For years now, Barcelona have relied on one superstar above all others, with Lionel Messi the player that has glued the team together at Camp Nou - the Argentinian's very presence bringing a sense of calm.

But now there is another South American whose impact upon the team has been quietly telling, and the anticipated return to action of Ronald Araujo this weekend could have a major impact at a crucial stage of the season.

Araujo does not have a cachet anywhere near that of Messi, but his absence was sorely felt as Barcelona stumbled to painful defeats against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.

Thankfully for coach Ronald Koeman, central defender Araujo is fit again after the ankle injury he sustained early in the 3-2 win at Real Betis three weeks ago.

The 21-year-old Uruguayan has missed the past five games, and his value to the team has perhaps never been quite so glaring as during his absence.

He was also sidelined for a five-week stretch in the autumn, and the evidence is mounting to show that Araujo, when fit, is now key to Barcelona's success.

"Ronald has had a very good season," Koeman said on Friday, when he named Araujo in his squad for the LaLiga home game against Sevilla.

"He is young and has learned a lot, he has shown his quality and physique. It is important to have strong and fast people. He must improve his game with the ball but defensively he contributes many things."

Koeman must know the data that shows exactly what a difference Araujo can make for Barcelona.

In the 20 matches that Araujo has played this season, Barcelona have won 14 times, drawn four and lost just twice, but when he has been absent that win ratio has nosedived.

Without Araujo's involvement, Barcelona have won nine, drawn two and lost six of their 17 games - amounting to a win percentage of 52.9, down from 70.

There is a curious contrast to be drawn here with Gerard Pique, the longest-serving centre-back at Barcelona.

A knee injury kept the 34-year-old out for almost three months until he returned to action in the shocking 4-1 home defeat against PSG on February 16.

In the 13 games Pique has played this season, Barcelona have a modest record of W6, D3, L4. Without him, they have won 17, drawn three and lost four.

As Koeman says, Araujo "contributes many things" to his defence, but perhaps in the twilight of his career that applies increasingly less so in the case of club great Pique.

Liverpool have announced Jordan Henderson has undergone surgery on the groin injury he sustained against Everton.

Playing at centre-back due to key absences in defence, the Liverpool captain was forced to come off in the 30th minute of his side's 2-0 defeat in the Merseyside derby at Anfield last Saturday.

Henderson has appeared in 21 of the Reds' 25 league games this season, his solitary goal coming in the 7-0 rout of Crystal Palace in December. He has also made six appearances in the Champions League, the last of them in the 2-0 away victory over RB Leipzig in the round of 16.

A timetable for his return to action has not been revealed, though the club have confirmed the England international will be out until at least after the international break in March.

"Following further assessment with the club's medical team, Henderson has successfully had a corrective procedure carried out on the adductor injury," a statement from the club read.

"He will begin a rehabilitation programme immediately.

"No specific timescale is being placed upon his return; however, the 30-year-old is ruled out initially until after the March international break.

"Henderson's recovery will be closely monitored by the club's medical department and his progression during his rehab work will determine when he is able to resume full training."

The absence of his skipper is a further blow to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, particularly considering the 30-year-old has so often filled in at centre-back this term due to the long-term absences of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

Henderson will miss Sunday's trip to Sheffield United, as well as league fixtures against Chelsea, Fulham and Wolves in March.

He is also ruled out of the Champions League second leg against RB Leipzig, while England boss Gareth Southgate will have to do without the midfielder for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland.

Manchester City have been able to string together a 19-match winning streak because of all of the money they spend on "incredible players", joked Pep Guardiola.

City's 2-0 first-leg triumph over Borussia Monchengladbach in Budapest put the Premier League leaders in a commanding position to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Guardiola brought Sergio Aguero, Ferran Torres and Riyad Mahrez off the bench at Puskas Stadium, while John Stones, Kevin De Bruyne and Benjamin Mendy were among the unused substitutes.

Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus were on the scoresheet, extending a winning stretch that dates back to December 16 as City continue to fight on four fronts.

When quizzed about the reasons behind his side's relentless run of success, Guardiola seemed to take a sarcastic swipe at his critics by claiming it was all about the money.

"We have a lot of money to buy a lot of incredible players," he joked.

