The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League round of 16 continues with the first four second legs this week. UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents from across Europe will bring you all the build-up as we count down to kick-off on Tuesday.
All times CET.
Monday 20.45, Carlos Machado at Benfica's stadium
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus is confident that his team can put their recent poor run behind them and get the win they need. He said: "We know that we're playing a good side, a strong one, with five players in the Russia team that beat Denmark last week. Apart from their individuals they are tactically strong too but in our stadium, with our fans behind us, I think we can win.
"I predict both teams will score, but I believe we will score more and qualify," added Jesus, who also remarked that Jardel was a likely deputy for the injured Ezequiel Garay in defence, while Rodrigo or Javier Saviola could deputise for the suspended Pablo Aimar.
Monday 19.55, Carlos Machado at Benfica's stadium
Danny was speaking alongside Luciano Spalletti, the Zenit coach who described the game against Benfica as "the most important in Zenit's history". Given the high stakes, he does not want his team to think about sitting on their 3-2 lead from the first leg. "I want my players to perform at their best during the whole 95 minutes of the match. We cannot think about playing for a draw in a match like this. There are no favourites and we cannot think about the single-goal advantage that we have. Our aim is to play our game and win."
Like Danny, Spalletti is not going to be lulled into a misplaced sense of confidence by Benfica's domestic problems either. He watched their defeat by Porto and said: "It was a very tough match between two great sides and because of a small detail [the sending-off of Emerson at 2-2] Benfica lost."
Monday 19.35, Carlos Machado at Benfica's stadium
Zenit's injured Portuguese international Danny is backing the Russian club to finish the job against Benfica, though he warns they can expect an awkward night in Lisbon despite their hosts having failed to win any of their last three domestic league games – including last Friday's 3-2 home reverse against FC Porto.
"I am confident in my team," Danny said. "The players are motivated because they know that they can make history for the club. Benfica haven't won their last few matches but they are very good. Against Porto I was there in the stadium and Benfica played well. Of their past four matches this was their best performance, so we have to be aware of that."
Monday 18.55, UEFA.com newsdesk
A brief rundown of what is still to come this evening – Luciano Spalletti's press conference is over and we will have news of that very shortly. Benfica's Jorge Jesus is now addressing the media, with Milan's Massimiliano Allegri finishing off the day at Arsenal Stadium at around 19.30CET.
Monday 18.15, Tom Kell in London
Things could have been very different between Arsenal and Milan had Zlatan Ibrahimović's career taken a different path. Arsène Wenger attempted to lure the Swedish international striker to north London prior to his move to AFC Ajax but, despite handing him an Arsenal shirt with his name emblazoned on the back, failed to wrap up what would have been another bargain signing to add to an impressive list.
"I waited for him to convince me that I should join Arsenal but he didn't even try," Ibrahimović told yesterday’s Sun on Sunday. "He never actually made me a serious offer. It was more 'I want to see how good you are, what kind of player you are. Have a trial'. I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'No way, Zlatan doesn't do auditions'. You see, even back then I had great faith in myself, even though I was still young. So I said 'No' and, in the end, I signed for Ajax instead. It was the perfect choice."
Monday 17.45, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
Former Milan striker Joe Jordan believes the Rossoneri have enough experience to avoid an Arsenal comeback on Tuesday evening. "It will be very difficult for Arsenal," said the Tottenham Hotspurs FC assistant coach. "Arsenal reacted well in the league after that first-leg defeat but you need to be realistic.
"I don't see how they can qualify against Milan now, the Rossoneri are too strong and experienced to waste such a big advantage. I think Milan are stronger than last season [when they lost against Spurs at this stage of the competition]. Winning the Scudetto after a few years was a boost for their confidence. I also believe the defeat against us was a good lesson for them."
Monday 17.20, UEFA.com newsdesk
Next up to address the media, in around ten minutes, will be Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti. Arsenal's is the only press conference out of the way so far, with left-back Kieran Gibbs keen to echo the defiant sentiments of his manager. "If they can beat us 4-0, then why can't we do the same?" he said. "In our last home game we scored five goals. We have to really put in a faultless performance and get a good balance in attacking and defending."
Monday 17.00, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL forward Esteban Solari has called for unity among the players as they prepare to make their dream a reality in Nicosia on Wednesday. "We are totally focused on the game against Lyon," he said. "This game is certainly one of the biggest in APOEL's history and we preparing with all of our strength. We believe in our own capabilities but we need to put in more than 100% in this game. We will need to put our big hearts into getting the victory and, why not, qualification into the next round. If we stick together, this dream may come true."
