Let's be honest, when the biggest prize in club football is on the line, every team involved has a huge amount to lose. But this year, in the Champions League 2014 round of 16, things are slightly different.
European heavyweights are under fire, struggling to keep up in their respective leagues. A strong showing in the Champions League is the only thing standing between them and domestic embarrassment.
So which teams are staring down the barrel of a proverbial gun as they scramble to get through to the quarterfinals? Here I run the rule over those who cannot afford to miss out on the next stage.
This current Barcelona lineup is still one of the best to have ever graced a football pitch. However, there is no denying the Catalans are on the downward curve in their squad's cycle.
Last year, Gerard Pique even admitted as much. As reported by Daniel Taylor at The Guardian, Pique said: "We are not the best any more. Other teams are. Perhaps we need to work harder."
Roll the clock forward to 2014 and Barcelona are struggling in La Liga (by their high standards at least). A 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad last weekend (h/t BBC Sport) leaves them three points adrift of Real Madrid at the top of the table. The Guardian's Sid Lowe was dismissive of the Catalan club:
If there's a photo that summed up Saturday night's 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad, it is Xavi Hernández sitting there in his kit and a blue bib, by now aware that he was not going on [...] If looks could kill, there'd be corpses everywhere. On the pitch, Barcelona were collapsing. No resistance, just resignation.
The players know it too. This was no ordinary defeat; it hit Barca right between the eyes. Cesc Fabregas said as much on Twitter:
What Barca need now is a dominant performance against Manchester City at the Nou Camp. They take a 2-0 lead into the fixture, per BBC Sport. If they fail to finish the job, the heat could come on manager Tata Martino.
You probably think Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola have nothing to worry about, but make no mistake: This side have a lot to lose.
The reason? They are the best club in Europe and have a genuine chance of becoming the first team to defend the Champions League since 1990 (h/t Carlo Garganese of Goal.com).
The reigning champions have a two-goal cushion as they welcome Arsenal to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, 11 March. While a knockout for the English club is almost unthinkable, Bayern have a reputation for choking on big occasions.
The Munich faithful have to hope Guardiola can keep the Bundesliga leaders on the straight and narrow.
Where to start with Manchester United's problems? Defeated 2-0 by Olympiakos in tonight's fixture (h/t ESPN Football) and lying sixth in the Premier League, the Red Devils might as well kiss their chances of silverware goodbye.
United face an almighty struggle to make that fourth Premier League spot and secure qualification for top-level European football next season. To be honest, there is no chance of them winning the Champions League this year either. But United need momentum, and a strong showing in the Champions League will save some of manager David Moyes' blushes.
There is no denying United played well in the group stage. Just a fortnight ago, Sam Wallace of The Independent speculated:
There is still the Champions League, and who knows how far United might progress given their group stage form. But there is a possibility that if the gap to fourth place grows bigger, what little momentum there is to chase a Champions League place disappears and the season flat-lines.
Now it is a case of saving face. If United make it to the quarterfinals, they can take comfort in the fact they are one of eight clubs left standing. Any win is a bonus, no matter what the competition.
There are parallels to be drawn between Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. Both are struggling to get anywhere near the top of their respective leagues and both have been stricken by injuries to key players.
Whisper it, but Dortmund are even looking over their shoulders in the Bundesliga as Schalke and Wolfsburg chase down Champions League qualification spots, per Sky Sports.
Dortmund have lost key players to injury: Ilkay Gundogan, Sven Bender, Neven Subotic and Jakub Blaszczykowski are all men in the treatment room, per Transfermarkt. Manager Jurgen Klopp has struggled to cope without so many first-choice players.
After reaching the final in 2013, Dortmund need another strong run to prove to wantaway players that they are serious European contenders (h/t Jamie Sanderson of Metro). With so many players unavailable, however, reaching the final looks a long shot for the men in yellow.
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