Champions League: What you need to know for this week

Gianluigi-Buffon

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. (Massimo Pinca/AP)

The UEFA Champions League resumes this week with the first leg of the Round of 16.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of this week’s games…

THE BIG MATCH

Sevilla vs. Leicester City: Talk about a tale of two teams. Wednesday’s tilt in Spain pits two sides going in completely opposite directions. Since winning its group in the first round of the Champions League, Leicester City has fallen on hard times—it’s been dragged into a relegation battle in the Premier League, and was eliminated by League One’s Millwall in the fifth round of the FA Cup this past weekend.

Sevilla, on the other hand, is flourishing under first-year coach Jorge Sampaoli. The Spanish outfit currently sits third in the La Liga table, they are keeping pace with front runners Real Madrid and Barcelona, and they are being touted as a strong dark horse to win the Champions League.

Former Manchester City striker Stevan Jovetic is a player to watch for Sevilla, as he has scored three goals and set up two others since joining the club on loan last month from Inter Milan.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Kai Havertz, Bayer Leverkusen: A member of the youth team at the start of the Bundesliga season, this 17-year old midfield prodigy has created a fair amount of buzz in recent weeks, tallying three assists in his last two matches. He was a key figure in Bayer’s 3-1 win against Augsburg last Friday, and manager Roger Schmidt could unleash him on Tuesday when the Germans host Atletico Madrid.

ONE-ON-ONE BATTLE

Gianluigi Buffon vs. Iker Casillas: Two of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time will face each other when FC Porto hosts Juventus on Wednesday.

Buffon and Casillas have squared off eight times at club level, with three wins apiece. However, the Italian has prevailed over his Spanish counterpart in all three knockout ties. All of their previous club meetings came when the Spaniard played for Real Madrid, so Wednesday’s affair will be the first Porto-Juve matchup between Casillas and Buffon.

“Ours is a healthy, positive rivalry: we really appreciate each other and playing against him is always a pleasure,” Casillas told UEFA.com. “He is a player who is known and admired all over the world and he is part of the history of this game.”

Sportsnet's Soccer Central podcast (featuring James Sharman, Thomas Dobby, Brendan Dunlop, and John Molinaro) takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport's biggest issues.

PERSON OF INTEREST: KYLIAN MBAPPE

As Manchester City prepares to host AS Monaco on Tuesday, the Blues will no doubt be drawing up plans in the hopes of containing a teenage sensation: French striker Kylian Mbappé.

The 18-year-old, who has been compared to Thierry Henry, has seven goals and five assists in 18 Ligue 1 appearances this season.

To read more, CLICK HERE

THE BIG QUESTION

There’s been a lot of speculation in recent weeks about Claudio Ranieri’s job security at Leicester City.

The Foxes are sitting one spot and one point above the drop zone in the Premier League table, and recently crashed out of the FA Cup, losing to Millwall in the fifth round.

With Leicester mired in a relegation battle, suggestions have been made that Ranieri should not go all out in the Champions League—the belief being that they’re never going to win it, so they should concentrate on avoiding the drop.

All of which leads us to ask….

INTERESTING STAT

Champions League on Twitter

HE SAID IT

“I am really impressed by how good they are. The fullbacks play like wingers—they are killers in the box.” – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola assesses AS Monaco.

DID YOU KNOW?

Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas is the UEFA Champions League all-time appearance leader (162).

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