The European giants collide
The Champions League is back! The first stages of the 16-minute clashes take place on the nights of 12 and 13 February, when the eight toppers of the group visit the second classified against whom they were equalized. While it is the first knockout phase, the clashes already see many European giants facing one another. Some of the matchups include sides that would feel like real contenders for the Champions League crown this season. AS Roma vs Porto The fact that this is probably the lowest game of the eight shows how illustrious the match-ups are, given that both Rome and Porto have been the heavyweights of the European competition. Roma reached the semi-final last year, while Porto is leading the group, although less strong on paper, with Schalke, Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Mosca.
While Roma have scored many goals at home in the Champions League, Porto are unbeaten in their last five away games, including, once again, the three that have characterized the group stages. Roma would be hard to beat on the way home, and Porto would be happy to settle for a draw. Lyon vs Barcelona Given the recent failures of Barcelona in the Champions League – especially considering the standards they have set in the last ten years and a half – it is clear that the Catalan giants are giving priority to the European crown this season.
While they are still favorable favorites for La Liga, they would have preferred to have an even bigger cushion in February, so that they could fully concentrate on the Champions League. Lyon should not be too big a problem for Barcelona, but in recent seasons the Liga leaders have lost to the teams for which the same has been said. The French team hoped not to concede a goal at home, but it would be difficult against an attack led by Lionel Messi, who should be ready for the race. Liverpool vs Bayern Munich Liverpool and Bayern are experiencing a contrasting national season. Germany's summer champions are losing track in the league they have held in this decade, while British giants have perhaps the best chances to win the Premier League in three decades. While Liverpool finished second in the Champions League last season, it is clear that the championship is the priority this season. However, with the first cup outings, Liverpool has no other distractions and can go to full capacity in both competitions.
The last non-Spanish team to win the Champions League, Bayern could put more eggs in the European basket this season. However, they showed little to show they can go deep this season. Manchester United vs. Paris Saint Germaine When the draw was made in December, this clash should have been a misalignment despite the high profile that led to the table. However, things changed to Old Trafford under the leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United would have had a chance to overtake the French leaders. This is especially true given that Neymar Jr is destined to lose the fight. However, the sparkling ensemble of the PSG was put together for this competition. And therefore, it is obvious that they would need more victory than United, despite the turnaround of fortunes for the English side. The United States has more chances to beat PSG without Neymar in their ranks. But the Parisians still have the advantage in this. Schalke vs. Manchester City This time last year there was talk of a quadruple of Manchester City.
This was due to the side of Pep Guardiola which exhibited an unprecedented domain at the national level. However, the repeated failures in the Champions League have meant that the citizens' European ambitions were assessed with greater caution. I'm in the League Cup final and also in the fifth round of the FA Cup, but given how much the Premier League has been fought this season, is there a case of too many fronts open for City? Despite their second place in the Bundesliga last year, Schalke is struggling nationwide this season. This could give them the motivation to go to Europe. However, it is hard to see them upset one side of the city that could be on the edge of great things this season.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Borussia Dortmund This is a clash between two teams that have challenged each other's status quos in their leagues. However, while Dortmund has silverware to show for this, their turn of 16 opponents does not. Both of these teams are very much part of their respective title contests, although Dortmund have a healthy lead and Spurs still outsiders in a race that many think is between City and Liverpool. Will WillDortmund's goal to win a first league title in seven years takes his eyes off the Champions League? However, with the Spurs only five points from the top of the Premier League, they feel they are real contenders to the league, something that maybe they would not try for the Champions League? This has the potential to be completely fun. Ajax vs. Real Madrid Despite having completed a hat trick of Champions League titles – four in five seasons – not many expect Real Madrid to participate in the final of this year. Their struggles after the start of Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo are evident in La Liga. Even so, the European champions are still in the Copa del Rey and have used the Champions League on everything else. But are they good enough to do it without Ronaldo? The majority think they are not. But they should still be too strong for Ajax. This is despite the exciting Dutch team that gave Bayern the run for their money in the group stages.
There could be goals in this. Atletico Madrid vs Juventus Quite probably the draw of the round. Juventus have put all their energy to win the Champions League this season. Despite having recently purchased the Serie A, the purchase of Ronaldo has been designed to conquer Europe within the next two seasons. Having overtaken their group, Juventus would have wanted a minor challenge from Atletico Madrid, which remains the only real competition for a dominating Barça in the Liga. The loss at home against impoverished Manchester United would have been an alarm. But the Italian champions can no longer afford bad awakenings, now that the competition has entered the knockout stages. This is the stage in which Cristiano Ronaldo has been involved. And to contain it would be crucial, if Atletico had some chance.