UEFA Champions League season is in full swing, with the 2nd leg of the Round of 16 coming up soon, we are now getting closer to crowning a champion. The Champions League is one of the more exciting events in sports, with the top European football teams coming together to compete for the trophy, and being crowned kings of Europe. For those that do not know how the knockout stages of the Champions League works, here at The Talk Sports Media will walk you through it. After the group stage, 16 teams are paired up and play a game, both home and away, to determine who advances to the quarterfinals. The team that scores the most goals over those two games will advance. If a tie were to occur after said games, then the winner would advance based on the number of away goals. If a tie were to occur and both teams conceded the same amount of away goals, extra time would be played, and if neither team scores in extra time, a penalty shootout would then determine a winner. Now that we have been through how Champions League works, lets dive right into the games.
Ajax at Real Madrid (Real Madrid lead 2-1 on aggregate)
By all accounts, this has been a disappointing season for Real Madrid, currently 12 points back of arch rival Barcelona in La Liga, as well as being knocked out by Barcelona in the Copa Del Ray. Yet, while life after Cristiano Ronaldo has proved to be difficult, those difficulties have not shown themselves in European competition, where they look to win the Champions League for the fourth year in a row, having won the group and then putting on a solid display in the first match against a very solid Ajax team, scoring two away goals. Ajax, currently sitting 5 points back of PSV in the Dutch Eredivisie, are a team built of a mix of young and experienced stars who put up a valiant effort in the 1st leg against the defending champs, constantly pressuring the backline of Madrid. Ajax has their work cut out for them in the 2nd leg, needing to score twice without conceding a goal to advance to the quarterfinals, quite a tall task against the Spanish giant Real Madrid, who will be without captain and defensive anchor Sergio Ramos, who was suspended for picking up too many yellow cards. This is an intriguing game, especially if Ajax scores early, but I am not counting out Real Madrid just yet.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2 Ajax 1; Real Madrid advance 4-2 on aggregate
Tottenham Hotspur at Borussia Dortmund (Tottenham lead 3-0 on aggregate)
Borussia Dortmund have been in somewhat of a slide as of late. Now level in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, after having been in sole possession of first place the majority of the season, it is important for Dortmund to gain some confidence. Coming back from a 3-0 deficit, while improbable, is not impossible. Dortmund, now mostly fully healthy, have an attack that can score a lot of goals in a hurry, with players such as Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, and Christian Pulisic attacking from the wing, Mario Gotze meandering the midfield, and Paco Alcacer proving to be a clinical finisher in front of goal. Spurs on the other hand, have a defense to counter a Dortmund attack, as they did in the first leg, as well as a lethal counter-attack led by the likes of Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min, and of course Harry Kane, who did not play in the 1st leg as he was still recovering from injury. I think Dortmund can make this game interesting, playing at home, but the 3-0 deficit will be too hard to overcome.
Prediction: Dortmund 2 Tottenham 1; Tottenham advance 4-2 on aggregate
Roma at Porto (Roma leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Roma has had a disappointing season on the domestic front, currently sitting in 5th place in the Italian Serie A. After finishing in 2nd place behind Real Madrid in group play, they are looking to advance as far as possible in the Champions League to at least have something to take away from this season. Having made the semifinals last season, who can forget the comeback against Barcelona, Roma is battle tested in Europe. They head to Portugal, with a 2-1 lead, to face a hungry Porto team, who are looking to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since the 2014-15 season. Roma is the stronger team on paper, with a solid defense and an attack that is more than capable of producing an away goal that would all but seal a victory, and therefore a spot in the quarterfinals. Look for young midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo to have a similar impact as he did in the 1st leg when he scored two goals.
Prediction: Roma 1 Porto 1; Roma advance 3-2 on aggregate
Manchester United at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG leads 2-0 on aggregate)
PSG put everyone on notice as a clear favorite in the Champions League with their masterclass 2-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the 1st leg. Although they were missing both Neymar, and Edinson Cavani, it did not seem to matter as the third member of the attacking trio, 20 year old superstar Kylian Mbappe stepped up big in their place, scoring the second goal in the 60th minute of the 1st leg, seemingly driving the stake into Manchester United’s hopes of winning the Champions League. Manchester United will be without Paul Pogba, serving a suspension after receiving a red card in the 1st leg. United has been in excellent form ever since manager Jose Mourinho was replaced by current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but without Pogba and injuries to forward Anthony Martial and midfielder Nemanja Matic, they do not stand much of a chance against a strong PSG team, still without Neymar and possibly Cavani for the 2nd leg.
