UEFA Champions League 'Round of 16': Predictions
The Round of 16 draw of the Champions League is finally here, and the possibilities couldn’t be more immense. While some match-ups can be predicted rather easily, there are some exciting fixtures that everyone will want to keep their eyes on.
FC Schalke 04 vs Manchester City
With inconsistent performances both in domestic and European competitions, FC Schalke seem to be the underdogs in this matchup. Pep Guardiola seems to have finally found the key to success on the big stage, after their run of 4 losses. The foreseeability of this game is large.
Key Players: Schalke’s man between the sticks, Ralf Fahrmann will be kept busy by incessant attempts from inside and outside his box, a real test of his will. City will turn to the likes of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Expectations: A comfortable win for Manchester City, with a scoreline Schalke would like to forget.
Atletico Madrid vs Juventus FC
A match, if played now, is more than likely to shift Juventus’s way. With the good part of 2 months allocated for preparation, someone like Diego Simeone must not be underestimated. The scales will remain tipped in favour of Juventus; utter domination in the Serie A will help their momentum when they visit Madrid.
Key Players: Inevitably, all eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo, and the man tasked with ruining his hopes, Jan Oblak. Another variable in this equation is Antoine Griezmann, who is likely to be the most threatening player on the pitch.
Expectations: Juventus proceed, but Atletico aren’t about to go down without a fight.
Manchester United vs Paris Saint-Germain
The current state of affairs does point to Manchester United being handed a beatdown, but the future is surely murky. Things are fickle in United, with José Mourinho standing on thin ice. A managerial shift would surely ease tensions, it may still not be enough. PSG are always on a high when it comes to the European competition, while the same cannot be said for United.
Key Players: PSG’s prolific front three of Neymar Jr., Edinson Cavani, and Kylian Mbappe will be expected to bring the fireworks, while one man, David de Gea, will hope for a serious step up in form before February. With a little more time on the pitch, Paul Pogba could mean the difference for United.
Expectations: Paris Saint-Germain ease through this, unless the Red Devils are quick to sort themselves out.
Tottenham Hotspur FC vs Borussia Dortmund
Probably the most hotly contested of all the round of 16 fixtures, this match-up will live up to the hype. A real test for Lucien Favre’s tactical strength and his ability to rally his side. Two months might just be enough time for Spurs to figure out their injury list and come into this game full strength.
Key Players: Spurwils’ spearhead Harry Kane will have to tap into some of his basic instincts as an English centre-forward to produce that what is expected of him, goals. At the other end,Marco Reus doesn’t need to do much more than what he’s doing presently. One can simply close his eyes and ascertain that Paco Alcacer will be on the scoreboard.
Expectations: Dortmund will probably edge out on as close as a goal. There could also be a high possibility of the game going down to the penalties.
Olympique Lyonnais vs FC Barcelona
The Blaugrana will hope for a clean win over Lyon in the round of 16, but cannot forget their early exit last season to AS Roma. Lyon can do much more than cause an upset, if they are to step up. A successful January transfer window could do wonders for the French side.
Key Players: As is the case for Juventus, it is inevitable that Lionel Messi will be involved in the action, much like Luis Suarez. Olympique Lyonnais will turn to Nebil Fekir and Memphis Depay to produce the spectacular.
Expectations: Barcelona proceed with little to no trouble.
AS Roma vs FC Porto
All that is expected of this matchup is that Porto show that they were indeed the team that came out of the group stage with most points of any club. Elsewhere, giant-killers Roma will be preparing themselves for an impressive showing. While this may be the only true battle of equals, it may not be a cause for complication.
Key Players: Roma will want their man in-form, Edin Džeko to hit the back of the net more than once, with veteran Iker Casillas to beat. Alex Telles must put his enlarged presence on field to good use across the two legs.
Expectations: Roma advance, with certain difficulty.
AFC Ajax vs Real Madrid CF
Some experts might believe that Real Madrid could bow out of the Champions League this early, but the Galacticos live for the Champions League. While inconsistency rules the scene, a team full to the brim with world-class players must do well. Promising young players aside, Ajax lack one thing, experience.
Key Players: After a shaky start to his season, Gareth Bale must find form, and quickly. This is where Matthijs de Ligt steps in. The young Dutchman has proved himself worthy of high honours, and this might just be his biggest chance to hog some limelight.
Expectations: Real Madrid prove too much for Ajax, proceed with an impressive showing.
Liverpool FC vs FC Bayern Munchen
The most high octane match-up in this round of 16, a high momentum Liverpool take on a subdued Bayern in what is predicted to be the highest aggregate game this season. Essentially, it comes down to who can outscore the other, in any way possible. The absence of the great wall of Merseyside, Virgil van Dijk, for the first leg of the clash does tip the scales Bayern’s way ever so slightly.
Key Players: Liverpool’s front three, who were the most feared in European competition last season, will have re-energised to make a contribution. With Mohamed Salah seeming to have opened the floodgates, Manuel Neuer has his job cut out for him. At the opposite extreme, Alisson Becker will face Robert Lewandowski’s attempts.