Champions League Last Sixteen: Predictions


Back after the festive period, the Champions League returns in the following couple of weeks with some really tantalising fixtures.

With four English teams still left in the competition, they will all hope to go one step further than Liverpool’s defeat in the final last season.

Roma vs Porto

After conquering Barcelona in last year’s dramatic quarter finals, many people fancied Roma to run Real Madrid close in this year’s group stages.

In the end, Real beat Roma comfortably, twice in fact.

Roma ended up going through as runner’s up from Group G by two points, and much will depend on which Roma team turns up on the night and whether former Manchester City man, Edin Dzeko can continue his fine run of form.

In contrast, Porto breezed through Group D (the group that no-one cared about), wrapping up top spot by seven points.

Much of their success is due to twenty-seven-year-old Moussa Marega who has scored five goals in six appearances in the Champions League this season.

Both teams will fancy their chances of securing a quarter-final spot, as many of the big boys would have liked to play either of these outsiders.

This is still true after the first leg, which saw Roma win 2-1 at home with impressive goals by the youngster Zaniolo. They will travel to Portugal with the hosts of the second leg with an away goal in the bag, and the confidence that they can clinch the tie on home soil.

Prediction: Porto to win.

Manchester United vs PSG

Cast your mind back to when the Last-16 draw took place… Manchester United had just been thrashed by Liverpool 3-1 and PSG were still unbeaten.

Jose Mourinho (who?) was the then-manager of United, and had watched his side earlier in the week squander a wonderful opportunity to top Group H in Spain.

Fast forward seven weeks and Manchester United are now the in-form team in England and probably Europe, going eleven games unbeaten under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United are now the in-form team in England

PSG would have been very confident of beating United back in December, but have run into problems themselves: losing for the first time this season last weekend, losing Neymar for both legs and now Edison Cavani is a doubt for the game at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

Are the stars aligning for another Ole Champions League win 20 years on?

Unfortunately, the lacklustre United performance in the first leg at Old Trafford allowed the French side to return to Paris with a two-goal league, two away goals, and full of confidence.

United will have to go to the Le Parc des Princes having to score a minimum of two goals, without talisman Paul Pogba who was sent off on the 89th minute at Old Trafford. This against a PSG team who now boast a team that are not only powerful going forward but also strong in defence.

It does not look good for the English side at this stage.

Prediction: You would have been a brave man to call this before the first game, but now it seems an English win is out of the question.

Tottenham vs Borussia Dortmund

Spurs somehow managed to come back from the grave and resurrect their Champions League campaign after looking down and out.

Question marks remain, however, and with Dele Ali and Harry Kane missing from the first leg, Spurs are well under strength.

Dortmund have their own injury concerns with talisman Marco Reus missing for the first night.

However, in Jadon Sancho, Dortmund have one of the hottest English talents in the world. Allied to this is their miserly defence which conceded the fewest goals of any team in the group stages. Despite their impressive credentials, Dortmund only went through from Group A as group winners on goal difference, so it may not be quite that simple for them.

This proved to be the case, as Spurs ran away 3-0 winners at Wembley, with goals from Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Llorente both scoring after 80 minutes. This commanding lead going into the second leg would mean that if Tottenham score only one in Dortmund, the hosts will have to score five to stay in the competition.

Prediction: A Borussia Dortmund win would have looked likely before the start of play, but now Tottenham would have to do something disastrous to lose.

Lionel Messi is back to his best after scoring six times as Barcelona topped Group B

Ajax vs Real Madrid

The Dutch team are currently second in their domestic league but are one of only a handful of sides which were unbeaten in this season’s Champions League group stage.

Having finished behind Bayern Munich in Group E, Ajax now face a tough test in the Last-16 stage.

But they have the players to cause Real some problems. Dusan Tadic scored five goals in the group stages and in typically Ajax fashion, have a group of young and incredibly talented footballers.

Matthijs de Ligt, for example, is a much sought after centre-back who has better stats than Manchester City’s John Stones.

Do not forget Kasper Dolberg’s name either, who made his name in the Europa League campaign which eventually ended in defeat in the final against Manchester United.

Real, the current holders, of course, are attempting to win their fourth consecutive Champions League.

Their season so far can be described as mixed, with defeats to both Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow in the group stages. But their record in this competition is superior to any other team’s and they will remain extremely dangerous.

They have started the tie well, with a 2-1 away win for Madrid. Ajax are certainly not out at this stage, but going to the Bernabéu on a Champions League night looking for a big result will be a big ask.

Prediction: Real Madrid win

Lyon vs Barcelona

Lyon recorded five draws and one win in Group F, the group which Manchester City eventually won.

While the French side beat PSG at the weekend, it feels as if beating Barcelona is a bridge too far.

Lionel Messi is back to his best after scoring six times as Barcelona topped Group B by six points and he would love to get his hands back on the trophy that has eluded him in recent times.

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde will also know that the pressure is on, given the Catalans poor showing in the past few seasons compared with their cross-country rivals, Real.

Prediction: Barcelona win.

Liverpool vs Bayern Munich

Contender for tie of the round, alongside the United-PSG fixture. Liverpool came second in Group C but, of course, reached last year’s final.

With their league form taking a sudden dip this game may be a healthy distraction for Jurgen Klopp’s men, who would surely strengthen their chances of winning the Premier League were they to lose to Bayern.

it is the knockout stages where Bayern must improve

But the Liverpool players and fans will not want that, and I expect these games to have some fireworks.

Bayern on the other hand, topped Group E without too many problems but it is the knockout stages where Bayern must improve having been beaten by Real in last year’s semi-final.

For a club which has so much history, one Champions League win since the 2000-01 season is something that they will want to improve on.

Front-man Robert Lewandowski almost single-handedly fired Bayern into the latter stages of the competition after finding the net on eight occasions in the group stage.

Prediction: If Liverpool don’t lose at home I can see them winning this.

Atletico Madrid vs Juventus

A tie which has gone under the radar somewhat given the magnitude of some of the other games. But these two clashes could be the case of sitting back, relaxing, and watching a tactical masterclass taking place before your eyes.

Neither manager likes to concede, and both are extremely competitive.

Atletico, after several disappointing seasons, are back where they belong and have managed to hang onto a certain French World Cup winner, Antoine Griezmann.

His performances across the two games will be crucial to Atletico’s chances of progressing further into the knockout rounds.

For Juventus, it has been the case of so-close yet so-far in recent times in the Champions League.

And after being knocked out by Cristiano Ronaldo in last year’s quarterfinals, they will hope that he will inspire them to finally win a tournament where they haven’t tasted success since 1996.

It has been a long wait for the Old Lady and with players like Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, this arguably represents their best chance for many a year.

Prediction: Juventus win (expect a very very close set of games).

For Juventus, it has been case of so-close yet so-far in recent times in the Champions League.

Schalke 04 vs Manchester City

Schalke qualified from the group that no-one really took note of along with Porto.

While they shouldn’t be written off, you would think that Manchester City will have more than enough firepower to safely negotiate any threat that Schalke pose.

For Pep Guardiola, he will demand that Manchester City get through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League as a minimum and he will be pleased with probably the easiest draw of any team, especially with the domestic fixtures that City have around the same time.

For a side with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling within its ranks, there should be no sweat involved for either Pep or the fans.

Prediction: Manchester City win

Photograph: Kieran Lynam via Flickr

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