"All the time we win for the money, this is true. And without the good-quality players, we cannot do it.

"And the humanity of this group, the players are fantastic and have an incredible relationship and play every game to win."

Zinedine Zidane accepted injury-hit Real Madrid did not do themselves justice against 10-man Atalanta but was content to come away with a 1-0 Champions League advantage.

Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler was sent off for a professional foul on Ferland Mendy only 17 minutes into the first leg of the round of 16 tie at Gewiss Stadium on Wednesday.

Lacklustre Madrid dominated possession but had just three shots on target in a drab encounter until Mendy scored his first European goal to win it four minutes from time.

A depleted Los Blancos side, who have the likes of Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard on a long list of absentees, lacked ideas and looked set to fire a blank prior to Mendy's sweetly struck late away goal.

Zidane knows Madrid's fifth consecutive win was not pretty, but he was relieved to take the upper hand heading into the second leg at home on March 16.

The Madrid head coach said: "We didn't play a great game tonight, but I think the most important thing is the result.

"In the end, scoring is what is important to us. We still have to play the second leg, but it's a good result."

The former France midfielder added: "We played against a very physically strong team. Defensively they were good and it's a good result.

"There are many casualties, but we continue with what we are doing well. The players who are here are committed."

Zidane praised Isco, who made only his fifth start of the season - and his first in the Champions League - in a more advanced role with Benzema still sidelined.

"It has been a long time since he played so many minutes and he has done very well in a position that is not his," said Zidane.

"He has played a great game, we know what he can give us and he has done very well. When he plays he gives everything on the field. It's a victory and he's done a great job for over an hour."

Bernardo Silva revealed a personal competition between himself and Manchester City team-mate Ruben Dias helped to inspire his opening goal in Tuesday's 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.

Silva headed City into a 29th-minute lead in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Budapest before nodding down for Gabriel Jesus to score midway through the second half.

It was the diminutive playmaker's 35th goal for City in all competitions and, perhaps a little surprisingly, his third with his head.

Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Silva explained he and Portugal team-mate Ruben Dias – a centre-back certainly more adept in the air but yet to open his account for City – are competing to see who can score the most headers this season.

"Usually I'm not [good at scoring headers]. I try to practice a lot – especially now with Ruben," he said.

"We make a little competition to see who scores the most goals with the head.

"I think I was lucky that Joao [Cancelo] gave me a great ball and, yes, I'm happy to have scored and helped the team."

Speaking at a news conference after the game, boss Pep Guardiola said Silva's work on his heading on the training ground – irrespective of whether it is mainly for bragging rights – had not gone unnoticed.

"He is really good at headers, he is really good! I saw in the training sessions," he said.

"When you make an action for a header you have to use the body, not just the head. He used his neck perfectly. He was strong, the goal was fantastic.

"Attacking midfielders have to arrive in the box and Bernardo and Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan] have this quality."

Another of Silva's international team-mates, Joao Cancelo, was named man of the match after he supplied a sumptuous cross for the opener and the centre that led to Jesus' close-range effort.

"He's an amazing player. I've played with him seven years at Benfica. We're from the same generation," Silva added, with Dias also having also come through the ranks with the Lisbon giants.

"I know him very well, so the connection is good. He knows my timing, I know how good he is on these kind of balls.

"It was a very good goal because of his passing qualities. Overall, he's been doing a great season and I'm very happy for him."

Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City must be sharper in front of goal if they are to end their quest for Champions League glory.

City won 2-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach in Budapest, with Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus on target either side of half-time.

Despite watching his team show almost complete domination while racking up a 19th consecutive win in all competitions, Guardiola sometimes cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines at the Puskas Arena.

Speaking to BT Sport after the match, the City boss warned his players not to repeat the mistakes of botched chances that have stained three consecutive quarter-final exits.

"In general, it was good," he said. "We controlled the game, we concede one chance at the end.

"Unfortunately, we were not clinical enough up front – one against one, against the defender and keeper

"It's something we have to improve in this competition.

"The situation is clear – the one against one against the keeper or against the defenders and we were not able to even dribble.

"In this competition, you have to be perfect to make sure you go through."

