Last week saw the Round of 16 Draw in the UEFA Champions League, where the remaining teams learned who they will be playing in a two-leg home and away series in February and March for a spot in the quarterfinals. All sixteen of these teams have played very well in the group stages in order to advance, but from now on it will only become tougher as everyone will feel they have a legitimate chance to win the biggest tournament in European club football.
Many of the teams received favorable draws, but for every team pleased by their upcoming opponent, there is one who will be wishing the draw could be redone. Additionally, there are two super-matchups of teams who probably both deserve to be in the quarterfinals.
So when the matches have all been played, who will advance? Here are my predictions. The first four match-ups will be covered here, and the next four will come out within the next day.
PSG vs. Chelsea: Right off the bat is one of those two power fixtures, as two of the world’s best will play each other in what might be the best matchup of the round of 16. PSG is having a slightly disappointing campaign in Ligue 1, currently in 3rd place behind both Lyon and Marseille. However, they still have the second best striker in the world in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Edinson Cavani paired with Zlatan creates what might be the best combo strike force in the world. While not on the level of their strikers, the rest of the team is also incredible with players such as Sirigu in goal, Thiago Silva in defense, and Lavezzi and Lucas on the wings. Their only real weakness (and only in comparison to the rest of the team) are the wing backs. On the other hand, Chelsea is also a very deep team, perhaps more so than PSG. Diego Costa is second in the Premier League with 12 goals, and Chelsea as a whole have dominated the league, earning a 13-3-1 record so far. They have so many players in the midfield such as Hazard, Oscar, and Cesc Fabregas, and anyone on the team is capable of having a huge game. Let’s see which team is better in every part of the field, and who will win.
Man City vs. FC Barcelona: And here’s the other huge matchup, and a rematch of the final 16 matchup of last year which saw Barcelona take down City 4-1 on aggregate. Both of these teams are in second place of their leagues, chasing Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively. Man City has the Premier League leading goalscorer with Sergio Aguero, who has already netted 14 goals in nearly half the season. However, he couldn’t possibly top the combo of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar who routinely terrorize defenses. Messi is one of the all-time greats, and is backed up by a group of great players, whose main weakness happens to be age. Starters like Iniesta, Xavi, Mascherano, and Dani Alves are all at least 30. However, the team has balanced itself with many young players as well. They have only allowed seven goals in 16 games. On the other hand is Manchester City, who have a great team, and are the current Premier League title holders. They will play angry and will be eager to erase the memories of defeat from a year ago. They also have one of the best midfielders in the world, an underrated player by the name of Yaya Toure, who is good at just about anything. This matchup is bound to be a great one.
Goalkeeper: FC Barcelona
Defense: FC Barcelona
Midfield: Man City
Striker: FC Barcelona
Winner: FC Barcelona
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid: Atletico Madrid will look to take a big step in returning to the finals by defeating a side that lost to PSG in this round a year ago. However, Atletico lost their best two players over the transfer window to Chelsea, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and striker Diego Costa, both of whom were magnificent with Atletico and still are in England. Both these squads sit in third place in their leagues, and have both performed admirably given that neither has a true superstar. The strength of Leverkusen starts in goal with one of the best young goalies in the world, 22-year old Bernd Leno. Atletico has ex-Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic providing one of the best target men in the world, but their strongest group is most likely their defense, led by Diego Godin and Miranda. Overall, Atletico is just a bit more talented across the board.
Goalkeeper: Bayer Leverkusen
Defense: Atletico Madrid
Midfield: Atletico Madrid
Striker: Atletico Madrid
Winner: Atletico Madrid
Juventus vs. Borussia Dortmund: Here’s an interesting one. Juventus will surely be out for redemption as they were stunned in the group stages of last year’s Champions League, failing to even make it to the round of 16 despite being Italy’s most talented side and title holders in the Serie A for the last three seasons. Dortmund had a fair bit of success last year, making it to the quarterfinals before being ousted by Barcelona. However, their main concern this year is simply not being relegated from the Bundesliga. The team that finished safely in second place behind FC Bayern last year is currently tied for last in the league, and currently in the relegation zone. What’s happened to Dortmund? Well, two of their best left the side for rivals Bayern, Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze. But does two player really make that much of a difference? Who knows. Juventus is led in attack by Carlos Tevez, who has been brilliant in Italy since leaving Man City. Andrea Pirlo serves as captain of the midfield, which contains the stunning group of Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio, and Paul Pogba, the Frenchman considered by many the best young midfielder on Earth. Let’s not forget goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who is a legend, and is still as great now at 36 as when he won the 2006 World Cup. Dortmund is a team in turmoil right now, and not one that wants to run into the wrecking crew of Juventus.
Goalkeeper, Defense, Midfield, Striker: Juventus
That’s the first four match-ups. The others should be coming real soon, so keep your eyes out.
Thanks for reading,