LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 14: Alexis Sanchez (C) of Barcelona celebrates with his team mates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen first leg match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Barcelona at BayArena on February 14, 2012 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)

UEFA Champions League, Round Of 16: Barcelona, Lyon Win

Barcelona easily dispatched Bayer Leverkusen 3-1, while Lyon recorded a 1-0 win over APOEL.

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AC Milan Vs. Arsenal, 2012 Champions League Round Of 16: Gunners Look To Emulate Tottenham

Arsenal travel to take on AC Milan at the San Siro. Do they have what it takes to get a good result against the Italian champions?


UEFA Champions League 2012, Olympique Lyonnais Vs. APOEL Nicosia: Final Score, Narrow Win For Les Gones

Olympique Lyonnais are headed to Cyprus with a victory, and perhaps more importantly, they have denied APOEL Nicosia an away goal. However, they won't be entirely comfortable with their one goal winning margin, and the second leg in Nicosia should be a closely contested match. Les Gones should have scored more, but will be mostly satisfied with their 1-0 victory.

The first half was mostly uneventful, though Lyon was the better side. They created a number of shooting opportunities, but their finishing was very poor. The two teams went into the half tied 0-0, with Lyon having 13 shots to APOEL's zero and 66 percent of the possession.

Lyon jumped right out on the attack and almost found a goal in the opening two minutes. Ederson picked up a through ball by Michel Bastos in the 47th minute, on which Dionisis Chiotis came off his line too early. Ederson appeared to have a simple finish on an open net, but Paulo Jorge rushed back and made a brilliant clearance on his shot.

APOEL couldn't hold on long, though. Alexandre Lacazette found the eventual winner in the 58th minute with a brilliant finish, which will be a terrific confidence boost to the youngster after he had a poor first half. Captain and central defender Cris started the move with a great run forward into the box before he laid off the ball to Lacazette. He cut inside from the left onto his right foot and chipped the ball over Chiotis, giving his team a 1-0 lead.

Gustavo Manduca had the best opportunity to get a goal back for the visitors in the 88th minute, but he had a hard left-footed shot from 12 yards out saved by Hugo Lloris. That was not only their only shot on target, but their only shot period. They will almost certainly be a bit more ambitious in the second leg.

For more on Les Gones, check out The Offside Lyon.


Bayer Leverkusen Vs. Barcelona, 2012 UEFA Champions League: Final Score, Blaugranas Win Easily

Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen played a mostly uneventful first half that resulted in the Blaugranas taking a lead at the very end of the period, but the second half was considerably more exciting. Bayer put a serious scare into Barcelona and made things interesting for a bit, but they'll be headed to Camp Nou with what is more or less an impossible task. They drew level on one occasion, but Barcelona found a winner to head home up 3-1.

Alexis Sanchez scored the first two goals, and both needed brilliant assists. The first came in the first half, with Lionel Messi hitting a spectacular ball over the top of the defense to set him up for a finish between Bernd Leno's legs. The second goal, the eventual winner, was assisted by Cesc Fabregas with an absolutely wonderful through ball.

With Barcelona leading 1-0 as they came out of the locker room for the second half, the game felt like it was all but over before Bayer grabbed a stunning equalizer. Following a set piece, Vedran Corluka got to the byline and swung a great cross towards the back post. Michal Kadlec rose up above the defense and powered a great header into the back of the net, changing the game significantly.

The 1-1 scoreline didn't last long, however. The second Sanchez goal came just three minutes later, with the Bayer defense caught napping before Sanchez picked up the ball, rounded the keeper and placed it into the back of the net with ease.

Bayer would not find another goal, but they fought back valiantly. Just a minute after Barcelona took back the lead, Renato Augusto got into the box with a great run and forced a save out of Victor Valdes. In the 64th minute, Gonzalo Castro created a similar opportunity on the opposite flank and beat Valdes with a great left-footed shot, but hit the post.

Lionel Messi would eventually go on to score Barcelona's third goal, but his best bit of skill actually came on a narrow miss. In the 72nd minute, he made the Bayer defenders look silly as he easily beat three of them with an incredible dribbling move before hitting a chipped shot over Leno. He missed scoring a stunning goal by the narrowest of margins, hitting the post.

Knowing that they probably needed two goals to give themselves a chance at the Camp Nou, Robin Dutt brought off defensive midfielder Simon Rolfes for striker Stefan Kiessling. The German international forward almost rewarded his manager's faith in him with a goal just two minutes later, as he connected with a diving header, but Valdes was able to save comfortably.

