The last 16 stage of the Champions League was a blast. Not only did it see thrilling contests such as Spurs v Juventus at Wembley but, it also saw lopsided contests such as Liverpool’s hammering of Porto by 5 goals in Portugal.
The round also saw Real show the world why they are two-time defending champions and Manchester United foul the name of football by playing like zombies at Old Trafford against Sevilla.
That is past now. Today, we finally know. We finally know the opponents our favorite teams will be facing in the next round, to be held in the first and second week of April.
So, here goes. A round-up of the Champions League 2017-18 draw,
Liverpool v Manchester City
From the neutral’s point of view, this is a fixture that is guaranteed to provide a lot of goals. Twelve goals have been scored in the last two matches between City and Liverpool alone. Another dozen if the previous two seasons are included too.
City are favorites to win the CL and are champions-elect in the PL this year. Liverpool on the other hand, despite inconsistent showing in the League, have steamrolled opposition in the CL. More importantly, they remain the only team to have beaten City in the League (4-3 at Anfield).
City are the highest goal scorers in the League. Liverpool with the most goals in the CL.
This will be a goal-fest. A thrilling, breathless goal-fest between two teams that love to attack and press the ball high.
Klopp may have the historical upper hand over City’s Guardiola but, Liverpool will go in as underdogs. Especially in light of how non-existent Liverpool’s defense can be at times (*cough* Lovren *cough*)
The opening leg at Anfield will be key. Get two or three goals (despite their points tally, City are defensively porous) and defend well, without letting City have a crucial away goal. Anfield is a cauldron on European nights.
Not the Etihad because well, they haven’t seen many. But, a half-empty Etihad should be manageable if Liverpool have that buffer from Anfield.
It’s tricky to call this one. The head says City because they are more solid at the back when compared to Liverpool. But, you never know about Liverpool and European Nights.
Key Players: Kevin De Bruyne, Roberto Firmino
Juventus v Real Madrid
On a summer night last year, Real Madrid cruised to a 4-1 win over Juventus in the finals of the Champions League.
They meet again. This time, in the Quarter Finals.
Juventus come into the QF after showing their CL pedigree and resilience to dump an impressive Spurs whereas Real Madrid comes into the round with all the momentum in the world after thrashing favorites PSG (even though their domestic season was lost a long time ago).
This should be Real’s fixture to win. For all of Juventus’s pedigree, they still have an ageing backline that may not find it easy to defend against a squad with the likes of Bale, Isco, and Asensio.
And then, there is Cristiano Ronaldo, Real’s talisman who comes alive on knockout nights like no other player around. Ronaldo is an all-time great. Expect this to be another exhibition in his storied career.
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala
Barcelona v AS Roma
Unlike what the scoreline suggests, Barcelona didn’t stroll through the round of 16. Chelsea troubled them. Not only at Stamford Bridge but, at Camp Nou too.
The difference between the teams, however, was clinical finishing and the magician wearing the No. 10. Across the two legs, Messi scored three and created another, single-handedly destroying Chelsea’s hopes.
However, the fixtures exhibited vulnerability in that Barca side. Just look at how Wilian tore through the space between the back four and the midfield. Barca are vulnerable and contrary to popular perception, can be beaten.
However, Roma ain’t that team. Sure, they humbled Chelsea at home but, the Catalans aren’t Chelsea. And, they certainly didn’t have Lionel Messi. This is Barcelona’s match to win. No question.
Key Players: Lionel Messi, Edin Dzeko
Sevilla FC v Bayern Munich
Manchester United Sevilla wasn’t one of the teams expected to come out of the round of 16 as winners. Everyone and I mean everyone, expected Mourinho’s United to run through Sevilla. Alas, that didn’t happen.
United sleepwalked through both fixtures, showing the attacking flair of a damp squid and were punished by an inspired substitution by Sevilla at Old Trafford.
Bayern Munich’s road to the QF was comparatively straightforward, however, with notable victories over PSG at home, Celtic, and Besiktas on the way.
Sevilla has conceded more than three goals at home, five times in the past dozen matches. That’s not a great defensive record for a team in the CL quarter-finals. Bayern Munich on the other hand, have in Hummels, one of the world’s best center-backs
Without Q, this is Bayern’s to win. And sure, Sevilla’s Ben Yedder may make an impact yet again but, Bayern ain’t United. They won’t roll over on their back when you tickle.
Key players: Robert Lewandowski, Ben Yedder
1. Can’t wait to see a half-empty Etihad on a European night.
2. Both Messi and Ronaldo are now past 100 goals in the CL. What better time to live in for a football fan?
3. Manchester United, HA HA HA
That’s all from my side. Here’s looking forward to some great matches next month. YNWA.
Image Sources: Google Images
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