Monaco turn to Falcao to knock City out
Monaco owe most of their recent success to their young guns, but when they face Manchester City looking to overturn a two-goal deficit in their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, they will turn to a more experienced player in Radamel Falcao.
The Colombia striker, who endured two dismal injury-plagued seasons in the Premier League, has been near his best since he returned this season from a season-long loan at Chelsea.
"This season, I've been playing consistently. The club has full confidence in me, the staff and my team mates make me feel important," said Falcao, who scored two but missed a potentially decisive penalty in Monaco's 5-3 defeat in the first leg in Manchester.
"With confidence, the rest comes naturally. I don't think players forget how to play football. I just needed playing time and continuity. You don't forget how to score goals," Falcao added.
Monaco, who geared up for the game with a 2-1 victory over Girondins de Bordeaux on Saturday, will need to show more focus if they are to go through.
"We're at a crucial stage in the season. In the Champions League, one mistake in a game can be fatal," said Falcao, who has scored16 goals in Ligue 1 this season and six in the Champions League.
"We need to raise our level of concentration to make up for our lack of experience in this competition."
Falcao, who has recovered from a hip injury, is expected to start in a 4-4-2 formation alongside prodigy Kylian Mbappe with Bernardo Silva, another young gem in the squad, expected to provide them with scoring opportunities.
Monaco's only concern is the absence of centre back Kamil Glick, who will be replaced by Jemerson.
City, who warmed up with a 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, have vowed to take the same offensive approach at Louis II.
"We're not going to change,” said full back Pablo Zabaleta.
"This is the way we've been playing until now and I think it would be a big mistake if we went to Monaco to defend.
However, defensive improvement is needed.
"We have to attack in the same way that we did here at the Etihad and if we do we’ll create chances and score goals," goalkeeper Willy Caballero said.
“But the most important thing is to defend better than we did in the first leg.”
Atletico's Griezmann focused and firing for Leverkusen test
Atletico Madrid will rely on leading striker Antoine Griezmann as they bid to finish off Bayer Leverkusen and reach the quarter-finals for the fourth season in a row.
Having romped to a 4-2 victory in Germany in the first leg, Atletico have a clear advantage and with their talisman back in form have high hopes of progressing.
Frenchman Griezmann has six goals in his last seven games, with his 84th minute strike helping the Rojiblancos to a 1-0 win at Granada on Saturday.
Spain media reported that the player has decided to stay with Atletico next season despite strong interest from the Premier League, helping the club's transition from the Vicente Calderon to their new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano.
"I am always asked the same question and I am pretty sick of it, but like I always say, I am very happy here," the 25-year-old striker told TVE.
With Griezmann focused and firing after a spell between November and December in which he only found the net once in eight games, Atletico look a formidable prospect again. However, they will be without Gabi and Filipe Luis, who are suspended, as well as injured duo Tiago Mendes and Augusto Fernandez. Forward Fernando Torres has returned to training following the head injury he suffered against Deportivo on March 2.
This could be a decisive week in Atletico’s season as they bid to join Real Madrid and Barcelona in the next round of the Champions League before hosting third-placed Sevilla in La Liga on Sunday.
New Leverkusen coach Tayfun Korkut, appointed in place of Roger Schmidt last week, insists his team will not lose the second leg.
"We have seen in the last few days what can happen in football," he told Marca.
"We will not be beaten in Madrid, we will go and fight in the tie until the end. We know what result we need to reach the quarters."
Defender Omer Toprak misses the game after suffering an ankle problem in Friday's 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen, adding to the absences of the suspended Benjamin Henrichs and the injured Jonathan Tah.
The Germans hope to have goalkeeper Bernd Leno back after heunderwent nose surgery at the weekend.