Jesus and Raheem Sterling were among those to show hesitation when presented with opportunities in the Gladbach area, with four of City's nine attempts over the course of the 90 minutes on target.

Three missed the mark, while a further two were blocked.

Both goals owed much to Joao Cancelo's sublime deliveries from the left, with Bernardo Silva heading in his fellow Portugal international's cross for the 29th-minute opener.

Silva then nodded down another fine centre for Jesus to smuggle home after the hour.

"He has to improve sometimes and take some risks in some positions but he gives us something special in our process of play," Guardiola said of Cancelo.

"His physicality is so strong. I'm very pleased for the two passes to assist in the final third."

City have progressed from all four of their previous Champions League two-legged knockout ties when they have won the first leg away from home.

But Guardiola baulked at the notion of his team being favourites for European glory, having watched holders and his former employers Bayern Munich demolish Lazio 4-1 on Tuesday.

"When I see Bayern Munich yesterday, I would not think so," he added, before insisting City's sole focus is their next Premier League game this weekend.

"But my target now is just West Ham. For three weeks, we do not know what happens [in the Champions League].

"If the people say [we are favourites], we have to accept it. A team who in our whole history have arrived once in the semi-finals. Okay, it's no problem."

Ferland Mendy scored his first European goal four minutes from time as Real Madrid beat 10-man Atalanta 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie.

A well organised Atalanta looked set to hold on for a draw in a drab encounter at Gewiss Stadium on Wednesday despite Remo Freuler's red card for a professional foul on Mendy after 17 minutes.

Mendy's fine finish late on made it advantage to the injury-hit LaLiga champions ahead of the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu on March 16.

Los Blancos had looked devoid of ideas and could only muster four shots on target, but Mendy stunned the Serie A side in the closing stages.

Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus were on target as Manchester City put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals with an assured 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach

Pep Guardiola's side dominated the vast majority of this last-16 first leg and the City manager might have been frustrated by the failure to turn that into a more commanding lead until Jesus prodded in after 65 minutes.

Silva and Joao Cancelo created that goal after the Portugal duo had also combined for the 29th-minute opener, with the full-back's dipping delivery from the left for his diminutive compatriot to head home a truly sublime moment.

It brings a familiar hurdle into sight for the Premier League leaders, who have fallen at the quarter-final stage in each of the past three seasons.

Gladbach soon found themselves hemmed in by City's slick passing and astute pressing, with last-ditch challenges needed to thwart Jesus and Raheem Sterling.

Guardiola's men were content to bide their time and the opener arrived just before the half hour, with Silva nodding in Cancelo's sumptuous cross from deep at the back post.

Ramy Bensebaini sloppily gave the ball to Jesus in the 53rd minute but he hesitated and let Nico Elvedi get back to make a goal-saving challenge.

A rare moment of encouragement arrived for Gladbach as the hour approached, with Denis Zakaria powering past Rodri but overhitting a pass into the City box that Ederson swept up easily.

The Brazil goalkeeper was scampering in the 63rd minute when Alassane Plea's audacious flick bounced just beyond the far post.

Those minor scares roused City and Jesus showed sharp poaching instincts when Silva again played the unlikely role of back-post target man to tee him up.

When Phil Foden thrashed over from Ilkay Gundogan's 78th-minute knockdown, it was no surprise that Cancelo's chipped ball into the box crafted the opening.

A careless pass in stoppage time from Rodri gave Gladbach substitute Hannes Wolf a chance to reduce the deficit but Ederson prevailed in their one-on-one.
 

What does it mean? Savvy City look primed to push for glory

As Gladbach failed to register a single touch inside their opponents' box during the first half at Budapest's Puskas Arena, it was impossible to imagine this City getting involved in the sort of Champions League firefights that have proved their downfall – ties finishing 6-6 and 4-4 on aggregate against Monaco and Tottenham, only to depart on away goals, springing instantly to mind.

Such total control means Guardiola's team are unlikely to quicken the pulse as they did on those occasions but it makes the one major honour to have eluded the Catalan in Manchester a far more likely prospect.

What's next

City host in-form West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday, when Gladbach travel to title-chasing RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

Diogo Jota is closing in on a return to action for Liverpool, while fellow long-term injury victim Virgil van Dijk is also stepping up his rehabilitation. 