Monday 16.35, Christian Châtelet, UEFA.com French office
Although they are well placed to reach their second quarter-final in three seasons, Lyon's domestic travails continued this weekend with a 2-0 loss to AS Nancy-Lorraine – their tenth Ligue 1 defeat this term. "Lyon have not lost ten times in a Ligue 1 season since 1999/00," says newspaper Le Progrès. "They finished third that year but it would be a surprise if they remained perfect from now until the end of the season." After their trip to Cyprus, Les Gones face third-placed LOSC Lille Métropole on Saturday.
Monday 16.15, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
Massimiliano Allegri will not address the press in London until around 19.30 this evening but the Milan coach has already given plenty of information on his likely selection for the game. "[Urby] Emanuelson is quite OK and will start," said Allegri. "The good news is the return of [Alberto] Aquilani but he should start from the bench."
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Stephen El Shaarawy will start in attack alongside Zlatan Ibrahimović with Robinho behind the two forwards. Allegri has been full of praise for Sweden striker Ibrahimović after his hat-trick at the weekend. "He is up there with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Nobody else can compete with him."
Monday 15.50, Paul Bryan, UEFA.com Spanish newsdesk
Lionel Messi was back at work this morning having been granted a few days rest by Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola. Messi was suspended for Saturday's 3-1 Liga win at home to Real Sporting de Gijón but he is available and eager to face Leverkusen on Wednesday night. The holders have a 3-1 advantage over their German counterparts going into the return at the Camp Nou but Adriano has urged caution. "We are facing a great side who beat Bayern München at the weekend," he said. "We must be completely focused on the task."
Monday 15.25, Denis Novitsky, UEFA.com Russian newsdesk
Zenit flew to Lisbon on Sunday night with 20 players in their delegation. Strikers Danko Lazović, who has reportedly broken his left hand and could play in a protective cast, and Aleksandr Bukharov, out since January with a thigh injury, both made the trip.
Monday 15.10, John Leonidou in Nicosia
"The big day is almost here", comments APOEL midfielder Gustavo Manduca ahead of the Nicosia club's much-anticipated clash against Lyon. The Brazilian scored twice in the group stage, with his late winner against FC Porto on matchday four regarded as one of the most important goals in the club's history. "Everybody's been waiting for this," he said. "This will be a important day for every supporter of the club and every player here. We have a big opportunity to take an even bigger step and everybody here is very motivated. We want to stay in this fantastic competition.
"We know it won't be easy because Lyon is a big side that's very compact, very strong and very fast. We know the risks connected to this game but we have to score if we want to win. We want to continue to make history in Europe and once again show how far our team and Cypriot football has come. We have our passionate supporters by our side and we will need them more than ever. We know in our hearts that we have what it takes to qualify and we hope and pray to God that we will be the ones celebrating with our fans on Wednesday."
Monday 14.50, Jamie Reid at Arsenal's training ground
The Arsenal press conference is now over and, despite the odds being heavily stacked against his side, manager Arsène Wenger was in an upbeat mood. "I don't live in a dream world, I know it is not an easy situation. But when you are a top-level competitor, even if statistically we have maybe a 5% chance, what is important is that we believe. Let's make sure we do not miss our chance because we do not believe – that is what is at stake tomorrow."
Wenger even had time for a joke or two with the assembled press pack after being asked whether he will start his star striker tomorrow night. "I would not be very credible to tell you that we want to score five goals and that I will leave Robin van Persie out," he said. A response met with rapturous laughter.
Monday 14.40, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
Massimiliano Allegri has named his squad for the game at Arsenal. The Milan coach is facing an emergency in midfield with Kevin-Prince Boateng and Clarence Seedorf failing to recover from the injuries picked up in the first leg, while Massimo Ambrosini is suspended. However, Alberto Aquilani returns to the squad for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on 13 January. Urby Emanuelson is also included despite the ankle knock he sustained during the 4-0 win at US Città di Palermo on Saturday. Forwards Maxi López and Pato have also failed to recover from their injuries, as has Alessandro Nesta.
Monday 14.20, Jamie Reid at Arsenal's training ground
Arsène Wenger has provided a full injury update during his press conference, with Yossi Benayoun, Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta all certain to miss out. Tomáš Rosický is also a doubt but Kieran Gibbs is expected to be available. We will have more from Wenger shortly.
