Manchester City and Atletico Madrid take center stage Wednesday as the first leg of round of 16 play concludes in the Champions League. All games are aired across the FOX family of networks and streamed live and on-demand on FOXSportsGO and FOXSoccer2GO from 2 p.m. ET.
For Anglophiles, the marquee game will in the East, where Manchester City will look to exploit a Dynamo Kiev side (FS1) that is coming off a lengthy winter break and in fact has yet to play a proper league game in 2016.
Kiev, who have been idle since December 6th, don't boast many marquee names, but were good enough to finish second behind Chelsea in a tight group G. Denys Harmash and Andriy Yarmolenko are the best-known players on what is largely a Eastern European squad, but they do have Portuguese defender Miguel Veloso and Brazilian strike Junior Moraes in their ranks. Yarmolenko is now an old hand; he in fact played and scored the vital goal the last time these two teams met, in the 2010-11 Europa League round of 16.
City, coming off a 5-1 thumping at the hands of Chelsea in the FA Cup might look like a beaten side, but beware: the City team Manuel Pellegrini fielded Sunday was in fact largely a youth squad, leavened with B-team players. Pellegrini has made no bones about focusing on Europe this season, and with the title looking like it has slipped out of their reach, this appears to be a game in which City can lay down a marker.
On paper, at least, this should be City's game to lose. Yaya Toure has shown only in flashes this season, but when he is in form, he can still dominate games. Sergio Aguero remains one of the deadliest finishers in the sport, and David Silva remains one of the best playmakers in England. City are contending with a number of key injuries, however, notably to Kevin de Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas. But Eliaquim Mangala has been declared fit in a boost to City's hopes: the Sky Blues have been porous in the back this season with Vincent Kompany also sidelined for lengthy spells.
The other match of the day sees an intriguing matchup between surprise packages PSV Eindhoven and an Atletico side that seems to be suffering a little altitude sickness (FS2).
This is the Dutch side's first appearance in the knockout rounds in eight seasons, and Atleti are a stern test. But PSV have lost just one game since October and memorably helped consign Manchester United to the Europa League. PSV have also been atop the Eredivisie virtually all season long and with a single point lead over Ajax, do face a tough run in to retain their title.
But PSV have been very difficult to beat at home, in part due to the yeoman play of Jeffrey Bruma. The former Chelsea man has been outstanding in the back and as a result, Philip Cocu's team has been very hard to beat at the Philips Stadion. Cocu also gets a boost with the return of fulcrum Andres Guardado from injury; the Mexican international has shone brightly at PSV, but the Dutch side will have to cope without the suspended Luuk de Jong.
Atletico have a slim history with PSV that will give the Dutch side pause: they shellacked them 5-1 over two group stage games back in 2008. Antoine Griezmann, Koke and a rejuvenated Fernando Torres roar into this game on a hot streak, but with the title seemingly out of reach for them as well, Diego Simeone is casting his eye to Europe and hopefully a deep run. They come in after a weekend that saw them drop points again, suggesting they have cooled a bit -- or simply been blown away by a far better Barcelona side.
Still, the Spaniards are the clear favorites in this one, as they concede very few goals and manage to score critical ones when they need them. They are not prolific, just timely. One other thing in Atletico's favor is PSV's record against Spanish sides. It's awful, with just one win in 16 attempts.