Jota has not featured since suffering a knee injury in December. 

It curtailed a superb start to life at Anfield from the Portugal international, who racked up nine goals in 17 appearances after joining from Wolves last September. 

Jota completed a full session with Jurgen Klopp's first-team squad at the AXA Training Centre on Wednesday. 

Van Dijk's absence stretches back further after he suffered knee ligament damage due to a challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during last October's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. 

Lengthy and ongoing absences for Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have made centre-back a problem position for Klopp this term, and Jordan Henderson is waiting to find out the extent of an adductor injury having filled in manfully at the heart of defence. 

Unlike Jota, Van Dijk's return is not imminent, but he took part in an individual outdoor session away from his team-mates and appeared to be in good spirits. 

Liverpool won four and drew three of eight matches with Van Dijk in the side this season, including a remarkable 7-2 loss at Aston Villa. 

That 50 per cent win ratio has not been maintained in his absence, however, with 14 wins, seven draws and eight losses amounting to 48.3 per cent. 

Such form has put paid to hopes of a successful Premier League title defence but Klopp's men remain in contention in Europe after an impressive 2-0 last 16 first-leg win over RB Leipzig. 

Jota's return could be key to their hopes of reaching a third final in four seasons in the Champions League. 

He netted a hat-trick in the 5-0 group-stage thrashing of Atalanta and overall Liverpool won 58.8 per cent of games with Jota involved (W10 D5 L2). 

That falls to 40 per cent (W8 D5 L7) in the months since his injury, while the Reds' goals-per-game average is down from 2.2 to 1.7 without the 24-year-old, even though they average almost two more shots per game (15.9) set against when Jota does feature (14.1). 

While Sunday's trip to Sheffield United may come too soon for Jota, he could potentially feature in the home clash with top-four rivals Chelsea next Thursday.

Atalanta's players crumpled to the turf dejected, crestfallen and beaten.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side were a had been half a minute, plus stoppage time, away from a place in the Champions League semi-finals before late goals by Marquinhos and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting saw Paris Saint-Germain break their hearts in Lisbon.

It concluded a season of unlikely triumph surrounded by crushing tragedy for the club and their city of Bergamo.

As they prepare to host Real Madrid on Wednesday, memories of their previous Champions League home game remain vivid, yet feel like they are from another time altogether.

'Game zero'

On February 19 last year, around 40,000 Atalanta fans – a shade under a third of Bergamo's population – packed themselves into coaches and train carriages and headed to Milan.

San Siro was hosting La Dea's European home games as the Gewis Stadium underwent renovation. Two-time finalists Valencia were opponents who soon discovered such pedigree counted for nothing.

Gasperini's men scythed through Los Che irresistibly, chalking up a riotous 4-1 win amid scenes of delirium in the stands.

On February 20, Bergamo's mayor Giorgio Gori learnt of the first reported case of COVID-19 in a nearby town. As the early weeks of the pandemic unfolded, his city was ravaged. By the beginning of April there had been 2,245 declared deaths, with local newspaper Eco di Bergamo estimating the figure to be closer to 4,500 over the course of March.

Other factors, such as an outbreak in a local hospital, played a part in Bergamo's devastating collective tale, but Atalanta's thrashing of Valencia being alternatively described as "game zero" and a "biological bomb" cast a shadow over one of the finest night's in the club's history.

Yet, when games returned in empty stadiums, Atalanta motored on with an outside bid for the Scudetto. They led twice against eventual champions Juventus before two Cristiano Ronaldo penalties pegged them back to a 2-2 draw.

From that point, they won only three of the final six games of a relentless Serie A schedule, with PSG then benefitting from being taken deep by a team running on empty.

The plan was to keep the side together and challenge again this time around – something that has been accomplished despite one notable exception.

No Papu, no party?

If one player embodied both the swashbuckling brilliance of Gasperini's Atalanta and the close bond between club and city that only became stronger during the pandemic, it was Papu Gomez.

Signed to a squad battling relegation in 2014, the Argentinian playmaker transformed the club in tandem with Gasperini as their captain and creative inspiration.

