Ahead of the Champions League round of 16 commencing this week, there are some mouth-watering ties for fans to look forward to.
The knockout phase of the Champions League is always an exciting time to tune in to the best football teams in Europe as they battle to win the most presitigous club cup competition in the world. In the modern Champions League era, only Real Madrid have retained the trophy after winning it, so Liverpool face a tough challenge in achieving this this season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side and Manchester City remain at the head of the betting following the draw, and both teams will fancy their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals. Read on as I look at the fixtures.
Atletico Madrid v Liverpool
Although Liverpool finished top of Group E during the opening stage, it is fair to say they had a scare or two along the way. They eventually booked their place in the knockout phase with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Red Bull Salzburg and they will be narrow favourites to progress to the quarter-finals in what will be a fascinating tie between two sides with contrasting styles of play.
Atletico are going through a transitional period and although they remain tough to beat and well organised under Diego Simeone, they may lack the attacking flair needed to defeat Liverpool.
Real Madrid v Manchester City
Zinedine Zidane’s side qualification for the knockout stage never looked in any danger, although they had to settle for second place in Group A behind Paris Saint-Germain. Their current team looks a long way short of the quality of previous Madrid sides, missing the goalscoring threat of Cristiano Ronaldo, and City will provide them with a massive test.
With Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte closing in on a return to first team action, Pep Guardiola’s side will be confident of progressing to the quarter final stages and will look to deliver a real statement of intent at the Bernabeu.
Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain
With PSG taking four points off Madrid during the group stage, they are showing signs this could finally be their year in the Champions League.
However, they have failed to make the quarter final in the three previous years and have famously imploded in the knockout stage before, and Thomas Tuchel will definitely be wary of the threats his old side possess ahead of the encounter.
The German side edged out Inter Milan during the opening phase and with the likes of Jadon Sancho and the sensational Norwegian Erling Braut Haaland, Dortmund will fancy their chances of securing a last eight spot over two legs.
Atalanta v Valencia
Atalanta squeezed through behind City in Group C, but it would certainly be a major surprise if they were able defeat Valencia in the last 16.
The La Liga side impressively claimed top spot in Group H ahead of Chelsea and Ajax and should provide to be too strong for Atalanta. After a slow start to the league season, Valencia’s form has picked up and they will be favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
Lyon v Juventus
Juventus have invested big money into building a side capable of winning the Champions League, most notably with the acquisitions of Cristiano Ronaldo and Matthijs de Ligt from Real Madrid and Ajax respectively in recent years: they should comfortably see off Lyon in this tie.
After claiming top spot in Group D ahead of Atletico, they are expected to provide to be too strong for the French side with the likes of Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala all in good form coming into the time.
Lyon sneaked into second spot in Group G behind RB Leipzig. They lack the quality required to give Juventus any trouble.
Chelsea v Bayern Munich
After finishing ahead of Ajax to seal second spot in Group H, Chelsea’s Champions League journey is likely to end against a rejuvenated Bayern in a rematch of the Champions League final in 2012, where the blues defied the odds to win the competition for the first time in their history.
The German side became just the seventh side in history to win all six group games, with their 7-2 victory at Tottenham Hotspur undoubtedly their standout performance.
Frank Lampard’s side have been less than convincing defensively this season and the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller Gnabry, Kingsley Coman could have a field day against a fragile blues defence.
Tottenham v RB Leipzig
Spurs easily took second place behind Bayern in Group B and are favourites to see off Julian Nagelsmann in the last 16. Manager Jose Mourinho knows what it takes to win this competition and that knowledge should prove invaluable against the German side.
Leipzig are flying in the Bundelsiga, and have considerbale threats in the likes of Timo Werner and Emile Forsberg, but their lack of Champions League experience could be the deciding factor against Spurs.
Napoli v Barcelona
Barcelona haven’t been quite at their brilliant best this term, but still managed to win Group F with ease. Forward Lionel Messi remains key and the brilliant Argentinian remains pivotal for a Barcelona side capable of going all the way in the Champions League.
Napoli have done well to reach the last 16, but off-field troubles are derailing their season and Barca should prove to be to strong for Genarro Gattuso’s side.