Monday 14.00, Pedro Gonçalves in Lisbon
Axel Witsel told Portuguese newspaper O Jogo that the onus will be on Benfica to break down a resilient Zenit defence if they are to overturn a 3-2 first-leg deficit on Tuesday evening. "Zenit will park the bus in front of their goal at the Estádio da Luz," said the Belgium midfielder. "They won't come here to attack. Their strategy will be to defend and try to hit us on the counterattack."
Monday 13.35, Steffen Potter, UEFA.com German newsdesk
Having beaten FC Bayern München for the first time in over seven years this weekend, Leverkusen are full of confidence ahead of the trip to Barcelona. "You could see how much power lies within this team," said coach Robin Dutt after the 2-0 victory on Saturday.
Dutt will be without Vedran Ćorluka on Wednesday because of torn muscle fibres in his thigh which have sidelined him for around two weeks. "We are realistic enough to know that it will be very difficult to go through, but we want to give our best," said Germany attacker André Schürrle, who is currently wearing a special carbon-mask after injuring his nasal bone in the recent friendly against France. Striker Stefan Kiessling added: "I am looking forward to this match. Realistically our chance is very small, but we want to frustrate Barça."
Josep Guardiola must have caught wind of Leverkusen's intent and is quoted in Germany as saying: "A lot of work still needs to be done. Leverkusen are a team with towering players who can make life hard for you with a corner or a free-kick. But the 3-1 against Sporting [Gijón] has given us a boost in our quest to reach the quarter-finals for the fifth time in a row."
Monday 13.10, Jamie Reid at Arsenal's training ground
Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby are both absent from a training session which has been delayed by 30 minutes here in north London. The forthcoming press conference has subsequently been put back until at least 14.00, with Kieran Gibbs set to join manager Arsène Wenger in front of the media.
Monday 12.50, Denis Novitsky, UEFA.com Russian newsdesk
Premier-Liga leaders Zenit resumed their campaign with a 2-2 draw at second-placed PFC CSKA Moskva on Saturday and newspaper Sovetski Sport suggests that Luciano Spalletti's side already had one eye on their trip to Lisbon. "An important, even extraordinary thing happened – Zenit lost the midfield," reads Monday's edition. "We don't know what Luciano Spalletti's plan was, but we do know that the coach was not happy that the match was not moved to Friday.
"He was afraid his players would not recover for the game at Benfica. Zenit were probably thinking about the match on Tuesday, trying to beat CSKA without 100% effort. As a result we didn't see the team's movement, pressing and attacking aggression – all of Zenit's strong qualities."
Monday 12.30, UEFA.com newsdesk
If Arsenal are to come back from the dead tomorrow evening, they will no doubt need another star turn from prolific striker Robin van Persie, who is now third in the ESM Golden Shoe standings after two goals against Liverpool FC at the weekend.
Unfortunately for the north London hosts, the Rossoneri have their own in-form striker to call upon. Zlatan Ibrahimović, sixth in the standings, returned from suspension to register a hat-trick in the 4-0 defeat of US Città di Palermo and now has 21 goals in his last 21 club appearances.
Monday 12.10, Christian Châtelet, UEFA.com French newsdesk
The choice between a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 formation is the big question for Rémi Garde as his Lyon side go to Nicosia looking to defend a 1-0 first-leg lead against APOEL. The 4-4-2 has not been a success in the last two league outings and although Lisandro leading the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation paid dividends last time out, the 46-year-old coach remains undecided. "We still have time to think about that," he said.
Monday 12.00, Tom Kell in London
Though much of the focus in England is on André Villas-Boas's dismissal by Chelsea FC, The Times does draw attention to a slice of good news for Arsenal ahead of their "UEFA Champions League salvage operation" against Milan. Jack Wilshere, yet to play this season because of an ankle injury, is ready to return to light training and there is still hope he could feature this term.
For now, however, the Gunners look to overturn that 4-0 deficit without the England midfielder. "We want to make the impossible possible," said Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger. "At first glance it looks impossible but you have to play like you have a real go and play with belief and think you can do it. You never know in the game – we have nothing to lose."
Monday 11.45, Pedro Gonçalves in Lisbon
Benfica forward Rodrigo is in line to replace the suspended Pablo Aimar as the Eagles look to boost their goal threat from midfield. "Rodrigo only thinks about goals," said Portuguese newspaper Record. "Benfica's midfield has not been scoring goals. A midfielder has not scored since the Gil Vicente match, seven games ago, and it was Pablo Aimar who was on target that day."
Monday 11.30, UEFA.com newsdesk
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