After a two month break the Champions League returns tonight with the first matches of the last 16 knockout stage. Click here for all games..

First Knockout round

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich clash for the sixth time in eight seasons when they face each other at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg of their Champions League first knockout round tie.

Neither side has impressed domestically this season, yet in European competition things have been different. Goalshy in Spain, Real are top scorers in the UEFA Champions League having regneetedistered 14 goals in the group stage. Bayern, meanwhile, emerged from a difficult Group B having conceded just three times, whereas in the Bundesliga they have been leaking goals.

Reports that this could be Fabio Capello’s last game in charge of Real Madrid have been denied by the club’s hierarchy, and the Italian certainly gave no indication that he was considering his position on the eve of the Bayern game.

Instead, Capello spoke persuasively about his team’s ability to rediscover their European form.

“I think we’re going to play well,” he said. “The fans are behind the team and in the Champions League this season they have been fantastic in their support.”

“This is the biggest game of our season so far. When we play a game like this, it’s important for us to do well.”

In the build-up, Capello was giving little away when it came to his starting line-up. “I have my starting eleven clear in my mind,” was all he would say when quizzed about his team selection.

Sergio Ramos and Mahamadou Diarra will not feature, after picking up foot and ankle injuries respectively though Roberto Carlos is expected to start having overcome a thigh problem.

Bayern have endured a dire start to the new year, losing lost five out of ten Bundesliga fixtures since completing the Champions League group stage, prompting the departure of coach Felix Magath.

Ottmar Hitzfeld has returned in his place and he sees obvious parallels between his team and Madrid.

“Both sides have similar problems but Madrid and Bayern are legends of European football,” said Hitzfeld. “Each team has an obvious problem in attack at the moment but Madrid have been much improved in defence.”

“It’s a pressure game, and those with the best ability to cope with it will ultimately win. Then again, I think Bayern suffer more pressure at home in domestic competition as expectations are so much higher.” A win would be a massive result for either side.

Probable teams?
Real Madrid: Iker Casillas; Míchel Salgado, Iván Helguera, Fabio Cannavaro, Roberto Carlos; Emerson, Fernando Gago, Guti, David Beckham; Raúl González, Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Bayern Munich: Oliver Kahn; Philipp Lahm, Lucio, Daniel Van Buyten, Willy Sagnol; Hasan Salihamidži?, Owen Hargreaves, Mark van Bommel, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Roy Makaay, Lukas Podolski.

After a two month break the Champions League returns tonight with the first matches of the last 16 knockout stage. Click here for all games..