The Champions League is finally back after a two-month break and the round of 16 is set to be intriguing. After an entertaining draw, three power match-ups highlight the fixture list, but it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Here are my predictions of who will advance out of the round of sixteen. Winner in BOLD
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— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 12, 2018
Tottenham vs Juventus
Spurs have been in incredible form recently, having not lost since December to Man City and going unbeaten in a group with Real Madrid and Dortmund. Tottenham is hoping that this year could be special, as they focus on the cup competitions since the Premier League seems to be out of reach. Harry Kane has been at the front for this season’s golden boot in Europe with 32 goals in just 33 appearances. The Old Lady, on the other hand, have been back and forth with Napoli for the top spot in Serie A. Paulo Dybala has been sidelined for some time with a hamstring injury and is expected to miss the first leg, even though he returned to training. This one could be a toss up, both with solid defenses, strong midfields, and an explosive attack, but I give Spurs the advantage, as Kane will bother Buffon and the Juve back-line.
FC Basel vs Man City
Not much to say here as City have been a destructive force running through the Premier League and Europe. Even with injuries to Leroy Sane, Fabian Delph, David Silva, and Gabriel Jesus the Cityzens have been plugging along. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero have dominated every game they play and can’t be stopped. The only hope for Basel is that the amount of games that City will play over the next few weeks will wear them down, giving the Swiss side a chance. However, that seems unlikely. Tough luck for FC Basel.
Real Madrid vs PSG
Super Club against Super Club. What else is there to say? Neymar vs Ronaldo will be the most talked about headline, but the pieces around them will be the story. Cavani vs Benzema. Mbappe vs Bale. Kroos vs Verratti. The list goes on and on. The main question will be which defense holds up against which. Real Madrid have the better personnel but have not been performing to their potential, allowing more than a goal per game in La Liga while PSG concede under a goal per game in Ligue 1. Neymar and Ronaldo have the ability to take over a game whenever, and it will happen at some point in both legs. I give the edge to Neymar and the Parisians cause of their form in recent weeks with a strong defense when Los Blancos have lacked. PSG have spent big this summer for this reason; to win Champions League. Now it’s time for them to prove it.
Porto vs Liverpool
The Dragons have been on an unbeaten run since October when they lost to RB Lepzig in the Champions League group stage. Porto have dominated domestically this season but have struggled in the past in Europe. The Portuguese side haven’t moved past quarterfinals since the 2014-2015 season. They’ve been outscored 36-60 when facing English opposition and 2-7 versus Liverpool. For the Reds, the departure of Coutinho has established the solid front three of Mane, Firmino, and Salah. Mohamed Salah has established himself as one of the biggest goal threats in the world over the winter. Liverpool also bought in the transfer window with Virgil Van Dijk coming to Merseyside. With the defensive improvement, Liverpool have a solid squad that could trouble any team including the Dragons. Klopp and his men will be marching on to the next round.
Mohamed Salah in all competitions for Liverpool this season 🔥🔥
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 11, 2018
Barcelona vs Chelsea
This fixture has entertained before, and it’s certain to entertain again. Antonio Conte has had poor performances in the Champions League at Juventus, but this will be his first time with the Blues. Eden Hazard has been the saving grace, as he’s put in great performances in recent weeks. Morata is sidelined due to poor form plus injuries, and Giroud adapting to Chelsea has the Blues searching for goals. Along with injuries in defense and midfield, this couldn’t be a worse time for the Blues. Barcelona, on the other hand, have been cruising through La Liga without stopping. Squad fitness will be key, as they’ve relied on the same players week in and week out. They’ll also be without Coutinho due to transfer policy, which will hurt the Catalans. The key match to look for will be Busquets vs Kante. Whichever player can supply the front-line more often will have the most success in the tie. Both teams will go back and forth, and odds are, one crucial goal will decide the tie late in the match. It will be in favor of Catalans for having depth on their side.
Bayern vs Besiktas
Although both teams have been on excellent form, Bayern Munich have been unstoppable in recent weeks. Bayern haven’t lost since Thanksgiving, and Besiktas recently posted their biggest victory in Super Liga this season. Besiktas have players that can influence game such as Ricardo Quaresma, Pepe, and Anderson Talisca. The loss of Cenk Tosun will way heavy on the Turkish side without a striker to bang in the goals. Alvaro Negrado and Vagner Love will need to pick up the slack. In Germany, Bayern are such a deep team that their reserves could give any team a game. With Muller, Robben, Lewandowski, and Rodriguez leading the front-line it will be hard for Besiktas to handle the true force that is Bayern. Don’t forget Manuel Neuer was added back to the squad, so Bayern will be solid in at the back as well. There’s just too much star power for Besiktas to handle.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) February 12, 2018
Sevilla vs Man United
Although Man Utd have been struggling in the league, they were able to walk through the group stage with ease. The Red Devils depth will help them with stars like Pogba, Lukaku, Sanchez, Martial, Rashford and Mata. Jose Mourinho will have options before picking his final eleven. On the other side, Sevilla can hang with the best of teams, as they’ve proven in La Liga. With the quickness of Wissam Ben Yedder and experience of Jesus Navas, the Spanish side could hang with Manchester Utd for the majority of match. At some point, the individual skill of a United player will change the game and the scoreline. I expect Man Utd to go through, but it won’t be easy.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs AS Roma
This fixture should be close, but it’ll be the Italians that come out of this one. It’s difficult for any team to pick up the form that they left off on, the case for Shakhter Donetsk. The Ukrainian and Russian leagues have been known to take winter breaks to avoid playing in poor conditions. Shakhter have not played in over two months while Roma have been performing in Seria A. Shakhter have been training, but they haven’t played a top-quality team in some time and could come out of the gates slow. Roma have been battling in Seria A against the likes of Juventus, Napoli, and Inter. The physical play of Radja Nainggolan, Eden Dzeko, and Danielle De Rossi could pose issues for Shakhter. Off impressive performances against Chelsea, the Italians have all the tools to go through to the final eight.
Let me know who you think will advance to the Quarter-finals. Have any opinions on the topic or want me to pick a different topic be sure to comment your thoughts. Follow me on Twitter @CamB_PerSources to join the conversation and keep up with more articles.