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Champions League previews: Chelsea v Napoli and Real Madrid v CSKA

Roberto Di Matteo attempts to overturn a 3-1 first leg defeat to the Italians while it’s all-square going into the other tie at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Chelsea caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Chelsea caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images

Chelsea v Napoli (1-3 on aggregate)

CHELSEA NEED TO improve on recent performances if they are to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Napoli.  A 3-1 loss in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie in Italy left the Premier League side on the brink of an early exit ahead of Wednesday’s clash.

But since that defeat Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas has left Stamford Bridge and Chelsea have recorded consecutive wins with Roberto Di Matteo in charge. Those victories, however, have come against Birmingham City and Stoke, far weaker opponents than Serie A outfit Napoli.

Walter Mazzarri’s in-form side have won six consecutive matches, including a 6-3 thrashing of Cagliari on Friday. The resounding win underlined Napoli’s attacking talent, with Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi getting on the scoresheet and Edison Cavani only needed off the bench.

A goal would make it difficult for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Napoli have netted at least once in their last seven matches. Di Matteo said he wanted his team to believe they could overturn the deficit, and added they needed to produce a performance similar to that of Arsenal, who overcame AC Milan 3-0 on Tuesday but lost 4-3 on aggregate.

The players realise they can win,” Di Matteo said.  ”Arsenal did and now it’s up to us to have the belief we can do the same.”

Villas-Boas was criticised for risky team selection, including leaving Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien on the bench, in the first leg against Napoli at Stadio San Paolo.

Di Matteo is unlikely to take the same chances, with an experienced side – much like the one that edged Stoke City in the Premier League on Saturday – likely to be preferred.

The back four of Cole, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic are beginning to settle, and they have a huge role to play in containing the talented Napoli forwards if Chelsea are to have any chance of progressing to the last eight.

Real Madrid v CSKA Moscow (1-1 on aggregate)

Real Madrid enter their Champions League round-of-16 second-leg against CSKA Moscow in prime position to advance to the last eight. The La Liga leaders are unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions and enter the clash at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday having secured a 1-1 draw in Russia.

It looked like Jose Mourinho’s men would clinch a deserved away win on February 21, but Pontus Wernbloom struck a late equaliser for the hosts.

Having revealed he intends to sign a new deal with the club, Mourinho will be eager for his team to go deep into the Champions League.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored in the first leg, has netted a stunning 32 league goals and four in the Champions League this season, and has been supported by the likes of Mesut Oezil and Xabi Alonso.

Ronaldo holds off three CSKA players during the first leg in Russia. Credit: Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Press Association Images

Stopping the likes of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain from scoring will be almost impossible for CSKA, and coach Leonid Slutsky said as much in the lead-up to the second leg.

“Real scores a lot of goals even they play without key players. To play against them at their home will be a spectacle,” Slutsky said.

They have very quick players. So, we need to be very sharp in defence and try not to give them enough space.”

“It’s way too difficult to stop them from scoring but we will try to get an away goal. A few teams can perform at a high level with a variety of tactical manoeuvres. Moreover, they have some of the best players. However, I still believe in miracles.”

Slutsky is still without injured goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, and his team enter the second leg after three consecutive draws in all competitions.

Ivory Coast forward Seydou Doumbia will play a crucial role up front with his side needing at least one goal in Madrid.

But Real Madrid, highly fancied to win the competition, go into their home leg as hot favourites to advance.

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