Champions League Round of 16 1st Legs Tips and Preview
Before Christmas, following a Preliminary Round and then a Group Stage which pitted 32 teams against each other in eight groups of four, a total of 16 teams (the top two from each group) made it through into the Round of 16 in the Champions League.
Following a draw made prior to Christmas in Nyon, the ties for the Round of 16 were decided and the draw threw up some classic matches. The draw in full was:
- FC Basel v Manchester City
- Juventus v Tottenham
- FC Porto v Liverpool
- Real Madrid v Paris St Germain
- Bayern Munich v Besiktas
- Chelsea v Barcelona
- Sevilla v Manchester United
- Shakhtar Donetsk v AS Roma
Each match will be played over two legs with the team winning on aggregate over the two legs progressing into the quarterfinals of the competition.
However, due to the fact that the Europa League has a total of 32 teams remaining in it, and UEFA likes to have the competitions play from the same point. This means that the Round of 16 in the Champions League is somewhat elongated and instead of being played out over two weeks, is instead played out over a total of five.
In this first week, the first legs of four of the Round of 16 games will be played, with the first legs of the remaining four played the following week (Feb 20th and 21st). Then there is a week’s break before the teams play the second legs of their games on the 6th and 7th March and also the 13th and 14th of March.
By this point, the Europa League teams will have played through two full rounds of action ensuring that from then on, both competitions are at the same stage each week, starting with the four quarterfinals in each competition which are due to take place on the weeks beginning the 2nd and 9th April 2018.
Outlined below are our previews and selected tips for the matches taking place this week in the Champions League.
Champions League Round of 16 – First Legs
Tuesday 13th February
FC Basel v Manchester City
Venue – St Jakub-Park, Basel (38,512 capacity)
FC Basel Form – W W W W L W
FC Basel Probable XI: (5-4-1): Vaclik, Petretta, Lang, Alvarez, Suchy, Akanji, Xhaka, Die, Steffen, Elyounoussi, Oberlin.
FC Basel One to Watch – Mohammed Elyounoussi (Winger)
The Norwegian born Elyounoussi is a freescoring winger who joined FC Basel from Molde in 2016 and in his first season netted 10 goals in 39 games for the club. This year, he has managed six in 25 games. He has earned 14 caps for Norway and is a fleet-of-foot winger with good delivery into the box and he is also adaptable enough to play as a central striker if required.
Man City Form – W W W W D W
Man City Probable XI – (4-1-4-1): Ederson, Walker, Laporte, Otamendi, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Aguero
Man City One to Watch – Kevin De Bruyne (Midfielder)
The immensely talented Belgian De Bruyne joined City for £55m from Wolfsburg after he joined the German side following an unsuccessful spell with Chelsea. Since joining City De Bruyne has established himself as one of the most creative and influential midfielders in the Premier League and his ability on the ball, powerful shot from distance and his range of passing are absolutely fundamental to City’s success domestically and in Europe this season.
Our Top Tip – This should be a good game and I can see Basel causing City’s back line a few problems, but I think City’s attacking quality is superb and as such, I’m backing them to win. As such the 15/8 with Coral on Manchester City winning and both teams scoring looks a solid bet.
Juventus v Tottenham
Venue: Allianz Stadium (41,507 capacity)
Juventus Form – W W W W W W
Juventus Probable XI – (4-3-3): Buffon, Lichtsteiner, Sandro, Chiellini, Benatia, Khedira, Pjanic, Marchisio, Bernardeschi, Mandzukic, Higuain.
Juventus One to Watch – Miralem Pjanic (Midfielder)
Pjanic is the creative hub of an otherwise workmanlike Juventus midfield and while their responsibilities are ostensibly defensive, Pjanic’s ability to pick a key pass, allied to his brilliance from set pieces, make him an equally dangerous force going forward. If Spurs are to win this tie, then they need to negate the Bosnian playmaker’s influence on the game.
Tottenham Form – D D W D W W
Tottenham Probable XI – (4-2-3-1): Lloris, Trippier, Davies, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Dembele, Dier, Alli, Erikssen, Son, Kane.
