UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Predictions

THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IS BACK!

The stage is set for us to welcome back the European elite and watch them compete in the pinnacle of club football – the UEFA Champions League. The road to Istanbul will surely be marked with excitement, drama and defining moments as the competition draws out the champions among its contenders.

The Champions League Round of 16 has presented us with key matchups that will look to rewrite old tales and create new ones. Holders Bayern Munich will face a test in Lazio for the first time and last year’s runners up, PSG will be led by new boss Mauricio Pochettino in a mouth-watering repeat draw against Barcelona. Struggling Liverpool will face Leipzig in what we hope will be an entertaining encounter, and Zidane will look for solace away from Madrid’s domestic woes. Elsewhere, Dortmund are pitted against Sevilla, in-form City will be up against Rose’s Gladbach, Ronaldo will look to revel in Portugal, and Tuchel will resume his Champions League campaign with Chelsea against Simeone’s dogged Atletico Madrid.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v Manchester City

Stats (all as of Monday, 8 Feb):

  • Recent Form:
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach: WWDWW
  • Manchester City: WWWWW
  • Key Players:
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach: Neuhaus, Ginter, Stindl
  • Manchester City: Gundogan, Dias, Sterling
  • Champions League Head to Head: N/A

Champions League’s evergreen favorites, Manchester City have started picking up form and strung along a good run of performances in their domestic season, going unbeaten in 22 games. While they have found their mojo again, the defense of Stones, Dias and Cancelo has to be applauded. Their defensive intelligence combined with their unorthodox positioning has given the Blues the stability to build from the back and play with flair. Playing without their talismanic striker Aguero, Pep Guardiola has effectively used Gundogan, Cancelo and Foden in a system that helps them score goals from all aspects of the game. We saw Rose’s Gladbach employ a counter attacking style of play in their 4-2 win against Dortmund, and he could utilize this system through the pace of Embolo, Zakaria and Hoffman with opposition expected to stick to possession based football. The holding midfield position will be key for City to break the fluidity in counter attacks, one that they have mastered through Rodri. Gladbach will put up a tough fight, but Guardiola’s tactics and squad won’t let him down. Perhaps this year they could finally challenge for the Champions League crown.

Prediction: Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-5 Man City on aggregate

Lazio v Bayern Munich

Stats:

  • Recent Form:
  • Lazio: WWLWW
  • Bayern Munich: WWWWW
  • Key Players:
  • Lazio: Immobile, Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto
  • Bayern Munich: Lewandowski, Kimmich, Coman
  • Champions League Head to Head: N/A

Back in December, when this fixture was drawn, it seemed that Bayern would breeze past Lazio. And while we still expect Bayern to get through, it may not be the easiest ride. Lazio are starting to hit form at just the right moment, winning their last six league games. Inzaghi’s team is potent on the counter and could trouble Bayern’s high line. Their key men, Immobile and Savic, are also in great touch. And while the Bavarians have won 13 of their 14 games under Hansi Flick in the Champions League, they have been defensively inconsistent throughout this season and are not sweeping away teams in the same manner as they did last season. But they still boast a formidable attack that is supported ever so well by Kimmich’s all-round ability and winning mentality. Bayern have been gradually raising their performances, especially in defense, to distance themselves from the rest of the Bundesliga pack. With Lewandowski continuing to be Europe’s elite marksman, Bayern should be the favorites to progress.

Prediction: Lazio 2-4 Bayern on aggregate

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea

Stats:

  • Recent Form:
  • Atletico Madrid: WWWWD
  • Chelsea: WDWWW
  • Key Players:
  • Atletico Madrid: Suarez, Koke, Llorente
  • Chelsea: Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Werner
  • Champions League Head to Head: 6 Games
  • 1 Win Atletico Madrid
  • 3 Draws
  • 2 Wins Chelsea

Atletico will approach this game positively, albeit with caution. While they are cruising in the domestic league, they will be up against the challenge of a Chelsea side performing with renewed vigor and confidence. Initial signs under Tuchel’s tutelage point towards Chelsea keeping more of the ball, something that bodes well with Atletico’s DNA of absorbing pressure. Here, Mount’s energy could be pivotal in unlocking Alteltico’s sturdy and well-drilled defense, which has conceded only 12 goals in La Liga this season. And equally, Los Rojiblancos’ in-form Suarez and Llorente will be important in hurting Chelsea at the back. Tactically, Tuchel will look to deploy Hudson Odoi and Werner’s pace up front to discomfort Atletico in the final third. But in a game that will be marked by duels in midfield, it is always wise to choose the experienced. And Atletico do it more often than anyone, unless of course they are up against Ronaldo in the Champions League. A close encounter, but Atletico to edge it on away goals.

Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2-2 Chelsea on aggregate, Atletico Madrid to advance on away goals.

RB Leipzig v Liverpool

Stats:

  • Recent Form:
  • Leipzig: WLWWW
  • Liverpool: LWWLL
  • Key Players:
  • Leipzig: Angelino, Sabitzer, Olmo
  • Liverpool: Thiago, Salah, Fabinho
  • Champions League Head to Head: N/A

Liverpool seem lost at the moment. Three consecutive losses at Anfield after a 68 game unbeaten run emphasizes the manner of their decline. They lack intensity, drive, confidence and consistency, and they just seem to be hoping for a fix. Off the pitch, Klopp’s interviews are uncharacteristic of those of last season that were usually energetic and positive. As for Leipzig, despite another good season in Germany, they seem to be barely clinging on to their domestic title hopes. Having said that, we still expect both teams to brush aside their domestic disappointments to step up for this continental challenge. Liverpool will look to their Champions League campaign as a fresh start, and Leipzig will look to build on from last season’s impressive run. The tie should be an entertaining one, with Liverpool’s front three pitted against Leipzig’s resolute defense. In addition to their contribution up front, Sabitzer and Olmo will need to address Thiago’s distribution. This showdown between the German managers will hopefully be marked by high-press, intensity and dynamism. Liverpool should edge this given their superior quality and experience.

