A chance for Barca to make his­tory

Ahead of next week’s sec­ond leg of the Cham­pi­ons League last 16 fix­tures, Mondli Makhanya looks at the talk­ing points

CityPress - - Sport -

ARSÈNE WENGER’S FU­TURE One of the big jokes among Arse­nal haters is how, ev­ery sea­son, the team fights bloody hard to get a top four spot to get into the Cham­pi­ons League and then al­ways crashes out in the last 16.

This sea­son, the joke has an ex­tra in­jec­tion of sweet­ness for Gun­ners haters – two weeks ago, Arse­nal trav­elled to Mu­nich for what was ex­pected to be a tough clash of Euro­pean gi­ants and came back with a 5-1 wal­lop­ing.

On Tues­day, Arse­nal host Bay­ern Mu­nich at the Emi­rates Sta­dium, hop­ing to over­turn the four goal deficit. Few ex­pect Arse­nal to per­form this mir­a­cle and they will most likely have their sev­enth con­sec­u­tive last 16 res­ig­na­tion.

So rather than the ac­tion on the field, the big talk­ing point will be man­ager Arsène Wenger’s fu­ture. Arse­nal bosses have been pa­tient with their long-serv­ing man­ager be­cause, even though Wenger has been dis­mal at de­liv­er­ing sil­ver­ware, he has guar­an­teed them Cham­pi­ons League ac­tion and the heavy bun­dles of cash that come with it. But the pa­tience of sup­port­ers is wear­ing thin. It is there­fore likely that an exit on Tues­day will sig­nal the be­gin­ning of the end of Wenger’s ten­ure. He will al­most cer­tainly de­part when his con­tract ends in three months’ time.

MAK­ING HIS­TORY

Fol­low­ing the 4-0 drub­bing at Parc des Princes, Barcelona striker Luis Suárez said he and his team-mates have a chance to “make his­tory” when they meet Paris Saint-Ger­main in the re­turn leg on Tues­day.

“If we want make his­tory, we have to turn it around. It is a nice chal­lenge and this team has the abil­ity to do it. We can­not down our tools, even if we have been up­set at the sit­u­a­tion over the past few days,” said the flesh eater.

Un­like in Arse­nal’s case, this is not an im­pos­si­ble task. As won­der­ful as they are, PSG are no Bay­ern Mu­nich and the score­line in the first leg was not en­tirely due to their out­stand­ing per­for­mance. Barcelona were ter­ri­ble in Paris. This be­ing Luis En­rique’s last Cham­pi­ons League run at Barcelona, he will not want to be re­mem­bered as the coach who suf­fered the ig­nominy of a last-16 exit with the Span­ish gi­ants. Ex­pect the (al­most) im­pos­si­ble to hap­pen in this clash.

Sur­pris­ingly, some of Barcelona’s back­ers in this clash are Real Madrid sup­port­ers. The Madridis­tas want their ri­vals to have the same Cham­pi­ons League pres­sures as theirs so that they do not close the tight points gap at the top of La Liga.

LE­ICES­TER SWANSONG

The sur­prise 2016/17 English Premier­ship cham­pi­ons kept their hopes of a quar­ter­fi­nal berth alive with a late goal from their one­time tal­is­man Jamie Vardy, who ended his lengthy goal drought for rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Le­ices­ter by scor­ing a cru­cial away goal in the clash against Sevilla. The day will be re­mem­bered for goal­keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel’s out­stand­ing saves and man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri al­most knock­ing his glasses off as he cel­e­brated a goal that he be­lieved had saved his job. He was fired about a week later. In their first game af­ter Ranieri’s de­par­ture, Le­ices­ter shocked Liver­pool with a 1-0 de­feat, spark­ing hope that this was the be­gin­ning of a re­vival. But given the one-sided na­ture of the first leg, it will take the kind of mir­a­cle that earned them the EPL cham­pi­ons medals to stand up to Sevilla this time. Le­ices­ter will be dumped out of the Cham­pi­ons League and will only be seen at this level again when a Pak­istani im­mi­grant wins the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for the White House. In other games, Napoli will seek to over­turn a 3-1 score­line against Real Madrid, and Borus­sia Dort­mund will want to rem­edy the missed op­por­tu­ni­ties against Ben­fica, who lead them by a goal. Fans will hope for a re­peat of the goal fest that saw Manch­ester City beat Monaco 5-3. It should be rou­tine for Ju­ven­tus when they meet Porto to so­lid­ify their 2-0 lead. Atlético Madrid, who lead Bayer Lev­erkusen 4-2 go­ing into this leg, will hope their place among Europe’s top dogs is ce­mented.

PHO­TOS: FOTOPRESS / GETTY IM­AGES

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