Its that time of the year again. The knockout round of the UEFA Champions League is upon us. The draw for Europe’s premier competition’s round of 16 is out. While elimination matches are always unpredictable, this year it promises to be more than ever. Although the group stages provide entertainment and quality football action, it’s fair to say the tournament really begins now. Here is an in-depth analysis of the Champions League R16 draw
THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE R16 DRAW
Real Madrid vs Paris Saint Germain
Quite easily the pick of the fixtures. If someone told you before the draw, this would be the final it won’t have surprised anyone. But that’s the randomness of the draw, that these two brilliant teams will face each other in the Champions League R16.
The line up of player in action in this tie is extraordinary. From Neymar to Ronaldo, Mbappe to Bale, Cavani to Benzema, Verrati to Modric, Romos to Thiago Silva. This tie is really the definition of a star-studded tie.
Who are the favorites?
One has to either be an astrologist or be very bold to call this one. On the balance of action, the two teams are equal matches.
The signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have enhanced the Paris Saint Germain team to another level. The quality of football they put on show in the group stages was arguably the best in Europe. the explosive front three of Neymar, Mbappe, and Cavani would give the best of defenders nightmares. If they fire, things could become really hard for the Las Blancos.
What PSG lack is the experience of getting through such ties. In the past few years, whenever they have played a vital CL game, they have failed to progress. Despite the enormous investment, Psg is yet to reach the semi finals of the Champions League. A great example of poor they have been in these big games is them not been able to hold a 4-0 first leg lead vs Barcelona.
On the other hand, Real Madrid has the pedigree. They are the double defending champions of the tournament and have the character to get through such ties. Zidane’s team have produced their best football in such situations and that will give them confidence going into this big tie.
The concern for them is simply their form. Quite evidently, their form, this season has not been good enough. The Las Blancos failed to beat an inexperienced Tottenham Hotspur and already find themselves 8 points behind league leaders Barcelona in La liga. Its certainly a blessing for them that the game is still 2 months away and will hope they can hit a good run of form by then.
Chelsea Vs Barcelona
One of the great European rivalries of all time will resume in 2018. Things back to 2005, 2009, 2012 and you remember classics. Some of the most amazing and controversial European nights for both clubs have come each other.
Who are the favorites?
Despite the miserable transfer window they had, Barcelona has so far bossed the La Liga. They are unbeaten in all competitions including a comprehensive win against Juventus in the Champions League group stages. With Lionel Messi in top form, it would be foolish to think they are not favourites for the tie.
But Chelsea has beaten the best of Barcelona’s sides. This Barcelona side is only a shadow of the team that once dominated world football. Their midfield and defense remain an area that Chelsea can easily exploit. If the blues step on the field with the right mindset, this Champions League R16 matchup could well be another epic encounter.
Juventus vs Tottenham Hotspur
While a contest between the runners-up of last season and a side who were knocked out of the group stages doesn’t promise much, this one is completely different. While Spurs have been mocked for their European record, they stunned the world by topping their group and beating Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
On the other hand, Juventus have had a sub-par season so far. In the Seria A which they have won for the last 6 years, they stand third at the moment. Further, in the Champions league, the Old Lady could not get the better of Barcelona like earlier in the year and only got second place in the group.
One would expect Juventus’s experience to take them through this tie. But if Spurs play the game with the same attitude as against Real Madrid and their best players turn up, they could end up giving Allegri’s men a run for their money in this Champions League R16 clash.
Manchester City V Basel
Manchester City is now the bookie’s favorites to win the Champions League. Something that won’t surprise anyone. Pep Guardiola’s team are in record-breaking form this season. They have won 16 of their 17 Premier League games and have only lost one game across all competitions, which was an inconsequential Champions League tie.
In Basel, at least on paper, they have got the easiest possible Champions League R16 draw. While Basel has been a nemesis for English side’s in recent years, its impossible to see them getting the better of this brilliant Manchester City side.
Manchester United Vs Sevilla
Another English v Spanish tie that will light that up the Champions League R16. This tie is notably one of the past four winners of the UEFA Europa League. While Manchester United are defending champions of Europe’s secondary competition, Sevilla had won the three editions prior to them. Certainly, both sides have a lot of pedigree for big European games.
While the league table might not paint a favorable picture for them, Manchester United are certainly having their best season since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. On the other hand, Sevilla has had a shaky year, to say the least. The Red Devils will certainly go into the tie as favorites, but as Sevilla exhibited against Liverpool taking them lightly will be a massive mistake
FC Porto vs Liverpool
Liverpool scored 7 goals twice but also blew away leads against Sevilla twice in the group stages. This probably describes Liverpool the best. While the tie seems favourable for them on paper, one never really knows which Liverpool will turn up. But on the balance of things it would be a big surprise if Liverpool does not make the Quarter Finals for the first since 2009.
Shakhtar VS AS Roma
The battle of the underdogs. The tie can be called as one of the surprise packages in the Round of 16. No one would have expected Shakhtar to get through a group having Manchester City and Napoli. Similarly Roma topping a group with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid was unexpected, to say the least. This is a game that one will find very difficult to predict. Both sides will fancy their chances and the neutral can expect a great game.