assists in all competitions this season, including one in the last-16 first-leg win (2-0) over Real Sociedad. Should the return be navigated and a quarter-final place secured, he can be decisive in the latter stages for a PSG team that has not been overly convincing this season.

A chance to rotate for Pep Guardiola

Manchester City took a giant stride towards the quarter-finals with a comfortable first-leg win over FC Copenhagen.

A 3-1 win in the Danish capital has made City overwhelming favourites to move into the last eight, as Pep Guardiola’s side aim to defend the Champions League this season.

The Citizens face their biggest fixture of the season so far at the weekend when Guardiola’s team travel to title rivals Liverpool. Just a point separates the teams in the Premier League table and Guardiola will want his team to head to Anfield in the best shape possible.

Though the holders will not underestimate Copenhagen, there’s enough within the squad to navigate the return leg with room – and key personnel – to spare. Erling Haaland, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones can all afford to be wrapped up in cotton wool this week.

Rudiger return welcome for Real Madrid

Real Madrid boast a perfect record in Europe this season with seven straight wins in the Champions League.

Their most recent win on that run was perhaps the most fortunate, as the Spanish giants weathered a storm in Germany before earning a 1-0 win over RB Leipzig. Andriy Lunin was the hero with nine saves, the most a Real Madrid goalkeeper has made in Europe since the 2022 final against Liverpool.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side was exposed in Leipzig in the absence of Antonio Rudiger, who missed the clash with a hamstring problem. The 31-year-old has since returned to the side in a welcome boost, given the longer-term absences of fellow centre-backs Eder Militao and David Alaba and first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Real Madrid have dropped points in three of their last five league games, two of which came in Rudiger’s absence. A leader in central defence, he will strengthen the spine of the Spaniards.

Read – Why the Champions League is changing – and what it means for Premier League clubs

See more – Iconic Performances: Neymar inspires ‘La Remontada’

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