Barcelona didn't exactly need a third goal to feel comfortable going home, but they were able to find it, and the tie is now all but over. In the 88th minute, Daniel Alves got into the box and had a shooting opportunity, but instead played a cross to the back post. Messi was there for the tap-in finish, securing the 3-1 victory for his team.

For more on the Blaugranas, check out FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.


Bayer Leverkusen Vs. Barcelona, 2012 UEFA Champions League: Messi Goal Wraps Things Up

...and that's that. Bayer Leverkusen have put in a brave display this half, but Barcelona have now scored three and this match is over. So too is the tie, in all probability.

Dani Alves isn't picked up by the Leverkusen defence, and he's allowed to race clear down the left side. It looks like the right back is going to shoot at Bernd Leno's goal, and the keeper comes out to cut down his angles, but instead Alves waits for a lung-busting run from Lionel Messi and delivers a gorgeous cross to the Argentinian. Messi can't help but put the ball into an empty net to make it 3-1, and that will probably wrap this entire tie up.

Bayer Leverkusen respond with two substitutions, bringing off Andre Schurrle and Vedran Corluka for Karim Bellarabi and Danny da Costa respectively. It's not going to matter much, but might as well get the youngsters some time, eh?


Bayer Leverkusen Vs. Barcelona, 2012 UEFA Champions League: Teams Trade Goals, 2-1 At The BayArena

See? It's so much better when you try! Bayer Leverkusen, who had previously looked like a team completely disinterested in playing football, started the second half on the attack and have something to show for their efforts - a an equalising goal against Barcelona!

The visitors' defence is at sixes and sevens and Leverkusen are unlucky not to get a penalty when Lars Bender goes down in the box, but they hold onto possession and work the ball out to Vedran Corluka on the right wing. The fullback's subsequent cross is lovely, and it's met by Michal Kadlec's head. The left back nods the ball across Victor Valdes and straight into the back of the net to make it 1-1.

Granted, that scoreline doesn't last for long as Alexis Sanchez once again races clear of the defence, rounds Bernd Leno and scores his second goal of the match to make it 2-1 three minutes later, but this is at least resembling a fun game now, with Leverkusen nearly managing to equalise again shortly thereafter.


UEFA Champions League 2012, Olympique Lyonnais Vs. APOEL Nicosia: Halftime Score, Neither Team Can Shoot

Olympique Lyonnais are doing plenty of possessing the ball and plenty of shooting at the APOEL Nicosia net, but their finishing has been very poor thus far. There's little excuse for them to not be up a goal at halftime of their UEFA Champions League match at the Stade de Gerland, but they will be happy with their performance outside of their shooting. It's 0-0 at halftime, but Les Gones have been the far superior side.

The worst offender so far has been youngster Alexandre Lacazette. He starred at the Under-20 World Cup in the summer where he scored off his scoring touch and he's scored seven times for Lyon's senior team, but he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in the first half. He had two poor misses and put another good opportunity right into the hands of Dionisis Chiotis.

Lyon's best opportunities came in the 25th minute during a crazy sequence. Lisandro Lopez started the move with a dribble into the box where he was shoved, but no penalty was given. The ball fell to right back Anthony Réveillere, who had a shot saved by Chiotis. The ball deflected out to Michel Bastos who unloaded on a rocket, but his shot deflected off the head of defender Paulo Jorge and went out for a corner, on which Lyon did nothing.

APOEL don't actually have a single attempted shot, but they will be okay with that if Lyon never find their shooting legs. A 0-0 draw will suit the Cypriots just fine.

For more on Les Gones, check out The Offside Lyon.


Bayer Leverkusen Vs. Barcelona, 2012 UEFA Champions League: Halftime Score, Blaugranas Lead 1-0

Barcelona lead Bayer Leverkusen at halftime at home, leaving the color commentator on the international English-language feed of the game to ask whether or not Bayer should even bother to go to the Camp Nou. Now that the Blaugranas have an away goal? No, not really, but the hosts will probably play out these final 45 minutes today, then travel as well. Their UEFA Champions League life is just about gone, as Barcelona leads 1-0 at halftime.

Bayer unsurprisingly started the game in a very defensive fashion, but it was a bit startling that they didn't look the least bit interested in attacking. Their midfield was more or less a line five yards in front of the defense, and lone striker Andre Schürrle played most of the first half inside of his own half of the pitch.

Barcelona struggled to create chances for most of the half because of this setup. Their best chance before the goal came in the 13th minute, when Lionel Messi played a great give-and-go with Daniel Alves. It appeared that Messi was going to be set up for a tap-in, but Daniel Schwaab made a great last second clearance.

