Barcelona will have the advantage of playing at home when they play AC Milan on Tuesday, but like Arsenal, who visit Bayern Munich the following day, they know they must score three goals without conceding to advance.
The two remaining midweek ties are tighter affairs, although Schalke will be confident of their chances thanks to their 1-1 draw away against Galatasaray last time out. As for Malaga, they will rely on home comforts as they seek to wipe out their 1-0 deficit against Porto.
Here is a preview of the four games this week:
Barcelona v AC Milan
Since Tito Vilanova left for New York for medical treatment, Barcelona have depended on Jordi Roura as a relay to pass on their absent coach’s instructions. The longer Vilanova has been gone, however, the more the team’s play has suffered, especially in defence, with Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Deportivo La Coruna finally ending a run of 13 matches in all competitions without a clean sheet.
In midfield, Barça’s trademark fluency and rhythm seems out of sorts, as good defensive sides (Milan and Real Madrid) have followed Chelsea’s blueprint from last season on how to stifle Barca. But it is difficult to count out any side who has Lionel Messi in its starting line-up.
As for AC Milan, the main question mark concerns who Massimiliano Allegri will field up front, given that Giampaolo Pazzini is out due to a leg injury and Mario Balotelli is cup-tied. iAllegri is likely to decide between 18-year-old French talent Mbaye Niang and 22-year-old Spanish striker Bojan Krkic.
Whoever he goes with, I Rossoneri have vowed to attack, with Vice-President Adriano Galliani promising his side will not allow the Catalans to lay siege on the Milan defence. “It won’t be like Fort Apache,” he said. That might be a mistake!
Bayern Munich v Arsenal
Overwhelming favourites to progress, Bayern are looking for a fourth spot in the quarter-finals in the last five seasons, while Arsenal hope to avoid elimination at this stage for the third consecutive year.
Munich has not been a good destination for English sides, as Bayern have won ten meetings, drawn five and lost just once against English opposition.
But after 10 days off since losing to Spurs in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger has had plenty of time to get his tactics right for this one. ‘.
Malaga v Porto
Malaga suffered their first ever Champions League defeat in the first leg as Porto kept them under pressure for 90 minutes and denied them the opportunity to play their usual game.
What carried Malaga in the group stages was its home form where they were unbeaten defeating AC Milan 1-0 and Zenit St Petersburg 3-0.
Schalke v Galatasaray
Unbeaten on home soil in the Champions League this season, Schalke are currently on a high after beating local rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
But if Schalke are to get past Galatasaray they will have to do it without striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who suffered a knee-ligament injury at the weekend.
Galatasaray invested heavily in the January transfer window to bring in Wesley Sneijder, Didier Drogba with the goal of going deep in the Champions League. If Gala are to progress, they will need Sneijder and Drogna to play better than they have in the league recently.