Fight To The Finish In UCL Round 16 2nd Leg

A preview of what to expect in the UCL round of 16 second leg

What is a Champions League gameweek without drama? Last week’s action produced lots of it and more; schoolboy errors, top-class displays, regrets, disappointments, anger.

Bayern Munich showed exactly why they remain one of the favourites. Amid some inconsistencies in the Bundesliga, the Bavarians outclassed Salzburg, hitting them for seven.

Liverpool did not continue their winning run, one which would have seen them break the record for consecutive wins in the UCL. They lost. Inter Milan tried to make a comeback, but the Reds had just about done enough in the first leg.

Manchester City was through from the first leg, the second only a formality. For most of the game, that was what it was.

And then Real Madrid told everyone just how winning 13 titles was not a fluke. Overturning a 2-goal deficit in the final half was not, either. PSG capitulated in 15 minutes. Karim Benzema and Luka Modric dominated. The result was a 3-1 win to advance to the quarterfinals.

This week’s matches are finely balanced. There will be more drama, excitement and fun.

Manchester United vs Atletico Madrid

There was little to celebrate both teams at the Wanda Metropolitano. And if the La Liga side were better on the balance of play, Anthony Elanga’s cool finish to equalise 1-1 meant that these teams would have to do it all over again in Manchester.

The hosts will be keen on dominating the spaces, taking the initiative. Ralf Rangnick will be insistent on a better counter-press out of possession.

With Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick at the weekend against Tottenham will come confidence. And yet, he will be reliant on great service, especially from the now-fit Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho.

Expect fireworks in this encounter

Diego Siméone’s men seem to have got back into their groove since the first-leg meeting. Four wins on the bounce has seen them reclaim the fourth position in the League.

The Colcheneros will hope to build on their performance in Spain, but with more incision and intensity.

For the first time since his big-money move from Benfica to the Spanish capital, Joao Felix is on a splendid run of form. The Portuguese will fancy his chances against United’s loose defence.

It is all to play for in this tie, and with both teams struggling in defence, there certainly will be goals.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-3 Atletico Madrid.

Ajax vs Benfica

After a flawless group stage performance, Ajax was adjudged as slim favourites to advance. However, Benfica showed just how up for the task they were.

It finished 2-2 in Portugal, meaning that it is still anybody’s game to win.

It will be same of the same for Erik Ten Haag’s men: quick passing, multiple and dynamic movements and an aggressive press.

Sebastian Haller has not stopped scoring. The smart money will be on him to continue his streak at home.

Haller remains a menace for opposing teams

Benfica will be brimming with confidence after forcing its opponents to a draw.

Nelson Verissimo’s men have shown to be devastating on the break. They will once again hope to exploit the high defensive line of the Dutch side. Darwin Nunez and Roman Yaremchuk will be key.

This has all the makings of an end-to-end encounter with the odd goal deciding the outcome.

Prediction: Ajax 2-1 Benfica

Juventus vs Villarreal

Perhaps the abolition of the away goal rule has plenty to do with how the first legs of most encounters have gone.

However, Juventus will hope to get the business done in Turin. Indeed, Massimiliano Allegri’s men have sparked into form, staying unbeaten since January.

Dusan Vlahovic’s winter signing has been significantly good to their ambitions. The Serbian took less than a minute to open the scoring in the first leg.

This fixture will be exciting

The Old Lady has also been brilliant in the Serie A, defeating Sampdoria 3-1 last weekend.

There is a seemingly fine balance in the team’s defensive and offensive outlook. Allegri will hope to wrestle the midfield off the likes of Dani Parejo while hoping that his team can switch play quicker.

Villarreal has continued to huff and puff in Spain. However, Unai Emery will hope that his side can replicate their first-leg performance.

The midfield will be important in their strategy, even as they hope that Arnaut Danjuma can be more clinical.

Prediction: Juventus 2-1 Villarreal

Chelsea vs Lille

Amid all of the off-field problems the Blues have faced in relation to their owner, the results have been perfect.

A 2-0 first leg result at Stamford Bridge means that Thomas Tuchel’s men are almost guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals.

The Premier League team will be patient, looking to control the tempo of the game from the start. Romelu Lukaku might be given a look-in.

The Blues will be confident of progressing to the last eight

Meanwhile, Lille remains the underdog. With nothing to lose, the Ligue 1 champions will go at their opponents from the blast of the whistle.

Jonathan David was largely kept silent in the first leg. However, he will be desperate to get in behind the Chelsea backline.

In a particularly underwhelming performance by the French side, Renato Sanchez dictated play in midfield as well as possible. The Portugal international will be keen to impose himself once again.

If Chelsea can somehow transport themselves to the venue, they look sure to do enough to progress.

Prediction: Lille 1-1 Chelsea