Last season, as they scaled new heights, he created an astonishing 120 chances across all competitions. Among players from Europe's top five leagues, that placed Gomez joint fifth and a place ahead of compatriot Lionel Messi (116).

In an interview with El Pais, the 33-year-old revealed an unusual secret to his craft. He takes his positional cue on the field from the referee because the official is always in space.

Such maverick, intuitive quirks made Gomez the often unplayable jewel at the centre of Gasperini's sparkling, shifting attack. Both men are heroes to the extent they have been granted the freedom of Bergamo.

Gomez was majestic in the 2-0 group-stage win at Liverpool but only played four more times for Atalanta as the love story came to an abrupt end.

During a 1-1 draw against Midtjylland – Atalanta enter the Madrid game still seeking a first Champions League win at their own ground – Gomez and Gasperini became engaged in a tactical dispute that resulted in the skipper being substituted at half-time.

From that point he was used only when absolutely necessary against the very best, completing 90 minutes as La Dea sealed qualification at Ajax's expense with a 1-0 win in Amsterdam, before coming off the bench to help claim a 1-1 draw at Juventus.

In the transfer window, he was sold to Sevilla. Champions League money and a windfall in the region of €85million from the sales of Dejan Kulusevski and Amad Diallo mean Atalanta do not have to seek buyers. Gomez and Gasperini's relationship was one simply deemed beyond salvaging.

If, at that moment, it felt fair to predict the end of the fairy story of a club punching hugely above its weight to gate crash Europe's elite, two prolific strikers had other ideas.

Colombian double shot

Following a senior international breakthrough with Italy this season, Matteo Pessina has generally taken Gomez's place in Gasperini's 3-4-1-2, although 24 chances created in as many appearances shows a significant shortfall on his former team-mate's astonishing numbers.

That is not to say Pessina, with his astutely timed runs to combined with the forwards, does not contribute strongly, but Atalanta have had to find other ways through.

In 16 games since Gomez last featured in the Juve draw, they have lost once, beating Roma 4-1, Sassuolo 5-1, Milan 3-0 and, last weekend, Napoli 4-2. They also saw off Gennaro Gattuso's side to reach the Coppa Italia final.

The common theme in those heavy wins was Colombia strikers Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel getting on the scoresheet.

Despite starting just eight Serie A matches this season, Muriel has 14 top-flight goals. He is a super-sub beyond superlatives.

His minutes-per-goal ratio of 73.1 is the best for players in Europe's top leagues across all competitions. His 17th of the campaign against Napoli last time out meant he began this week ahead of Erling Haaland (78.9) and Robert Lewandowski (81.9).

Gasperini has started his strike duo together more frequently over recent weeks, perhaps anticipating more consistent returns than those promised by the exquisite but mercurial Josip Illicic, but their starter-substitute double act has often proved impossible for defences to combat.

Zapata is not enjoying his best season in front of goal. Like Lewandowski, he has missed 22 of what Opta terms "big chances" but has only netted on nine such occasions to the Poland superstar's 23.

Nevertheless, he has still weighed in with 13 goals overall and always serves the purpose of extending centre-backs to their physical and technical limits before a forebodingly fresh Muriel comes on to make hay.

His electrifying pace is a nightmare for tiring defences, as evidenced by seven goals from his own carries. Only Tottenham's Son Heung-min (nine) boasts more in the big five leagues, while Muriel has laid on three further goals in similar fashion.

Going to the dentist

Muriel and Zapata are simultaneously part of and beneficiaries of a tireless team effort that further explains Atalanta's success.

After his side's 1-1 draw at San Siro in last season's Champions League, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said playing Gasperini's team was "like going to the dentist".

It was a reference to the pressing game that can feel like an invasive root canal procedure for opponents.

In Europe's top five leagues, only Bayern Munich (278) had made more high turnovers than Atalanta's 259, with La Dea turning those into 39 shots and five goals (fourth and joint fifth best, respectively).

All teams have had to make some allowance for the fatigue of a compressed season and Atalanta's approach is not quite as ravenous as it was. They allow opponents an average of 10.3 passes per defensive action (PPDA), down from 9.3 last season – which was the best in Italy and third in Europe.

