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Can the Premier League survive the Champions League knockout stages?

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By: Luc Bailey Updated 17 Feb 2014 09:32:38

Can the Premier League survive the Champions League knockout stages?

This week the Champions League makes it's return in the form of it's first round of knockout stages, with all of England's participants still competing in the biggest club competition in the world.

However, all four teams face unpredictable matches which, depending on both results and performances, could have huge repercussions on each sides end to the season.

Manchester City VS Barcelona

Quite possibly the most unpredictable of them all. Man City's season has seen them decimate a number of clubs on the way to clinching a potential quadruple. The Sky Blues currently sit third in the league table despite having the highest goal difference. Deploying a traditional 4-4-2 formation the club has managed to rack up a goals per game average of 2.72. The experience of former La Liga stars David Silva and Alvaro Negredo along with ex-Catalan Yaya Toure will be vital.

Barcelona themselves will provide a strong firepower, none more so than former World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. The Argentine captain has recovered from injury and broke another record at the weekend, suggesting his return to form and seemingly more determined than ever. New signing Neymar will look to prove his critics wrong and justify his hefty price tag. Despite the Catalan's strength in attack they are prone to error in defence. Goal Keeper Victor Valdes has not been completely trust worthy in the past with fatal errors costing his club dearly. City's relentless attacking style could prove to be his downfall.

Prediction: Home win. City's firepower will be too much for Gerardo Martino's men.

Arsenal VS Bayern Munich

Though the current holders look favourite to clinch victory in the first leg, many should remember the Gunners 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena last season. The result was even more surprising considering second choice keeper Lukasz Fabianski was a star performer in the fixture.

The North Londoners season has so far achieved better than many would have predicted. A title challenge is well under way together with a charge for the FA Cup. Arsenal's midfield and defence will need to be at the top of their game if they are to contain star winger Arjen Robben. The Dutchman's late winner at Wembley sealed the perfect season for the Bavarians last term and he will be well aware of the Gunners threat after his previous spell with Chelsea.

Prediction: Draw. Arsenal's home advantage and current form coupled with Bayern's stern approach and similar style of play means it will be hard to pick a winner.

Olympiakos VS Manchester United

David Moyes will be boosted by Wayne Rooney's decision to commit his long-term future to the club. However, Moyes still needs United to put in a winning performance in what will be a very testing atmosphere. The Greek champions are notorious for their intimidating and ferocious support, but have been dealt a huge blow with the loss of goal machine Konstantinos Mitroglou.

Should United pull of a victory it would serve as a great boost for the rest of their season. A 5-0 record away victory against Bayern Leverkusen earlier in the competition suggests they are capable of achieving success when put on the spot.

Prediction: Home win. The hostile home crowd and United's inconsistent form will be the Red Devil's downfall.

Chelsea VS Galatasaray

Chelsea hero Didier Drogba makes his return to Stamford Bridge with visitors Galatasaray. Mourinho's former record signing will be eager to prove he can still perform at the highest level and there may even be a slight determination to get one over on his previous employers. Midfield maestro Wesley Sneijder must also be stopped if Chelsea are to seal a first leg victory.

Although the majority of pundits would give the Blues victory, do not forget that Basel won here during the group stages and that Chelsea's strikers are still to hit top form. The Turkish champions also knocked out Juventus in their recent play-off, so to write them off would be a little foolish.

Roberto Mancini will also want to prove his English doubters wrong after two failed attempts in the competition with Man City

Prediction: Home win. Mancini's men will find it too hard to contain in form winger Eden Hazard and home form should ultimately give Jose's men the victory.


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