The continent’s top clubs are back in action in the European competitions this week – and we’ve got the skinny on all the English and Scottish teams’ matches
By Chris Miller, Writer
February is an underrated month. It may seem chilly and gloomy but it contains some of our favourite events – like Valentine’s Day, music’s BRIT Awards and London Fashion Week. And it also brings something else we absolutely love that gives us the chance to celebrate British success and influence on the international stage: the return of European club football!
That’s right, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League are back this week, along with the all-new Europa Conference League, and an impressive EIGHT clubs from England and Scotland have progressed beyond the group stages to give themselves a chance of continental glory.
You can watch the progress of all the British teams on BT Sport on Virgin TV – and don’t forget, as long as there’s WiFi, 3G, 4G or 5G, you can follow all the football matches, news and analysis wherever you are in the UK thanks to Virgin TV Go. Simply download the app for access to BT Sport (if it’s in your package) as well as loads more live action on Eurosport, Premier Sports and LaLigaTV. The app is available to all Virgin TV customers at no extra cost and is compatible with Android, iOS, Windows 10 and PC/Mac.
So there’s no reason for you to miss any of the action from this hotly anticipated round of games! Here’s everything you need to know about the English and Scottish clubs’ upcoming European fixtures…
UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 – First Leg: Sporting Lisbon v Manchester City, Tuesday 15 February, 7pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
They’ll win the Champions League because… as you may have noticed while they were surging into a commanding lead at the top of the Premier League, City are literally Quite Good. They also won their group ahead of superstar-laden Paris Saint-Germain – Messi, Neymar and all.
On the other hand… they’ve got a history of messing up the knockout rounds, when Pep Guardiola often appears to over-think his tactics. They lost to both PSG and RB Leipzig in the group, where they conceded ten goals – more than any other group winners.
Key player João Cancelo. That Leipzig defeat came when the Portuguese full-back/assist king was absent. His creativity and relentless energy can drive City on.
Opponent form guide Sporting, who came second in a relatively weak group, shouldn’t cause City any problems. In Portugal, they recently slumped to a dismal home defeat to Braga and lag well behind Porto in the title race.
UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 – First Leg: Internazionale v Liverpool, Wednesday 16 February, 7pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
They’ll win the Champions League because… they’re absolutely relentless. Top scorers in the Premier League with more than 2.5 goals per game, six wins out of six in their Champions League group even when resting players after qualifying… and they’ve just added to their firepower by signing Colombian forward Luis Díaz.
On the other hand… they’ve got injury and form problems in midfield, where Fabinho is really the only consistently fit and firing performer. Will the prolific forward line and excellent defence be enough?
Key player Mo Salah. Diogo Jota may be contributing goals and Trent Alexander-Arnold assists, but the Egyptian wizard – back from the Africa Cup Of Nations – can conjure up some magic even on the occasions his team look a little flat.
Opponent form guide After going unbeaten in the league for three and a half months, Inter are in a strong position to defend their Serie A title. They’ll be very dangerous opponents, although Euro 2020 star Nicolò Barella is suspended for both legs.
UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 – First Leg: Chelsea v Lille, Tuesday 22 February, 7pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
They’ll win the Champions League because… well, they won it last year, so they’re definitely capable. They’ve got one of Europe’s top coaches in Thomas Tuchel, who evidently prepares meticulously for every challenge, and since last year’s triumph they’ve added £97m striker Romelu Lukaku to their ranks.
On the other hand… Lukaku hasn’t exactly hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge, with just one goal every three games. Chelsea have trouble holding on to leads, as Zenit St Petersburg showed in the group stage when they pegged them back twice to earn a 3-3 draw.
Key player N’Golo Kanté. The all-action midfielder has the technique, ability and energy to inspire everyone around him – which is why he’s a serial trophy winner with Leicester, Chelsea and France.
Opponent form guide Lille have done a poor job of defending their Ligue 1 title: they won just four of their first 15 games and are mired in mid-table. In a weak Champions League group, they scored just one goal in their three home games.
UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 – First Leg: Atlético Madrid v Manchester United, Wednesday 23 February, 7pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
They’ll win the Champions League because… they’re living a charmed life in Europe. Stirring comebacks and crucial late goals were a feature of their group games – they were behind at home to Villareal, and home and away to Atalanta – and, of course, they’ve got four-time Champions League winner and five-time Ballon d’Or recipient Cristiano Ronaldo, who was responsible for most of those magic moments.
On the other hand… did we mention how they kept going behind in the group games? United’s performances this season, under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and new coach Ralf Rangnick, have been unconvincing to say the least. And can they really rely on 37-year-old Ronaldo as the opponents get tougher and tougher?