Even so, for high turnovers, high turnovers ending in shots and pressed sequences they lead the way in Serie A. There promises to be little respite for an injury-hit Madrid.

They also have the highest defensive line in Italy, with Opta data showing Atalanta's attacks start on average 45 metres from their own goal – a figure in line with Bayern, Liverpool and City.

This does mean a defence susceptible to collapse on occasions. This season's wins over Napoli and Liverpool avenged 4-1 and 5-0 losses, while a 3-3 draw from 3-0 up against Torino earlier this month put any lingering Scudetto hopes in perspective.

Still, the role of Atalanta's midfield driving force Remo Freuler should not be underestimated when it comes to filling in those shaky foundations.

The Switzerland international was absent for the Napoli and Torino setbacks. Indeed, Atalanta's record without Freuler on the field reads drawn two and lost two in 2020-21, set against a 62 per cent win rate when he features.

Freuler, Zapata and Muriel are all set to be key against Madrid, who are trying to avoid a third consecutive last-16 exit.

So, what are the chances of an upset?

"With all the respect in the world, Atalanta are a wonderful team playing very offensive football," former Madrid captain Fernando Hierro told AS.

"But in our time, the Italian clubs we met were of a different calibre. That's why Madrid must now have faith in their abilities because Atalanta are not a team to be intimidated by."

Perhaps not. But after weathering life at the epicentre of Europe's coronavirus crisis, brushing off the bitterest of Champions League defeats and marching on despite unexpectedly losing their best player, it feels fair to wonder why on earth Atalanta would be intimidated by Real Madrid.

The Champions League's round-of-16 first legs conclude on Wednesday with the competition's most decorated club in action.

Real Madrid, who have been crowned champions of Europe 13 times, face an eye-catching Atalanta side in Italy.

With their LaLiga title hopes boosted by rivals Atletico Madrid's recent blip, Zinedine Zidane's men go into the match on a four-game winning streak.

That pales next to Manchester City's stunning 18-game winning run, with Pep Guardiola's charges facing a trip to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Using Opta data, we take a closer look at both matches.

Atalanta v Real Madrid: Another Italian job for Los Blancos?

Real Madrid head to Atalanta with fond memories of recent trips to Italy, having won each of their last five Champions League games in the country by an aggregate score of 12-1.

This will be the first meeting between the two teams and Madrid represent only the second Spanish side Atalanta have faced in European competition, having beaten Valencia 8-4 on aggregate in last season's round of 16.

Madrid are the most seasoned of campaigners in this competition, having now reached the knockout stages for a record 24th consecutive edition

Atalanta are at the opposite end of the scale, featuring for just the second time, though they are the first team since Sevilla (in 2007-08 and 2009-10) to reach the knockout stages in each of their first two tournament appearances.

Gian Piero Gasperini's men will need to shake off their sluggish form at the Stadio de Bergamo, with Atalanta the only side still in the competition yet to win a Champions League home game this season.

Madrid boss Zidane has an outstanding record to protect, having prevailed in 12 of his 13 Champions League knockout ties – the only exception coming against Guardiola's City in last season's round of 16.

Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City: We meet again...

Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City are familiar foes, with this set to be their seventh meeting.

For both clubs, that represents the most matches against a single opponent in European competition.

The head-to-head record weighs heavily in City's favour, with the Premier League club unbeaten in four Champions League fixtures, winning three.

Guardiola's side should also be feeling increasingly comfortable in the knockout stage, with this their eighth consecutive appearance. That is the best ongoing run for an English club.

Gladbach are in less well-known territory, having gone 43 years without competing in the concluding stages of Europe's elite competition, that last foray ending in a 4-2 loss against Liverpool in the semi-finals of the 1977-78 European Cup. 

The Germans have won only two of their nine home games in the Champions League (D4 L3), but they have scored in every one of those outings.

That record will come under threat against a City side who conceded just one goal in the group stage.

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick said the Champions League holders took a giant step towards the quarter-finals following their 4-1 demolition of Lazio.

It was one-way traffic in Rome, where Bayern made light work of hosts Lazio in the opening leg of the last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Robert Lewandowski, Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane were on target in the opening 45 minutes before Lazio's Francesco Acerbi turned the ball into his own net within two minutes of the second-half restart.

