Who Will Progress from The Champions League Round of 16?
It’s difficult to forget the drama of the Champions League Group Stage that took place at the end of last year. Both Liverpool and Tottenham came through their groups with last game performances of note, as their Italian opponents, Napoli and Inter, faltered and they made it four British teams in the last 16 with both Manchester City and Manchester United already confirmed through.
It was a somewhat unpredictable group stage at times, with some unusual results and some of the usual suspects in the Champions League also suffering from a lack of form. However, now that we reach the Round of 16, teams are just three rounds from the final and a chance to become the Champions of Europe 2019 at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in May this year.
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That action gets underway once again this week with the first four games in the Round of 16, with the second four first leg ties being played next week. There is then a weeks break before another two-week period with the second leg ties played, four per week, then. This allows the Europa League to play an extra round of games and to ensure that from then on both competitions are at the same stage.
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The draw for the Champions League saw some hugely intriguing fixtures and some difficult to predict games involving the very top sides. Here’s how we see each of the eight First Leg games going in the Round of 16.
Champions League Round of 16 – Fixtures
Tuesday 12th February
Man Utd v Paris St Germain – Home Win – 27/20
When this fixture was first announced, I fancied PSG to win both legs of this tie and progress comfortably. Now, I am more confident that it will be Manchester United that progress eventually and I am backing the Red Devils to win the home leg.
Why? Well the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer effect is a huge part of it. The Norwegian has drawn just one game since he took charge at Old Trafford, winning all the others and he has seen United play their best football of the season by far.
Add to that Neymar ruled out of both legs with injury and Cavani also a likely absentee from the first leg at least, and I think with PSG’s problems away from home, United should be confident of at least taking a lead with them into the second leg in Paris.
AS Roma v FC Porto – Draw – 5/2
My gut reaction to this fixture is a home win for Roma, but when I investigated the stats a little further and looked at the two team’s performance both in the Champions League and domestically, the picture becomes much less clear cut and in truth, Porto’s chances look greatly enhanced.
Roma’s form in this year’s tournament has been inconsistent, whereas Porto have been very consistent winning five and drawing one of their six group games. It’s been a similar story domestically too where Roma have been up and down, while Porto remain unbeaten in the Portuguese league since October.
As such, I have revised my opinion here and despite my gut telling me Roma would edge this, I think the stats show that Porto are very tough to beat, so I am backing them to earn a draw.
Wednesday 13th February
Ajax v Real Madrid – Away Win – 10/11
This is another game where over time my opinion of what will happen has changed. When the draw was announced, I fancied Ajax to perhaps cause an upset or at least win the first leg, but since then things have turned around a little for Real Madrid.
After a poor period before Christmas, they are flying now in the league and have moved up to second after beating Atletico Madrid 3-1 away from home at the weekend. They may not be at their very best, or have Ronaldo any longer, but they are still a formidable outfit on their day.
Ajax have produced some excellent displays in the group stage, notably against Bayern Munich, but with Real running into form, I think the current holders of the Champions League trophy will do just enough to grab a win here.
Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund – Draw – 13/5
Spurs may have squeaked through on the final day of group games with just eight points, but now they face a Dortmund side who won their group and who are flying at the top of the Bundesliga. It will be the third time the two teams have met in this competition in the last three seasons.
The first time Dortmund won both games, but last season Spurs did likewise, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top of this battle between two teams who have frailties defensively but who can score plenty of goals.
I think with a fully fit Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Spurs would win, but with Kane a doubt and Alli out, I think Dortmund have a chance to earn a result here and while I can see goals, I think they will be shared and the game will finish in a draw.
Tuesday 19th February
Liverpool v Bayern Munich – Home Win – Evens
After scraping past Napoli to reach the Round of 16, Liverpool now face a Bayern Munich side who are one of the top teams in Europe and have been a stalwart of the Champions League for many years, but who by their own high standards, have been a little below par this year.
The German side trail Dortmund in the Bundesliga and they weren’t at their stunning best in the group stages, where Ajax pushed them hard in the group. Liverpool’s woeful away record in this competition is a real concern for the second leg but the Reds do look imperious at home.
With Liverpool having 10 days to prepare for this game, I expect Anfield to be bouncing come kick off and I fancy the Reds to land a home win. Whether that will be enough come the second leg in Germany however, remains to be seen.
Lyon v Barcelona – Away Win – 8/13
Lyon have been involved in some exciting drawn games in the group stage and beat Manchester City at the Etihad in the opening game of the tournament, but their defensive wobbles may be their undoing against this attack minded and uber-talented Barcelona side.
With Lionel Messi coming back to full fitness, Lyon will be hoping that he is only fit enough for a place on the bench, but even so Barcelona have enough attacking talent with Dembele, Coutinho and Suarez in particular to give any team a headache defensively.
I also feel Barcelona’s defending, while not great, is much improved and that doesn’t bode too well for the French side here. I can see both teams scoring, but I can only see Barcelona winning the game.
Wednesday 20th February
Atletico Madrid v Juventus – Draw – 21/10
I think this could be one of the most competitive games in the Round of 16 and in truth I find it hard to pick a winner. Atletico have been the best defence in this competition for many years and if they can nullify Ronaldo, they have a great chance of progressing.
The Juventus star has shone in Serie A in his first season and has been crucial for them in Europe too, but Atletico also have some of their own stars who can score at home and on the road and as such, I think this game is poised 50/50.
I fancy this first game to be a draw, most likely 0-0 or 1-1, and then the second leg in Turin will decide the outcome, that may make Juve the slight favourites to progress, but don’t back against Atletico too much here as they have a knack of pulling out a result when they need it.
Schalke 04 v Manchester City – Away Win – 2/7
For me, Schalke 04 were by far the weakest team left in the competition in the Round of 16 draw. The German side had an average group stage campaign and their season in the Bundesliga has hardly set the league alight.
In contrast, after a slow start, City came through the group phase comfortably and have been flying in all competitions of late, as demonstrated by their 6-0 demolition of Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium this past weekend.
I am very confident that City will go through here and not only that, but that Guardiola’s team will comfortably win both legs to make smooth progress into the last eight.