While the UEFA Champions League knockout stages always provide drama, this season’s round of 16 draws has left us with some absolutely scintillating matchups. Let’s look at the four most interesting matchups. These ties will take place in February and March. They will be contested over two legs.
Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur
Both clubs are falling short of expectations domestically, but Spurs were arguably the most impressive side in the Group Stage of the Champions League taking four points from two-time defending champion Real Madrid and winning both matchups with 2013 finalist Borussia Dortmund.
What’s worked for Spurs in Champions League? Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen who have difficulties in the Premier League breaking down bunkered defensive lines have used quick movement and passing to open up defenses in Europe.
In terms of Juventus, this season the team has begun to appear less certain in the final third and is having more trouble than the past keeping clean sheets. Still, they are a formidable force.
Juventus have won six straight Serie A titles and been to two of the last three Champions League finals. They remain the favorite here but just.
It’s rare a tie of this stature that springs up in the Round of 16. A few come to mind in recent memory- such as the 2007 Liverpool – Barcelona tie (won by Liverpool) and the 2011 Bayern – Inter tie (won by Inter). Still, this could be the best of the bunch.
Real Madrid are the only team in the Champions League era of the European Cup to win back-to-back titles, having won the last seasons. PSG have spent more money than any club on the planet assembling a star-studded squad that is expected to challenge to win this trophy, now.
Last year, PSG blew a 4-0 aggregate lead at this stage to fall to Barcelona. PSG also finished behind Monaco in Ligue Un. How did they solve this disappointment? Buy Neymar from Barcelona and Kylian Mbappé from Monaco. Thus far PSG has been flying in this competition but losing to Bayern on the last matchday could be a warning sign.
Real Madrid are looking sluggish having finished behind Spurs at the Group Stage and currently sitting eight points off the top of the La Liga table. Gareth Bale’s injury has been particularly problematic for Real as nobody has really picked up the load for the oft-injured Welshman. But they have Cristiano Ronaldo and should Bale back in time for these matches.
This is a do or die for Unai Emery, PSG’s embattled Spanish Manager. Either he wins, or he loses his job.
This tie based on current team levels should not be competitive. But no rivalry has defined the UEFA Champions League more than this one through the years. Chelsea, believe it or not, is unbeaten in its last SEVEN UCL fixtures versus Barcelona.
It seems Barcelona has been in many ways more efficient without Neymar, who didn’t contribute defensively. Chelsea is having a difficult go of it in the Premier League this season, having lost to relegation battlers Crystal Palace and West Ham in recent weeks. But Chelsea remains a formidable force and while Barcelona has looked good this season, they’ll need a healthy Luis Suarez to successfully navigate these trick matches.
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