Contenders return to Champs League action

·2-min read

Bayern Munich's form in the Champions League is formidable as they prepare for their round of 16 first leg clash at Lazio, in stark contrast to a recent domestic wobble which has opened up the Bundesliga title race.

Hansi Flick's men have taken just one point from their past two outings before visiting Rome while at the same time stuttering La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid host Chelsea - though in Bucharest due to coronavirus travel restrictions in Spain.

Budapest is a home-away-from-home for a German side for the same reason on Wednesday as Borussia Monchengladach host high-flying Manchester City while record European champions Real Madrid visit Atalanta.

Despite their recent domestic struggles, Bayern are nearly two years unbeaten in the Champions League, winning 16 and drawing once since losing to Liverpool in the 2019 round of 16 second leg.

"I think we go in as favourites but they have to be taken seriously with their class forwards," goalkeeper captain Manuel Neuer said of Lazio.

"We know how dangerous Ciro Immobile is. I think Robert Lewandowski is looking forward to that clash a bit."

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi confessed he would have gladly avoided Bayern in their first Champions League tilt since 2007-08.

"They are the squad we really did not want to meet," Inzaghi said.

Meanwhile, Atletico have picked up just five points from their past four league games but have been boosted by the return of key players, after their unavailability due to COVID-19 cases.

January loan acquisition Moussa Dembele made his debut at the weekend, while Mario Hermoso, Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar have all recovered.

Chelsea are fifth in the Premier League but unbeaten under new coach Thomas Tuchel and looking to improve on four consecutive last 16 eliminations.

City are in top form as they charge towards the Premier League title - unbeaten in their past 25 games across all competitions, winning 22.

Gladbach are winless in their past four league games and a strong season is threatening to unravel in light of coach Marco Rose announcing he'll join Borussia Dortmund next term.

Real are waiting on the fitness of striker Karim Benzema and are definitely without captain Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, Marcelo, Federico Valverde, Rodrygo Goes and Alvaro Odriozola.

"It's not easy but we have to get on with it," coach Zinedine Zidane, who led Real to the past three of their 13 European titles, said.

Atalanta are again in the knockout stage of the elite competition, reaching the quarter-finals in their debut last season.

City and Real have their home legs on March 16 with Bayern and Chelsea hosting a day later.