Written by Billy Munday
It seems a good time to review and reflect after the first legs of the Champions League last 16. The first ties of the knockout stage saw incredible goals, thrilling games and unbelievable results. I look at who should be considered the favourites for the title in May, the underdogs and who are destined to drop out before the quarter finals.
After their first-leg demolition of Arsenal, it is very difficult to ignore a powerful and well-balanced Bayern Munich team. Their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has won Europe’s grand prize 3 times as a manager, with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007, and Real Madrid’s infamous ‘Decima’ in 2014, so Bayern certainly have his wealth of experience to count on when the going gets tough. Bayern are almost certain to go through against a struggling Arsenal and have match-winners like Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Thiago that could see them go all the way.
credit MrT HK
Real Madrid came from behind in their first-leg win against Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu and it seems like Real can call upon the whole team to chip in with goals throughout the campaign. The 3-1 win over Napoli is a great example as it was their striker, playmaker and holding midfielder who scored the goals, while we all know what Sergio Ramos can do from a set-piece having scored in 2 Champions League finals in his career. Real are in a good position to go through in their tie with Napoli but face a stern test in the away leg at the intimidating Sao Paolo.
Unai Emery is a manager who knows how to succeed in Europe, just look at his record with Sevilla, winning the Europa League in each of the last 3 seasons. His PSG side have one very firm foot in the quarter finals of the Champions League after destroying Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of the last 16 at the Parc Des Prances with stunning goals from Angel Di Maria helping them on their way. Emery was brought in by the Qatari owners to win them the Champions League and it looks like it could be their year.
It was a ridiculous first game at the Etihad between Manchester City and Monaco, showing the best and the worst of both sides. With City’s stronger hold on a quarter-final spot I have decided to pick them over Monaco for the title of underdogs. City boast one of the best attacks in the competition including Aguero, De Bruyne, David Silva and others but still have problems in defence and in goal as it seems like Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones cannot deal with Europe’s most potent attacks while Pep Guardiola is still unsure of his best man in between the sticks.
Even though they lost their first leg 1-0 to a lucky Benfica team, I fully expect Borussia Dortmund to progress through to the last 8 of the Champions League. Their talismanic striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang is on fire this season and may prove the difference between success and failure but they must be more consistent in front of goal if they are going to beat the best in Europe. While somewhat faltering in the league, Dortmund may find it hard to gather enough momentum mount a Champions League title challenge.
They couldn’t could they?
Perhaps the greatest football fairytale ever told, Leicester City must forget their contrasting performances in the league this season compared to last if they are to beat Sevilla after their narrow 2-1 loss in Spain in the first leg, let alone win the whole thing. But let’s not forget Leicester still have the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeicel at their disposal so if they can perform as they did in their superb title-winning season then Leicester’s story could have a happy ending after all.
Europe’s finest with go toe-to-toe as the season goes on and with Barcelona all-but-out, who can claim Real Madrid’s Champions League title in Cardiff in May? Let us know in the comments below!