The UEFA Champions League knockout stage is set to begin this February after a two months break. We will be looking at the fixtures of the round of 16 and the most likely teams to go through to the quarter-finals. The first leg of these encounters is set to take place on the 18th and 19th and the rest slated for 25th and 26th the following week. This ensures there is no break in excitement for football fans before the return leg. Mouthwatering odds are being offered for these fixtures which can be found here.
Here are the fixtures and predictions for each tie:
Atletico de Madrid vs Liverpool
Liverpool so far hasn’t lost a game in over a year in the premier league and with the form they are in right now, few will bet against them winning this match and the tie in the champions league. Atletico has struggled to score goals in La Liga which has caused them to lose ground on the top two in the race to win the league with just fifteen matches remaining. Unless Joao Felix and Diego Costa find their goal-scoring boots, they are likely to go out in the round of 16. Liverpool is everyone’s favorite to lift the trophy because they are in a good position to win right now.
Verdict: Liverpool goes through after both legs, although Atletico will make things difficult.
Borussia Dortmund vs PSG
This match is a shoo-in as the toughest match of the round, although there are other exciting matches as well. Both teams are in wonderful form heading into this match with PSG still top of the Ligue 1 table while Dortmund is still in with a chance, being just 4 points behind table-toppers Bayern and 3 behind RB Leipzig in second place. PSG are the favorites going into this match but must be cautious owing to the firepower in the Dortmund ranks. The stars that are to play in this fixture makes this an exciting match to watch barring any injury. Reviewed Uefa rules will see teenage sensation, Erling Braut Harland, play for Dortmund in this fixture after playing for Red Bull Salzburg in the group stages.
Verdict: PSG should go through after both legs have been played with plenty of goals scored in the matches.
Atalanta vs Valencia
A 50-50 tie for both teams who appeared promising this season but the reverse has been the case this season in their respective league till date. But as we all know, the mentality with which players approach a champions league match is quite different from a normal league game and this will be what some fans are looking for in this game. Atalanta is currently 4th in the Serie A table and is faring better than its opponent. While Valencia is currently 7th on the La Liga table. Basically, this match can go either way and will be decided by the quality of the team that is more determined.
Verdict: Atalanta is better on form and on paper but Valencia has experience in its ranks. Valencia to go through over the two legs.
Tottenham vs RB Leipzig
Tottenham Hotspur has a new coach in Jose Mourinho who has a vast experience when it comes to the champions league, having won it on two separate occasions with different clubs. The Lilywhites was a finalist in last year’s edition and will be aiming to go one step further this year. RB Leipzig is also looking great with them currently second in the Bundesliga table and in with a chance to actually win it this season barring a collapse before the end of the season. They’ll need a very good performance to go through in this tie.
Verdict: Tottenham is favourite and should qualify to the next round.
Chelsea vs Bayern Munich
Chelsea is having a mixed season with the change in the coaching department during the summer. The fact that some of the outfield players are relatively young hasn’t helped. But that’s not to say they don’t have it in them to cause an upset in this tie. They showed their quality against last year’s semi-finalist Ajax during the group stage and should not be underestimated. Bayern on the other is having somewhat of a disappointing season despite the fact that they top the Bundesliga with just a point separating them from RB Leipzig in second. Despite all that, this promises to be a spectacle to watch and will be very entertaining.
Verdict: Bayern to win the tie and go through to the quarter-finals.
Napoli vs Barcelona
Both teams changed coaching staff mid-season and their form so far is not completely convincing. Napoli is languishing in the 11th position despite beating Juventus recently. Barcelona is currently in second with a fighting chance in the league albeit three-points off the summit of the La Liga table. Their performance has improved a little in recent times. There is still a problem in the defence that needs to be resolved soon. They have conceded 28 goals in 23 matches and it shows no sign of stopping soon. The fitness of some of the players has also been called into question. Napoli is in with a shot at making it through to the next stage of this competition if they take their chances.
Verdict: Experience will come into place when possible for Barcelona and that’s why they will qualify for the next round.
Lyon vs Juventus
Juventus are clear favourites in this tie and barring a surprise from Lyon will go through. The in-form Cristiano Ronaldo who has found it hard to stop scoring is in their ranks. Juventus is still in the race to win the scudetto once again this season despite competition from Lazio and Internazionale. Lyon, on the other hand, is 9th on the Ligue 1 table and really not convincing with their performances either. There might be the hope of an upset only if they can play two perfect matches against the Old Lady. But that is a bit far-fetched and easier said than done.
Verdict: Juventus to go through with relative ease to the quarter-finals.
Real Madrid vs Man City
Quite surprisingly this tie is without a clear favorite with the bookies. This is despite the fact that Real Madrid is top of the La Liga table. While Man City is in second place in the premier league, 22 points adrift of Liverpool. Real Madrid turns things on when this competition comes around and this time will be no different. Pep Guardiola needs to sort out issues with his squad if he hopes to lead his team past Real Madrid. That said, it is not an impossible task with Real Madrid not being the force they were two years ago when they won their thirteenth champions league trophy.
So there you have it, the picks for the quarter-finals stage of the UEFA champions league. There is a previous piece written about the earlier qualification stage for those interested in refreshing their memory about the earlier stages of the champions league.