The goal finally came in the 41st minute, with Messi providing a fantastic assist for Alexis Sanchez. With the Bayer defense somehow too far up the pitch, Messi hit a fantastic pass over the top of them for Sanchez to run onto. He burned the back four and got onto the ball, then slipped it between the legs of Bernd Leno and into the back of the net.

For more on the Blaugranas, check out FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.


Bayer Leverkusen Vs. Barcelona, 2012 UEFA Champions League: Alexis Sanchez Gives Barca Lead

There we go. Barcelona have scored, and while the visiting team might not deserve a lead Bayer Leverkusen definitely do deserve to be behind for an absolutely awful display. It's a first UEFA Champions League goal for former Udinese man Alexis Sanchez, who's set free by an absolutely superb pass by Lionel Messi, who looped a ball over the top for Sanchez to sprint onto.

The Chilean, accompanied by Cesc Fabregas in a two-on-zero, sauntered into the box and while it looked like a sprinting Michal Kadlec might be able to get a last-ditch challenge in, Sanchez was having none of that. His finish was superb, going straight through a helpless Bernd Leno's legs and into a postage stamp at the far corner. So that's 1-0 Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen have failed to make it to halftime with the match scoreless. If the hosts keep playing like this, the tie is over.


Olympique Lyonnais Vs. APOEL Nicosia, 2012 Champions League: Match Impossible To Predict - Lyon Offside

If there's one team left in the Champions League with the capacity to surprise, it'd have to be APOEL Nicosia. The Cypriots weren't expected to do much of anything in a group that featured FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit St. Petersburg, but they ended up winning the thing (albeit unconvincingly). Now they get to face Lyon, who were even more unconvincing until the second half of their final group stage game against Dinamo Zagreb, which they won in rather emphatic fashion to finish second on goal difference.

All of that leaves Lyon fans, such as Lyon Offside's Inara, in a rather tricky place. They know they probably should beat their opponents, but with APOEL's ability to kill giants and Lyon's ability to kill themselves (see the home loss at Caen last weekend) this match could all go horribly wrong for the Ligue 1 side.

[It’s] really hard to predict just what’s going to happen tomorrow. APOEL could do a lot of damage. Caen wasn’t even trying to win last weekend, and somehow they did on Lyon’s home soil. Naturally, APOEL will want more. It also doesn’t help that Lyon periodically lose concentration midway through the game, as if the players forget for a moment they’re playing football.

If their attention wanders for even a second, APOEL will be waiting to punish them. That being said, if Lyon play with the same fire and spirit as they did against Zagreb (in the second half. I think they were sleeping in the first), it’s possible they may even qualify for the quarter-finals tomorrow. It’s a long shot, but you never really know with Lyon.

If Lyon show up to play, all should be well, at least until the second leg in Nicosia. APOEL have done well to get this far, but they've also been forced to ride their luck, and there's not much reason to think that'll continue. Perhaps Lyon can get their season properly back on track here.


Bayer Leverkusen Vs. Barcelona, 2012 Champions League: Nervy Times For Pep & Co. - Barca Blaugranes

When you think Barcelona in Europe recently, you think of an all-conquering force. Since their Champions League win in the 2008/09 season, every team that's met up with Pep Guardiola has been the underdogs. On the one occasion that they've lost since then, it was a huge shock. Barcelona are the team, and have been for the past few years.

Fear, then, is not something you'd normally associate with Barca fans. However, this season hasn't been going very well, and doubts are creeping into the mind of Arron Duckling, of Barca Blaugranes. Arron cites the away form of the defending champions as a reason he's a little bit nervous going into the game:

Bayer Leverkusen are on a run of three straight home wins in the prestigious competition, but they only have one win from their last six league matches. On the other hand, Barcelona have managed an average of four goals per game away from home in the UCL, but are on a run of three away games without a win. The formbook is hinting at a close match, and I have to admit, I am pretty nervous ahead of [the match].

The BayArena may be a small ground, but 30,000 Leverkusen fans will create a hostile atmosphere in the hope it knocks the Blaugrana off their game. Barcelona will be looking to escape with as favourable a result as possible, or at least an away goal to their name. Both sides have an injury problem; the two teams are actually incredibly evenly matched, unless Pep Guardiola’s side decides to turn up tomorrow.

Personally, I think Arron's a little bit more worried than is really rational - Barca are a much better team than Leverkusen and should manage to beat them fairly handily with a full-strength squad. However, there's something to the idea that the swagger's no longer really present in Pep Guardiola's side. Perhaps they can re-establish it with a strong run in Europe this year.


Olympique Lyonnais Vs. APOEL Nicosia, 2012 Champions League Round Of 16: Missing Defenders Galore

Olympique Lyonnais face APOEL Nicosia on Tuesday in what is possibly the most unpredictable UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

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