With the Champions League knockout stages beginning next week, I have a look ahead to the Last 16 ties. The first legs of the Last 16 ties will be played across the 16th/17th February and the 23rd/24th February. The second legs will take place in March. I will have a look at each tie and see who is in a strong position to progress in the competition.
Champions League Last 16 ties:
Barcelona Vs PSG, 16th February (First Leg):
This appears to be one of the most exciting ties of the round with a number of star players involved. Barcelona will look to spring a surprise by taking down last years finalists. However, the Barca side led by Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann will have to stop the brilliance of Kylian Mbappe if they are to have a shot. One thing in Barcelona’s favour is that Neymar has been ruled out through injury. Without the mercurial Brazilian, PSG is perhaps not such a daunting opponent.
RB Leipzig Vs Liverpool, 16th February:
This is a fascinating tie. On paper, you would say that this is Liverpool’s tie to lose. They are the defending English champions after all. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side has been in awful form and have tumbled down the Premier League. They currently find themselves in 4th place, a massive 13 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.
Leipzig meanwhile is second in the Bundesliga, only four points behind Bayern Munich. The contrast in the teams form could make for an enticing encounter and potential upset. Do not be surprised if Leipzig springs a surprise and dump Liverpool out of the competition.
Porto Vs Juventus, 17th February:
Juventus’ search for their first Champions League title since 1996 continues against Porto. Led by the always special Cristiano Ronaldo, Juve is the heavy favorite for the tie with the Portuguese side. However, Porto was impressive in the group stages and will prove a resistant test for the Italian side.
Porto finished second in their group, losing just one game against Manchester City. Despite this, it would be a surprise if Juventus do not progress from this matchup.
Sevilla Vs Borussia Dortmund, 17th February:
This tie seems to be an exciting clash of evenly matched teams. Dortmund has the attacking firepower with the likes of Håland and Sancho. If they play to their potential then they are hard for anyone to stop. Sevilla’s strength is that they possess an appetite for winning in Europe. In fact, they have won four Europa Leagues since 2013.
However, they have not yet had this same success in the Champions League. If Sevilla can get off to a good start in the first leg then this perhaps could be the year they make a deep run into the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid Vs Chelsea, 23rd February:
This appears to be an intriguing match up. Despite winning their group, Chelsea has been handed a tough draw against La Liga leaders, Atletico Madrid. Atletico is leading the Spanish league by a massive eight points and only finished behind Bayern Munich in their Champions League group. Chelsea meanwhile has seen a resurgence in form since their change in managers.
They are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions and new manager Thomas Tuchel has installed a possession-based approach since arriving in London. Against the defensively brilliant Spanish side, Chelsea will need to be at their attacking best to have a chance of going through to the Quarter Finals.
Lazio vs Bayern Munich, 23rd February:
Defending champions, Bayern Munich, travel to Italy for the first tie of their Last 16 clash. The Germans are fresh off winning the Club World Cup and are heavily favoured to come through this test against Lazio. Bayern has won their last seven games and with the likes of Lewandowski, Sane, Gnabry and Coman going forward you can expect goals from the Bavarians.
Lazio is also in a rich vein of form. They have not lost in the league since going down to AC Milan in December. If they carry on like this then they could pose a much bigger threat to Bayern than most people expect.
Atalanta Vs Real Madrid, 24th February:
Real Madrid, the most successful side in Champions League history, travel to Atalanta for the first leg. Real Madrid has won the tournament 13 times which is six more than anyone else. They are not favourites to make it 14 this season, but you would still expect them to make a strong run in the competition. Madrid did win their group but only won three of their six group games, hardly the form of a contender.
As such, Atalanta will fancy their chances of pulling off an upset. The Italian side did beat Liverpool 2-0 away from home in their group. Another performance like this will certainly give them a fighting chance of overcoming Real.
Borussia Monchengladbach Vs Manchester City, 24th February:
This seems to be one of the most predictable ties of the round. Manchester City is the form side in Europe at the moment and has won their last 16 games across all competitions. In comparison, Monchengladbach sits seventh in the Bundesliga and has only won six of their last 15 across all competitions.
They do not seem to possess the star players to take down City. If this is anything other than a comfortable win for Pep Guardiola’s side I would be extremely surprised.