Germany and England fight for survival
London: England and Germany will be left without any teams in the Champions League quarter-finals unless Chelsea and Bayern Munich can overturn first-leg deficits in this week`s ties.
By contrast, Italy`s Serie A, often criticised for its crumbling stadiums, falling attendances and written off as a league in perpetual decline, could end up with all three of its teams in the last eight.
Chelsea have a 3-1 deficit going into the second leg of their round-of-16 tie at home to a buoyant Napoli team who have won their last five league games, hammering Cagliari 6-3 last Friday.
Bayern find themselves 1-0 down to FC Basel, the surprise package along with APOEL Nicosia, and must end the Swiss champions` unbeaten away record in this season`s competition if they are to progress.
Failure to do so would be unthinkable for the Bavarians who are desperate to reach the final which will take place at their own Allianz Arena.
In the week`s other ties, Claudio Ranieri`s ageing Inter Milan, the 2010 champions, trail 1-0 to Olympique Marseille before hosting the French side, while Real Madrid should see off CSKA Moscow after a 1-1 draw in freezing conditions in Russia.
The eventual winners will join titleholders Barcelona, seven-times champions AC Milan, twice former winners Benfica and underdogs APOEL in Friday`s draw for the quarter-finals.
Chelsea`s elimination would leave the English Premier League without a quarter-finalist for the first time since the 1995/96 season.
Arsenal went out last week, their 3-0 win over Milan not enough after they were trounced 4-0 in the first leg, while Manchester United and Manchester City fell in the group stage.
German champions Borussia Dortmund also went out in the group stage while Bayer Leverkusen sank without trace against Barcelona, losing 7-1 at the Nou Camp last week for a 10-2 aggregate defeat.
That leaves Bayern Munich flying the flag for the Bundesliga, which next season will win a third direct place in the group stage at the expense of Serie A.
Napoli, the only one of this season`s five debutants still standing, twice took part in the old European Cup during Diego Maradona`s days but never progressed beyond the second round.
"Maradona`s days remain the best in Napoli`s history, but we feel we are nearly on a par with that era and that makes us proud," said Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri, who will be serving the second of a two-match touchline ban.
Their three-pronged strike force of Edinson Cavani, who has five goals, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik is one of the most dangerous in the competition.
Chelsea have undergone a managerial change since the first leg with Roberto Di Matteo being appointed replacing the sacked Andre Villas-Boas.
Basel are attempting to become the first Swiss side to reach the last eight since Grasshoppers in 1978/79 during the days of the old European Cup.
The Swiss champions are often regarded as a model club, shunning expensive transfers and relying on a mix of home-grown youngsters and experienced players such as strikers Marco Streller and Alexander Frei, who have returned home for a swansong.
Bayern have won 11 of their last 12 European home games, although went out at the same stage last year when they lost 3-2 to Inter Milan at the Allianz Arena.
Ranieri has narrowly escaped suffering the same fate as Villas-Boas since Olympique`s 1-0 first leg win and the Champions League remains Inter`s chance to save their season after dropping to seventh in Serie A.
Inter`s team in the first leg had an average age of 31 years 331 days, breaking their own Champions League record of 31 years 317 days set earlier this season against Marseille`s compatriots Lille.
Real`s form this season suggests they should have little trouble in disposing of CSKA in Madrid, where conditions will be balmy compared to the sub-zero temperatures for the first leg in Moscow.
Jose Mourinho`s team completed the group stage with a 100 percent record, although they need to be wary of CSKA`s Ivory Coast forward Seydou Doumbia who has scored five goals in six Champions League games this season and 12 goals in 13 European matches in the last two years.