Joaquin Correa pulled a goal back for Lazio two minutes later, but Bundesliga champions Bayern are in complete control of the knockout clash.

Bayern are now unbeaten in their last 18 Champions League games (W17 D1) – the fourth-longest such streak in the competition's history and the longest since a run of 25 for Manchester United in May 2009.

"Everyone lived up to expectations," Flick said post-match. "We turned in a very good team performance.

"We wanted to put our opponents under pressure from the start, it worked out well. We often won the ball high up the field, created chances and made the most of them. We're very pleased today.

"We want to advance to the quarter-finals, and today we took a giant stride towards our goal. But there's still a second match to play."

Musiala – just the second 17-year-old to start a Champions League knockout fixture for Bayern – enjoyed a memorable outing in the Italian capital, where he doubled the lead after Lewandowski's opener.

At 17 years and 363 days, Musiala became the youngest Englishman to score in the Champions League.

He also became the second-youngest player to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League, after Bojan (17 years and 217 days) netted for Barcelona against Schalke in the quarter-finals in 2007-08.

"We are very happy that he produced a good performance just like the whole team. The goal shows what he's about. He is very good when he has the ball and can play well between the lines," Flick added.

"He has a good feeling for open space on the pitch. He did well, just like the other players. We are happy with his goal and satisfied with his performance."

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel hailed his players after the English club took control of their Champions League last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid.

Olivier Giroud's stunning overhead kick secured a 1-0 victory over Atletico in the opening leg of the European matchup on Tuesday – the match played in Bucharest due to coronavirus travel restrictions between the United Kingdom and Spain.

Chelsea dominated proceedings against the LaLiga leaders as Tuchel continued his fine run since replacing Frank Lampard last month.

Former Paris Saint-Germain head coach Tuchel has conceded just two goals in eight games as Chelsea manager – the only coach in the club's history to concede fewer goals after eight games in charge is Jose Mourinho (one).

Tuchel credited his players post-match, telling reporters: "I am super happy for my players and the team for such a big reward. We actually can read it on the score line that we have the result against top opponents.

"It was very important that we are absolutely concentrated over all 96 minutes. That we also accept that it’s very hard to create chances, but we did all that and it was a very good team effort."

While Tuchel became only the second manager in Champions League history to manage two different clubs within a single season after Ronald Koeman in 2007-08 (PSV and Valencia), Chelsea forward Giroud claimed a record of his own.

Aged 34 years and 146 days, Giroud became the oldest player to score a Champions League knockout goal for Chelsea, and the oldest to do so for an English side since Ryan Giggs (37) for Manchester United in April 2011.

Giroud's spectacular 68th-minute goal was initially disallowed for offside before VAR intervened.

"I'm not proud of [Giroud's goal] because I had nothing to do with it," Tuchel said. "So it was not my achievement. He can be proud."

Tuchel added: "If you see him on a daily basis, you cannot be surprised. He is totally fit, his body is in shape and his physicality is on top level. 

"Mentally I really have the feeling he enjoys every day being a professional football player on this level and this is the level he needs to be. He trains like a 20-year-old, like a 24-year-old. He is a guy who has a good mixture of seriousness and joy in training.

"He is always positive and it is a big factor for the group. He starts, when he comes from the bench, he has all these qualities and it is good like this."

Simone Inzaghi accepted the pressure of the occasion got to his Lazio players after being thumped 4-1 by holders Bayern Munich in Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.

Competing in their first Champions League knockout-round tie in 21 years, Lazio found themselves three goals down by half-time against the German visitors in Rome.

Bayern star Robert Lewandowski pounced on a weak Mateo Musacchio backpass and rounded Pepe Reina for an early opener – his 72nd Champions League goal, moving him ahead of Real Madrid great Raul and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (134) and Lionel Messi (119).

Jamal Musiala doubled the lead 15 minutes later to become the second-youngest goalscorer in the knockout stages behind Bojan, before Leroy Sane fired in number three at the end of an attack that came about as a result of Lazio's Patric losing possession.

A bad day for Serie A outfit Lazio got even worse 62 seconds after the half-time interval when Francesco Acerbi turned Sane's cross into his own net under pressure from Alphonso Davies.

