The round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League concludes this week with four mouth-watering encounters.
This round has certainly lived up to its billing in terms of drama, upsets and quality of goals.
Porto, Borussia Dortmund, PSG and Liverpool are through to the quarterfinals with four more teams set to join them.
While Bayern Munich and Manchester City seem heavy favourites to progress owing to their first-leg results, the remaining fixtures are very much hanging in the balance.
Manchester City vs Borussia Monchengladbach (Puskas Arena)
Manchester City had their run of consecutive wins ended by their noisy neighbours recently. However, Borussia Monchengladbach has been on the decline, especially since the announcement of the imminent exit of its coach, Marco Rose.
The Cityzens hold a healthy 2-0 first-leg lead and are yet to concede in 616 minutes in the UEFA Champions League.
Pep Guardiola has the Premier League title all but wrapped up and will look to put his entire focus on the competition.
On the other hand, the German side is on a run of four straight defeats since the first leg. Rose’s men have been utterly woeful and that has seen them drop out of contention for Europe in the Bundesliga.
It will take a sizable collapse of Manchester City and a memorable display from the Foals to oust the Premier League leaders. Hence, the smart money is on the ‘hosts’ to qualify for the next stage.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Borussia Monchengladbach (City to qualify)
Real Madrid vs Atalanta (Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium)
Real Madrid has been on a patchy form in Europe since the start of the season. It took a late Ferland Mendy goal to defeat the Italian side who had to play with a man short for the best part of an hour in the first leg.
Los Blancos (The Whites) will be desperate to avoid elimination at this stage of the competition for a third consecutive season.
Zinedine Zidane will be able to call on Karim Benzema for this encounter having been absent in the first leg. However, Casemiro is suspended from this match.
Atalanta will need to score at least two goals to stand a chance of progressing. While Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have not shown the kind of form that saw them get to the quarterfinals of last season’s competition, they are unplayable on their day.
Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel will look to ask as many questions of Real’s shaky defence.
La Dea (The Goddess) has won her last five away matches in the Champions League and will hope to bring that form to bear in Madrid.
This fixture is set to be end-to-end and promises lots of goals.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-2 Atalanta
Bayern Munich vs Lazio (Allianz Arena)
Bayern Munich is the overwhelming favourite to progress into the quarterfinals. The Bavarians have rediscovered their form since the 4-1 win against Lazio in Rome.
Hansi Flick’s men come into this fixture off the back of three wins on the trot, scoring 12 goals in the process.
Robert Lewandowski is in red-hot form and will once again fancy his chances against the Italians.
Lazio was unable to contain the firepower of the Germans in the reverse fixture, making for a one-sided affair. Therefore, it is highly improbable that Simeone Inzaghi’s men will be able to overturn the first-leg deficit.
The visitors will aim to keep the score as respectable as possible.
Both teams prefer to attack than defend, hence, this fixture is one to produce goals.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 4-1 Lazio (Bayern to qualify)
Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid (Stamford Bridge)
This fixture is finely poised. However, Chelsea holds a slight advantage going into the second leg following Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic goal.
The Blues remain unbeaten since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel, although the team has lacked imagination in the final third. The Londoners are assured in defence and have not been breached in the last four matches in the Premier League.
Tuchel’s men will need to maintain their solidity to progress.
On the other hand, Atletico Madrid is a shadow of its early self in recent times. The RojiBlancos (The Red and Whites) have now seen their once 12-point lead at the summit of the La Liga reduce to 4 points.
Diego Simeone’s men will have to take the initiative in order to engineer a comeback.
Luis Suarez is back on English soil and will be desperate to find his scoring boots in Europe this season.
Everything points to cagey affair at Stamford Bridge.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Atletico Madrid (Chelsea to qualify)