Prediction: Leipzig 2-3 Liverpool on aggregate

Porto v Juventus

Stats:

  • Recent Form:
  • Porto: WWWWD
  • Juventus: WDWWW
  • Key Players:
  • Porto: Oliveira, Taremi, Mbemba
  • Juventus: Ronaldo, Chiesa, Bonucci
  • Champions League Head to Head: 4 Games
  • 0 Wins Porto
  • 1 Draw
  • 3 Wins Juventus

The tie marks Ronaldo’s return to Portugal, one in which he will surely look to get on the scoresheet. Ronaldo is always inevitable in the Champions League and Juventus will hope to draw on his performances to progress to the next round. For Juventus, their performances this season have never really been convincing, and they often seem to labor to their victories. But they have produced results, claiming wins in six of their last seven games. And their once highly acclaimed defense of Chiellini and Bonucci seems to be keeping the attackers at bay again. Elsewhere, Porto did really well to finish second in the group stage of the Champions League, and they are a dogged team that can pose a threat on the attack with the likes of Corona, Oliveira and Otavio. This tie is not a simple one to call, but Juventus should go through owing to their recent form.

Prediction: Porto 1-3 Juventus on aggregate

Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain

Stats:

  • Recent Form:
  • Barca: WWWWW
  • PSG: WWLWW
  • Key Players:
  • Barca: Messi, Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong
  • PSG: Mbappe, Marquinhos, Icardi
  • Champions League Head to Head: 10 Games
  • 4 Wins Barca
  • 3 Draws
  • 3 Wins PSG

Probably the most riveting tie of the Round of 16, we hope that Barcelona v PSG upholds our expectations. Barring a ‘turnt up’ Messi performance over two legs, Pochettino’s taste of a Champions League final will spur him on to surpass the challenge of the Blaugrana. The Parisians will still be licking their wounds from the La Remontada’s 6-1 (6-5 aggregate) defeat that knocked them out in the final seconds of the 16/17 Champions League. Last year’s finalists, Mbappe & Co. will be looking forward to playing his former team and exploiting their injury hit defense line with PSG’s pace in attack and robustness in midfield. However, one can never downplay Barcelona on their day. Their recent form suggests that they’ve sort of become “comeback kings” with results against Real Betis, Granada and Rayo Vallecano. They seem to almost need to concede before picking up rhythm and occasionally syncing so well, they’re almost unplayable. With new manager Koeman determined to fulfill the Catalans’ ambition of winning the Champions League, and La Masia graduates like Pedri and Puig stepping up their game, Barcelona look like a team that can ask some questions. Overall, expect PSG to tip the scales in their favor and go through to the quarters.

Prediction: Barcelona 3-4 PSG on aggregate

 

Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund

Stats:

  • Recent Form:
  • Sevilla: WWWWW
  • BVB: LWWLL
  • Key Players:
  • Sevilla: Youssef En-Neysri, Ocampos, Kounde
  • BVB: Haaland, Sancho, Brandt
  • Champions League Head to Head: 2 Games
  • 1 Win Sevilla
  • 1 Draw
  • 0 Wins BVB

The battle of the “lessers”, this Champions League tie is sure to pack a punch for avid football watchers. Europa League specialists Sevilla will take on Dortmund and their new manager Edin Terzic, a long-term fan and now head coach of the team. Dortmund’s pacy wingers and their powerful poacher Haaland, who averages more than a goal per game (1.07 per 90mins), could cause problems for Sevilla’s center backs Kounde and Diego Carlos. However, Lopetegui could set up Sevilla to exploit Dortmund’s woes while facing set pieces. Maybe new signing Papu Gomez, who averages 3.09 chances created per 90mins, could provide better service for forwards En-Neysri and Lucas Ocampos causing havoc to Dortmund’s defense. This match will provide for a theatrical showdown between two typically well-drilled sides playing comfortably in their own style.

Prediction: Sevilla 4-2 Dortmund on aggregate.

Atalanta v Real Madrid

Stats:

  • Recent Form:
  • Atalanta: DDLWW
  • Real Madrid: WWLL
  • Key Players:
  • Atalanta: Zapata, Muriel, Illicic
  • Real Madrid: Benzema, Ramos, Kroos
  • Champions League Head to Head: N/A

The Champions League record holders always seem to perform independently of their domestic form. Atalanta have lost their totem in Papu Gomez in the January transfer window. Having to replace him would be hard considering he’s the one who would make them tick – almost ‘Bruno-esque’. However, the strike partners of Zapata and Ilicic can poach Madrid’s back line with the pace and industry of their fullbacks Rosens and Hateboer. Real Madrid might not be at their best without Sergio Ramos and will be without a number of key players, but they do know how to break teams down. The evergreen midfield trio of Casemiro, Kroos and Modric will be key to breaking Atalanta’s press and high line to serve the likes of Benzema and Asensio. Expect Real Madrid to showcase their quality and advance to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Prediction: Atalanta 3-4 Real Madrid on aggregate.

written by Guaurav Jethwani and Karan Ashar