Author is a sports lover and is currently playing football for his club team as a goalkeeper.
The biggest European club competition commences tomorrow after a two month break between the group and knockout stages. The world, including football, is still suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic hence it isn't going to be a traditional home-away leg with many countries still in a travel ban henceforth, some of the games will be played at a neutral venue. Just last week, the current title holders Bayern Munich adjoined another acclaim in their glorious run by wining the club world Cup and adding a sixth trophy to the cabinet for 2019-20. They along with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City who have won sixteen games and counting on the trott , will be resuming this part of the competition as the two favorites to win it all in the end. On the other hand the two big Spanish teams who dominated much of the competition last decade Barcelona and Real Madrid, are having some hiccups in their domestic leagues as both are struggling a lot with form and injuries. However in UCL, it's a different ball game and you have to just turn up on the day to prevail. Let's see the top 16 round draws and predict the survivor :-
1) Barcelona vs PSG -
Undoubtedly the biggest game of this round with both the teams facing each other after the historic 2017 match which saw Barcelona prevail 6-5 in the aggregate in the last seconds. The star of that match Neymar, is in the PSG camp but won't be playing due to an injury suffered last week. Along with him, another reliable winger Angel Di Maria will also be missing out. These two absence have perhaps made the game even as many were predicting the last year's runner ups to wipe out the troubled Barcelona after a two match draw. Antonie Griezmann and Lionel Messi who is looking in some form since the start if the year will share the responsibility to take the advantage of this home leg and give their team a good lead to defend in the away tie next month by which time Neymar & Di Maria will most likely be back. As to predict both rounds here itself, PSG has a slight edge with their strength in the backline and still good enough options to sail through the catalan side's defense.
Prediction - PSG
2) Liverpool vs RB Leipzig
2018-19 winners Liverpool have suffered setbacks after setbacks since last October. They have lost 4 of their last matches with 3 consecutive losses at Anfield which was their fortress. Add to that, their top scorer in the group round Diogo Jota is still recovering from the injury he suffered in the last group game of the competition. With all of their first choice center backs out, they have to rely on Fabinho and captain Jordan Henderson to provide stability in the backline which has not ended up well recently. Jurgen Nagelsmann 's squad will not find a better opportunity to build on to their reputation of giant killers and eliminate a vulnerable Liverpool from the competition. This match will be played in Hungry due to travel restrictions in Germany.
Prediction - RB Leipzig
3) Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund
The Europa League owners Sevilla are against a struggling Dortmund in this round. Dortmund are having a tough time right now in the Bundesliga despite having one of the best attacking line ups in Europe mainly accommodated to the uncertain tactics of the stop gap manager Edin Terzic and few injuries to some of their key players like Marco Reus. Erling Haaland needs to show his best goal scoring form for them to match up to the very organised Spanish side who will come in as favorites to go ahead.
Prediction - Sevilla
4) Juventus vs Porto
The all time top goal scorer of the UCL Cristiano Ronaldo against a Portuguese side, It has come down to this in the round of 16. As a team Juventus are in a quite unfamiliar spot of #4 in Serie A with the new manager Andrea Pirlo finding a little tough to cope with injuries and make a best possible composition of his side. Juventus finished #1 in their group beating Barcelona which has given them some advantage as per the opponent, but as we know anything can happen in this competition so taking the Portugal side lightly may come up to haunt the Italian giants.
Prediction - Juventus
5) Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Diego Simeone 's side has taken La Liga by storm. A clear seven points ahead of their rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona with still two games in hand. Many are believing it is almost certain of them to become the Spanish champions. Chelsea have shown some light of brilliance in the leadership of the new manager Tomas Tuchel and they certainly won't be pushovers. Simeone has been playing an attacking 4-3-3 line ups in the league game which is not really like him so it will be interesting to see how he goes with things here and what plans does Tuchel has on countering it.
Prediction - Atletico Madrid
6) Bayern Munich vs Lazio
The new sextuple winners Bayern Munich are coming back to the competition they literally destroyed last year with being favorites to go all the way this time around as well and win back to back titles. Robert Lewandowski has continued his last year's form and is the top goal scorer in Europe right now. The goal scorer of final, Kingslay Coman has been in sublime form as well. Addition of Leroy Sané has only provided more depth to an already fearsome attacking lineup. They are a bit struggling with their defense as Sule and Alaba haven't been upto the standards so far. Not much is expected of Lazio but stranger things have happened so keep an eye on it.
Prediction - Bayern Munich
7) Real Madrid vs Atalanta
13 time champions Real Madrid aren't in a good spot right now. So many of their players are out with injuries and them going back to back three transfer windows without adding anyone in the squad hasn't helped the matters as well. Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard, Marcelo, Rodrygo are all out of the first leg match happening next Wednesday. Despite all the criticisms, I believe Zidane hasn't done too badly keeping a depleted side in top 2 of La Liga , however some of his selection choices must be questioned. Atalanta lost one of their biggest players Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez in January whose absence will be felt. The quater finalists of last year have a good opportunity to upset the Spanish giants and better their best UCL record.
Prediction - Real Madrid
8) Manchester City vs Borussia Monchengladbach
As mentioned earlier , Pep Guardiola's men will be arriving to this competition as one of the favorites with a chip on their shoulders to make the wrongs of the last few seasons right. There are so many things going perfect with them currently. For starters, Ikay Gundogan has been a revelation in terms of goal scoring and hasn't let his team miss the services of probably its two of the most important players Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne. Their defense is looking rock solid with the leadership of the new signee Ruben Dias with them having the best defensive record in their league yet. The German side Monchengladbach survived over the current Serie A toppers Inter Milan which was a huge achievement and they will be looking for one more if they can deliver the biggest upset of this round by knocking out the powerhouse from Manchester.
Prediction - Manchester City
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