Ancelotti

Atletico can punish a Bale-less Real Madrid
Tonight’s Madrid derby in the Champions League is sure to be a high tempo high passion affair as both sides of the Spanish city look for an immediate return to the Champions League final. Real Madrid will have to face the tonight’s tough game without two thirds of their formidable front-line with both Gareth Bale and Kerim Benzema sidelined. In the absence of Bale and Benzema, Javier Hernandez will partner James Rodriguez and Cristiano Ronaldo as the Portuguese Ballon d’or winner looks yet again for a spot at the pinnacle of European football. With the score level and Real fielding what could be considered a second string frontline for the most part, Atletico have a fantastic opportunity to take revenge for their Champions League final loss to their bitter local rivals. BF

Monaco could capitalise on a weakened Juve
Tonight’s tie between Monaco and Juventus offers up the two clubs the opportunity to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since the early millennium. Having already dispatched with Arsenal in fairly unpredictable fashion, Monaco find themselves once again presented with the opportunity to surprise many by seeing off a depleted Juventus side. Juve go into the tie with a frail 1-0 lead from the first leg in Turin but will have to face Monaco tonight without a number of their heavy hitters such as Paul Pogba, Martin Caceres and Arturo Vidal. Monaco themselves will have to face tonight’s challenge without a sidelined Lacina Traore and Tiemoue Bakayoko but will be aware that an attacking approach akin to that of theirs against Arsenal in the first leg of the last round could provide the perfect impetuous to see of the Serie A giants. BF

Mandzukic to flirt with danger
Atletico Madrid are sweating on the fitness of Mario Mandzukic ahead of tonight’s tie at the Bernabeu, after suffering a mild ankle injury. There is also the mater of his cut face after being struck by a Sergio Ramos elbow in the first leg, for which the Real defender escaped punishment, and if Mandzukic’s display in the first leg after the incident is anything to go by then Ramos is going to receive a whack or two. It was a miracle that the Croat wasn’t sent off last week, after picking fights with anyone who went near him and berating the referee for several minutes after Ramos had cut his face open. The scars will remain even if the pain doesn’t, and Mandzukic may need constant babysitting by his captain and management. The stakes are high and it’s of course a derby so tensions will be huge as it is, but Atletico need him to not lose his head too much in pursuit of revenge and focus on getting his team into the Semi Finals. A red card would do serious damage to the visitors’ hopes, so Mario’s thirst for blood will just have to wait. JW

Old Lady to try and play hosts at their own game
It’s the defensive record that has got Monaco this far in the competition, but now for the first time in the knockout stages they go into a game chasing an aggregate deficit. It’ll be interesting to see if they are up to the task, as it won’t be a scenario they’ll be particularly comfortable with at this level, but evan a weakened Juventus side will be quite happy to hold on to what they have. The Turin side don’t quite resemble the clichéd ultra-conservative Italian teams but are still very comfortable in possession and like to play the ball across the back – defender Giorgio Chiellini has completed the most passes of any Juve player in the Champions League this season – and frustrating Monaco will be the primary objective this evening. JW

Ancelotti truly put to the test
While the potential impact of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema’s absences in the forward areas have already been made clear, Real Madrid must also have to go into this huge match without the influential Luka Modric in midfield. The holders are never quite the same without the little Croatian in the centre of the park, but will have to play without him this evening after he suffered a ligament strain in the weekend fixture against Malaga. When you also factor in the suspension of the full back Marcelo, whose forward runs often create space and opportunities for others, it seems that Real boss Carlo Ancelotti has quite the task on his hands. In a derby of fine margins, the Italian will miss these first team regulars dearly and will have to use all his experience in order to see off Diego Simeone’s visiting team, something he has struggled to do throughout his time in Madrid (bar last year’s Final, of course). One positive is that those players coming in won’t have to be motivated for the occasion, so Ancelotti can focus on his tactical approach to the game, but failure to deliver the goods tonight may well signal his departure in the summer. JW

Words by Joe Walker & Ben Fawcett