Champions League round of 16 preview

After the draw for the next round of the tournament was made last Monday, we look ahead to all eight ties.

Having topped a difficult group ahead of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham will be a little disappointed to be paired with Juventus in the round of 16. That is not to say Spurs cannot beat last season’s runners-up, however, with their return of four points from two meetings with Madrid enough to inspire confidence ahead of this clash with the Italian champions. 

This will probably be a tight tie and goals could be at a premium, but Juve’s greater experience of the competition may prove decisive.

Manchester City’s remarkable start to the 2017/18 campaign means they are now favourites to go all the way to the trophy this season. A meeting with Basel in the last 16 should be negotiated with a minimum of fuss, with City likely to prove far too strong for the Swiss side right across the pitch. 

It is difficult to envisage anything other than a comfortable aggregate win for the Premier League leaders, whose outstanding attacking quality makes them a feared opponent for every team left in the tournament.

A draw which neither side will be too disheartened with. Liverpool start as favourites and proved in the group stage that they can blow teams away when they find their attacking rhythm, but there were also moments – notably the second half of the trip to Sevilla, in which Jurgen Klopp’s men conceded three times to draw 3-3 – when their defensive vulnerability proved costly. 

Porto will look to sit deep and frustrate the Reds, although the English outfit’s forward line can be very difficult to stop when they are on song.

The standout tie of the last 16 pits holders Real Madrid against a PSG side whose desperation to win the Champions League is clear for all to see. Unai Emery’s charges will be disappointed to have been handed such a difficult draw after topping their group, but if the Ligue 1 outfit want to go all the way in Europe’s premier competition they will need to beat top-class sides along the way. 

PSG’s front three of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani is capable of causing Madrid numerous problems, but question marks remain about other areas of the team – and los Blancos are masters at getting the job done in Europe.

Besiktas will curse their luck after finishing first in Group G and then drawing Bayern; simply staying in tie ahead of the second leg in Istanbul will be the objective for head coach Senol Gunes. Bayern have not always convinced so far in 2017/18 but certainly look much improved under Jupp Heynckes, who led the Bavarians to the Champions League trophy in 2013. 

It is hard to see Bayern not taking their place in the quarter-finals for the 10th season in a row.

Chelsea’s failure to beat Atletico Madrid in their final group stage encounter meant there was almost a 50 per cent chance of them being paired with Barcelona in the first knockout round. Those fears were confirmed last Monday, but Ernesto Valverde’s side will certainly have hoped for a kinder draw too. 

The presence of Lionel Messi in their XI means Barcelona start as favourites, but Chelsea could spring a surprise by defending stoutly and springing forward quickly on the counter-attack through Eden Hazard.

Sevilla qualified for the knockout phase after amassing nine points in Group E, but they only won two of their six games and will not strike much fear into Manchester United. Jose Mourinho’s men possess plenty of pace and should be able to get at a shaky Sevilla backline, while the fact that the second leg is at Old Trafford plays into the Red Devils’ hands.

United will seek to play on the counter-attack in the away leg and should have success, with Sevilla yet to really convince in La Liga this term.

Both clubs will fancy their chances of making it through to the quarter-finals after this draw. Roma did well to finish ahead of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid in their group, but there was not really much to choose between all three sides – Atleti, although eliminated, really should have beaten the Giallorossi at the Stadio Olimpico.

Shakhtar are a well-coached team who possess some exciting individuals up top, but Roma will probably have enough to squeeze past the Ukrainians and into the last eight.

By Greg Lea

Greg Lea is a freelance football writer for FourFourTwo, The Blizzard and various others. Follow his Twitter account @GregLeaFootball for anything and everything related to soccer and more.