Key player Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese midfielder’s leadership, inventiveness and eye for goal will surely be crucial if United are to advance.
Opponent form guide The Spanish champions are off the pace in La Liga, but still finished second in Group B ahead of AC Milan and Porto. Under wily coach Diego Simeone, with Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann in the side, they’re capable of beating anyone on their day.
UEFA Europa League Play-off – First Leg: Borussia Dortmund v Rangers, Thursday 17 February, 5.15pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
They’ll win the Europa League because… after a shaky start, they made assured progress through a tough group, especially in impressive home wins against Sparta Prague and Brøndby. They’ve also added experience and class with the loan signing of Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
On the other hand… the jury’s out on new manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who hasn’t had a head coach post since leaving Chinese Super League side Guangzhou more than a year ago. Rangers were thrashed in the recent Old Firm derby, and second place in the group means they’re forced to play off against a team dropping down from the Champions League.
Key player Alfredo Morelos. With apologies to James Tavernier, who has the most Premiership assists this season, the mercurial Colombian striker gives the Gers that extra spark.
Opponent form guide The bad news: Rangers could hardly have drawn tougher opponents. Dortmund had more points than any other third-placed team in the Champions League groups (more than two second-placed teams, in fact), and striker Erling Braut Haaland scores goals like they’re going out of fashion.
They’ll win the Europa League because… they can claim to be the best performers in the competition so far. Seeded third in the group, the Hammers finished top and lost just one game – and that was a narrow 1-0 defeat in the final match after they’d already qualified and had a load of teenagers playing.
On the other hand… is the squad capable of challenging for a European trophy as well as maintaining its impressive Premier League form? David Moyes was unable to secure the right players to strengthen in January; in particular they’re lacking back-up for centre-forward Michail Antonio.
Key player Declan Rice. Arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League this season, the England man brings power, superb passing, a calm head and box-to-box energy – he’s almost worth two players on his own.
Opponent form guide West Ham must wait for the play-off results to find out who they face in the round of 16. The draw is on Friday 25 February with the first leg on Thursday 10 March.
UEFA Europa Conference League Play-off – First Leg: Leicester City v Randers, Thursday 17 February, 7.30pm, BT Sport 3 HD (CH 529)
They’ll win the Europa Conference League because… player for player, they’re as good as anyone else in the draw. The new third-tier competition has some established names and some unfamiliar ones, but few have the quality of experienced internationals like Kasper Schmeichel, Thomas Castagne and Wilfred Ndidi.
On the other hand… the Foxes are underperforming this season, not helped by a defensive injury crisis and Covid problems. There have been many disappointing draws, not to mention losing at home to Spurs after being 2-1 up at 90 minutes.
Key player James Maddison. When the Coventry-born playmaker performs well, Leicester normally perform well. They lost at Man City on Boxing Day but Maddison bamboozled the league leaders for much of the second half as Leicester scored three.
Opponent form guide Randers somehow finished second in their Conference League group despite winning only one game, and they’re not serious challengers in the Danish Superliga. If Leicester find form, they should see them off.
UEFA Europa Conference League Play-off – First Leg: Celtic v Bodø/Glimt, Thursday 17 February, 7.45pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
They’ll win the Europa Conference League because… they’ve got a talented, unified squad who are fully on board with coach Ange Postecoglou’s tactics. Led by potent forward Kyogo Furuhashi, with 16 goals, they’ve already claimed one trophy this season and had some impressive results in a tough Europa League group.
On the other hand… a worrying injury list includes key midfielder David Turnbull, new signing Yosuke Ideguchi and Kyogo. The squad is deep enough to maintain a challenge in the Premiership – but do they have the players to progress against European opposition?
Key player Liel Abada. With Kyogo missing, the Israeli’s goalscoring ability will be all the more important.
Opponent form guide Arctic Circle-based Bodø/Glimt surprised the football world with their first ever Norwegian league title in 2020 and repeated the feat in 2021. They’re in their off-season, though, and haven’t played a competitive match in two months. So it’s hard to say, but one thing’s for certain: they’re pretty good at upsetting the odds…
Other UEFA ties live on BT Sport this week
UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 – First Leg: Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid
Tuesday 15 February, 7.30pm, BT Sport 3 HD (CH 529)
UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 – First Leg: RB Salzburg v Bayern Munich
Wednesday 16 February, 7.30pm, BT Sport 3 HD (CH 529)
UEFA Europa League Play-off – First Leg: Barcelona v Napoli
Thursday 17 February, 5.30pm, BT Sport ESPN HD (CH 530)
UEFA Europa League Play-off – First Leg: Porto v Lazio
Thursday 17 February, 7.45pm, BT Sport ESPN HD (CH 530)
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