Goals guaranteed in the UEFA Champions League Round Of 16
The most anticipated club football competition, the UEFA Champions League is set to resume its knockout stages this week with some tasty matchups lined up.
There have been a few adjustments to the venues of some fixtures due to travel restrictions caused by the Coronavirus but it is expected that affected teams will rise to the challenge to make for excellent viewing.
There will be scores to settle between old foes in this round. Also, the relative newcomers will attempt to push their luck and test the mettle of the experienced teams when they clash.
The first leg of matches is scheduled to be played over two weeks.
Barcelona vs PSG (Camp Nou)
This is arguably the biggest fixture of this round, not just for the quality of players both teams possess but due to its recent history.
La Remontanda (The Comeback) became a popular football phrase amongst fans after Barcelona pulled off the greatest comeback in UEFA Champions League history at the Camp Nou. The Catalonian club overturned a 4-0 first-leg defeat to win 6-1 on aggregate against PSG.
Barcelona has dropped a few notches in terms of quality since then. They are currently third in La Liga and have only hit form since the turn of the year.
While the Blaugrana have mustered 7 straight wins in the league, they are yet to beat a top team this season. Injuries to key defenders might yet play a key role in this encounter.
PSG will be nursing the desire to revenge when they travel to Catalonia. However, they will be without Neymar (injured) who was instrumental in this tie while playing for the Spanish outfit.
The Parisiens have not been stellar this season and have had to change managers with the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino.
The focus will be on Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe for Barcelona and PSG respectively with both players possessing the ability to change the tide of the game.
Prediction: Barcelona 2-2 PSG
Leipzig vs Liverpool (Puskas Arena, Hungary)
This tie promises excitement, passion and goals. It is a battle of teams with contrasting league form.
Unfortunately, Leipzig will be unable to play this game at their stadium because of travel restrictions. However, they have exhibited the ability to adapt to neutral grounds when they got as far as the semi-finals last season.
Julian Nagelsmann has done remarkably well since joining the team last season. The German team had to dig deep to qualify for this round at the expense of Manchester United. They are second on the Bundesliga table, four points behind Bayern Munich.
In the absence of forward, Timo Werner, Leipzig has had to share the goal-scoring responsibility around the offensive players.
Liverpool on the other hand is in a crisis after slumping to a third straight defeat in the Premier League. Things could yet get worse for Jürgen Klopp if they fail to progress past this stage with a top-four position also looking like an uphill task. The German tactician has his work cut out in trying to limit the errors of Alisson Becker.
Amidst the defensive problems the Reds face, Mohamed Salah has not lost his scoring touch. He will fancy his chances against Leipzig.
This is the first-ever meeting between both teams and it is expected to be keenly contested.
Prediction: Leipzig 1-2 Liverpool
Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund (Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan)
This fixture looks sure to deliver on goals and drama. Sevilla are serial winners in Europe, albeit the Europa League. This season, the Andalucia-based side qualified with ease behind Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League. They are one of the dark horses of the competition.
Julen Lopetegui has structured the team to be defensively organized- 7 clean sheets in their last 7 games is a testament to their solidity. Youssef En-Neysri is also firing on all cylinders in La Liga with 13 goals.
Currently under interim coach, Edin Terzic after having fired Lucien Favre, Borussia Dortmund has been off-colour in the Bundesliga. Conceding goals via set-pieces has been the team’s Achilles heel.
The strategy for the Black and Yellows will be to score more than concede. With the evident quality of its frontline led by Norwegian sensation, Erling-Braut Haaland, anything is possible!
Prediction: Sevilla 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
Porto vs Juventus (Estadio do Dragao)
Porto are former winners of this competition having won it for a second time under Jose Mourinho in 2004. However, these days, they will be best qualified as underdogs.
They made it to the round of 16 as runners up to Manchester City with relative ease but the odds are currently stacked against them. Dragoes (Dragons) as they are known have been off-form in the last few games in Liga NOS football, garnering 3 points from their last 3 games.
Twice a UEFA Champions League winner with AC Milan in his playing days, Andrea Pirlo knows what it takes to play at this stage of the competition. He will be required to bring his experience to bear as they forge on.
Still, Juventus is a team trying to find its identity under its rookie manager. La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady), with Cristiano Ronaldo up front, is expected to have it easy against Porto.
Prediction: Porto 0-2 Juventus