Joaquin Correa pulled one back with a fine solo goal but, having seen his side ship four or more goals in a home European match for just the third time in their history, Lazio head coach Inzaghi was left to rue some horror defending.

"Unfortunately, we'd said this week with the lads that we should play our game," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We felt the occasion too much. We were tense against the world champions, but we basically scored three of the four goals for them.

"Disappointment in the locker room is natural, but it's already an achievement for us to be here. In games at this level, you need to be at 100 per cent, to do everything right and hope the opponents aren’t at their best.

"If we look at it, we're talking about the Club World Cup winners and we scored three out of four goals for them. You can't make those mistakes at this level."

However, Inzaghi felt that the game may have panned out differently had Lazio been awarded a penalty when trailing 1-0 for a challenge on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic inside the box.

"We knew the kind of team we were facing. I think we'd started well before the error for the opening goal, and there should've been a penalty when it was still 1-0," Inzaghi added.

"If the penalty had been given for 1-1, that might've changed the game, but none of it went our way tonight. We can learn from this experience in order to grow and be stronger in future."

Bayern are now unbeaten in their last 18 Champions League matches – the fourth-longest run in the competition's history – winning all but one of those games since the start of last season.

Hansi Flick was delighted with the Bundesliga champions' display but is refusing to take a place in the quarter-finals for granted ahead of the return fixture in Bavaria on March 17.

"Generally speaking everyone has met the expectations today. We won the ball high up the pitch and put the opponent under pressure. We are very satisfied today," he said at a news conference.

"The Champions League is a special competition for us.  Everyone was ready to do something special. The win was well deserved. 

"But we now have to play the second leg against Lazio first. We want to go to the quarter-finals and today we have come a lot closer to achieving that."

Thomas Muller has missed Bayern's last four matches after testing positive for coronavirus and Flick is unsure if the attacker will be back for Saturday's league visit of Cologne.

"There are still tests to be made," Flick said. "He will be back when the doc gives the green light. The earlier he returns, the happier we are."

Leon Goretzka is hopeful Bayern Munich team-mate Jamal Musiala will commit his international future to Germany following the midfielder's latest eye-catching display.

Musiala marked his second Champions League start with a long-range strike in Bayern's emphatic 4-1 win over Lazio in Tuesday's last-16 second leg.

At 17 years and 363 days, he is the youngest Englishman to score in the competition and the second-youngest player to net in the knockout stages after Bojan in 2007-08.

However, despite representing England twice at Under-21s level, reports suggest the youngster plans to pledge his allegiance to Germany at senior level.

Asked about Musiala's international future following Bayern's win at the Stadio Olimpico, 29-cap Goretzka told Sky Sport Germany: "I hope he chooses Germany!"

Having already become Bayern's youngest-ever Bundesliga goalscorer in September, Musiala also now tops the same list in the Champions League with his fourth goal for the club.

The Stuttgart-born prodigy scored from his only shot against Lazio and Goretzka was impressed by what he saw.

"He was extremely happy to play from the start," he said. "We tried to make him play freely and not worry too much. Joshua [Kimmich] and I protected his back and he did well."

Musiala's strike came after Robert Lewandowski had opened the scoring for Bayern with his 72nd Champions League goal.

That moved the prolific striker ahead of Real Madrid great Raul in the competition's all-time list of scorers and behind only Lionel Messi (119) and Cristiano Ronaldo (134).

Leroy Sane then added a third and played a key part in Bayern's fourth, which was turned into his own net by Francesco Acerbi, before Joaquin Correa pulled one back.

Germany winger Sane played more key passes (two) than any Bayern player and also contested the most duels (17) of any player on the field.

It is the third game in a row Sane has been directly involved in a goal and he is glad to have found his feet following a big-money move from Manchester City last year.

"I'm an attacking player and want to set impulses upfront," he said. "I want to help the team. Today I think I did quite well, but I'm not getting carried away.

"We were there from the first minute. Hansi [Flick] and the coaching staff pointed out to us before the game that Lazio would make mistakes if you put them under pressure. That worked right away."

With his latest strike, Sane has now been directly involved in 10 goals in his last 10 Champions League appearances – seven goals and three assists.

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