Tottenham One to Watch – Harry Kane (Attacker)
Harry Kane has scored more goals in Europe in 2017 than any other player, including Messi and Ronaldo and his ability in front of goal is vital to Spurs recent good form. Kane’s battle with Juventus’ back two of Benatia and Chiellini will likely be key to Spurs hopes and while I am not sure he will find the net in Turin, it may well be a different story in the second leg back in London.
Our Top Tip – Even with an attack as talented as Tottenham’s, going to face a Juventus team that have conceded just one goal in their last 16 games is a huge ask, especially away from home. Juventus have hit a rich vein of form of late and it is hard to see them succumbing to Spurs at home, they did after all hold Barcelona here in the group stage. I’m backing Juventus to sneak the only goal of the game here and take that narrow lead back to London for the 2nd leg. As such backing Juventus to win to nil at 21/10 with Coral looks a good option.
Wednesday 14th February
FC Porto v Liverpool
Venue: Estadio do Dragao (50,033 capacity)
FC Porto Form – W W W D W W
FC Porto Probable XI – (4-4-2): Casillas, Perreira, Telles, Reyes, Osorio, Otavio, Herrera, Oliveira, Brahimi, Tiquinho, Marega
FC Porto One to Watch – Moussa Marega (Attacker)
With injury concerns over Aboubakar, Moussa Marega has stepped up well in domestic football to score plenty of goals for FC Porto this season. He hasn’t yet found the net in the Champions League this season which is a disappointment and suggests that he isn’t quite ready for that level of competition just yet. Against Liverpool’s defence, he may get his best chance to break that duck.
Liverpool Form – W L L W D W
Liverpool Probable XI – (4-3-3): Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Moreno, Van Dijk, Matip, Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum, Mane, Firmino, Salah
Liverpool One to Watch – Mohamed Salah (Attacker/Winger)
Liverpool snatched Mo Salah for £35m from AS Roma at the start of the season and it looks like being the bargain deal of the summer. The Egyptian has netted 22 goals so far this season in the Premier League and has been outstanding for the Reds. His pace and ability to finish will be key if the Reds are to score an away goal and he is a solid bet to do precisely that.
Our Top Tip – FC Porto have a superb home record domestically but in Europe they have been beaten and by a team that is weaker than Liverpool. That said, the Reds are not the most consistent side, especially on the road in Europe and I think their mindset will be that a draw is an acceptable result. Leicester succumbed 5-0 here last season, but I can’t see Liverpool doing the same. I can see both teams finding the net and I think a draw is the likely outcome, hence backing the Both Teams to Score and a draw market is a solid option at 16/5 with Coral.
Real Madrid v Paris St Germain
Venue: Bernebeu (81,044 capacity)
Real Madrid Form – W W L W W W
Real Madrid Probable XI – (4-3-3): Navas, Hakimi, Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Kroos, Modric, Casemiro, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema
Real Madrid One to Watch – Cristiano Ronaldo (Attacker)
What else can you say about the Portuguese legend? He’s been moved into a more central attacking role now as he gets older but his ability to finish remains undiminished and he is the Champions League top scorer this season with 9 goals so far. Simply put, if Real create a chance for him, then it is likely Ronaldo will take it and with him, will go Real’s best chance of progressing.
Paris St Germain Form – L W W W W W
Paris St Germain Probable XI – (4-3-3): Areola, Alves, Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Silva, Veratti, Rabiot, Di Maria, Neymar, Mbappe, Draxler
Paris St Germain One to Watch – Neymar (Attacker)
The Brazilian genius moved to PSG at the start of the season for a world record fee of around £222 million and since then he has lit up Ligue One with some stunning individual performances. PSG strolled through their group scoring 25 goals in the process, a record in the Champions League group stage, but this is a much bigger test of their credentials and precisely the game that Neymar was brought in to win.
Our Top Tip – This clash could well have graced the final with the team that have dominated the competition in recent years up against the team that most wants to replicate their success and is spending vast amounts to do so. Real are not as strong as in previous years but I cannot see them losing at home. Having said that, I cannot also see PSG going down to a defeat here so I would back the draw at 14/5 with Coral.