Champions League Round of 16 preview

By: Timi Bello

The UEFA Champions league (CL) is back in two weeks with some mouth-watering ties that promise goals, entertainment, and football of the highest quality. Let’s break each of the Round of 16 fixtures down.

Game 1: Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool

Having won 22 of 23 league games this season and undefeated in over 390 days, Liverpool has been the best football team in the world by a mile. Atletico, on the other hand, are sixth in the La Liga and have been very inconsistent this season. However, Diego Simeone has caused problems for the best of teams in the world at the peak of their powers by setting up a low block to frustrate the opposition and hit them on the counter-attack when the opportunity arrives. Liverpool are certainly the favorites, but to count an El Cholo masterclass out would be naïve. 

Prediction: Atletico 2-4 Liverpool (agg.)

Game 2: Borussia Dortmund vs PSG

With Sancho, Haland, Reus, Mbappe, Icardi, Di Maria and Neymar set to face off against each other, this fixture promises a lot of goals and entertainment. PSG have been near perfect so far, having topped a group that included Real Madrid and dominated Ligue 1. Dortmund on the other hand, scraped through to the Round of 16 and survived the group of death that included Barcelona and Inter. They find themselves in the middle of a tightly-contested title race in the Bundesliga, trailing leaders Bayern by a mere three points. How Dortmund’s suspect defense deals with the in-form quartet of Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria, and Icardi could well determine the outcome of this fixture. 

Prediction: Dortmund 3-6 PSG (agg.)

Game 3: Valencia vs Atalanta

If you were told that these two sides would make the Round of 16 before Gameweek six, you would have probably laughed it off. However, here they are. Both these sides are considerably far from the table toppers in their respective leagues but have a very good chance of making the top-four. Atalanta have scored more goals than any side in the Serie A and Valencia will have to be wary of their in-form attacking duo Alejandro Gomez and Josep Ilicic.  

Prediction: Valencia 2-3 Atalanta (agg.)

Game 4: Spurs vs Leipzig

In one of the Champions League’s most awaited fixtures, newbie Julian meets veteran Jose. Jose Mourinho has given Spurs fans a ray of hope since taking over, leading the Spurs to fifth place and just four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. Leipzig has been one of the surprise packages of the season. They are just one point off league leaders Bayern and are surely not going to be pushovers for last year’s finalists. 

Prediction: Spurs 4-3 Leipzig (agg.)

Game 5: Chelsea vs Bayern

Every football fan in the world remembered Drogba’s CL winning penalty at the Allianz Arena in 2012 when this fixture was drawn.  Bayern have picked up serious form since the appointment of Hans Flick and find themselves in a rather familiar top-spot in the Bundesliga. Chelsea, on the other hand, have been very inconsistent. Their home form has been a concern for them and they will have to improve if they want to make Bayern even break a sweat. 

Prediction: Chelsea 2-5 Bayern (agg.)

Game 6: Napoli vs Barcelona

Barcelona surprisingly find themselves in second position in La Liga, trailing leaders Real Madrid by three points. Barcelona have not been their usual selves this season, but they are showing signs of improvement under new manager Qique Setien, who has made clear to everyone that he is bringing back possession-based football to the club. Napoli sacked Carlo Ancelotti in December, but have not seen their fortunes turn around under Gennaro Gattuso. They are in the bottom half of the league table and beating Messi’s Barcelona seems like a near impossible task for the Gli Azzuri.  

Prediction: Napoli 2-5 Barcelona (agg.)

Game 7: Lyon vs Juventus

This is perhaps the tie with the most predictable outcome. Juventus are leading a tightly-contested Serie A race. Their star player and the all-time leading goal-scorer of the Champions League Cristiano Ronaldo is in imperious form. Lyon are sixth in Ligue 1 and their star player Memphis Depay is ruled out till at least April. It is difficult to think that Lyon are going to make Juventus work hard for qualification to the next round. 

Prediction: Lyon 1-5 Juventus (agg.)

Game 8: Real Madrid vs Manchester City

This is definitely the most awaited fixture of this round. After winning two consecutive league seasons, Pep Guardiola’s City side have struggled for consistency this campaign and trail runaway leaders Liverpool by an astonishing 22 points. Madrid, on the other hand, look like their old selves again under Zidane this season and are on top of the pile in the La Liga. However, the timely returns of defender Aymeric Laporte and winger Leroy Sane should bolster City’s chances. It will be fascinating to watch Pep’s free-scoring City attack play against Madrid, who have conceded just 13 goals in 22 league games. This promises to be a tie for the ages. 

Prediction: Real Madrid 3-4 Manchester City (agg.)


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