Prediction: PSG 2 Manchester United 0; PSG advance 4-0 on aggregate
Schalke at Manchester City (Manchester City leads 3-2 on aggregate)
Manchester City has reigned supreme in England the last few seasons, having won the Premier League title in 2017-18, and are in a tight race with Liverpool for the 2018-19 title. However, domestic success has not carried over to European competition as City have failed to advance past the quarterfinals of the Champions League since the 2015-16 season. This season seems as good as any to make a deep Champions League run for manager Pep Guardiola and crew, who are an elite attacking team with quality and depth at seemingly every position. Sergio Aguero has been magnificent this season and players such as Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva have been excellent on the wings. Kevin De Bruyne’s injury concerns may become important as the competition progresses, but as of now, there is no reason to believe Manchester City can’t make a run to at least the semi-finals. Schalke is a formidable opponent from the German Bundesliga and they played very well at home, scoring twice before City took over in the second half, scoring two themselves. If Schalke has a chance, they need to limit City’s opportunities and make every counter attempt count.
Prediction: Manchester City 3 Schalke 1; Manchester City advance 6-3 on aggregate
Atletico Madrid at Juventus (Atletico Madrid leads 2-0 on aggregate)
One of the more surprising results in the round of 16 was the dominance Atletico Madrid displayed against a high powered Juventus team, with Cristiano Ronaldo, in the 2-0 victory. Atletico playing suffocating pressure defense is nothing new, but the matter of which they shut down the high powered Juventus attack was something to behold. Juventus has dominated in Italy since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid and were labeled as heavy favorites this season in the Champions League after losing to the aforementioned Madrid last season (that Ronaldo bicycle kick still resonates). Atletico has taken a lot of the momentum away from Juventus but will have a tough task to maintain the lead in Turin. A 2-0 deficit is hard to overcome but something tells me Juventus is going to make this interesting before all is said and done. However, I believe Atletico’s defense will prove once again to be too difficult for Juventus to overcome.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 1 Juventus 1; Atletico Madrid advance 3-1 on aggregate
Liverpool at Bayern Munich (Tied 0-0 on aggregate)
This matchup has the potential to be the best of the 2nd leg games. Bayern Munich has been in excellent form as of late and Liverpool, led by Mo Salah, is always a threat. Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has been magnificent in Champions League play, scoring eight times in seven matches. With Real Madrid, whom they have lost to in both 2017 and 2018, Bayern is looking to make a deep Champions League run. Liverpool is a very tough first test. Currently sitting one point behind leaders Manchester City in the Premier League, Liverpool is a dominant offensive team looking to get back to the Champions League final, as they did last season, losing to Real Madrid 3-1 after two horrendous errors by then goalkeeper Loris Karius, not to mention the infamous Sergio Ramos tackle on Mo Salah, knocking him out of the game. Liverpool purchased Brazilian keeper Alisson as an obvious upgrade to Karius as they look to not only compete in Europe, but also win. This matchup will come down to the wire but I do believe the game being played in Munich gives Bayern a huge advantage, and if Lewandowski keeps up his form in European competitions, Bayern should be able to advance.
Prediction: Bayern 1 Liverpool 0; Bayern Munich advance 1-0 on aggregate
Lyon at Barcelona (Tied 0-0 on aggregate)
If PSG is going to be listed as a heavy favorite, Barcelona should also be put into that category. Although they have struggled at times this season in La Liga, they still sit at the top of the table and have looked every bit the part in European competition. Having arguably the best player in the world in Lionel Messi definitely helps. Not that I am well connected to the Barcelona football club in any way, but I would imagine the Barcelona players are sick of watching arch-rivals Real Madrid lift the Champions League trophy. Lyon played a tough game at home, not letting Barcelona score which is huge if they are to pull an upset. Lyon is certainly capable, with players such as Memphis Depay and Nabil Fekir capable of pulling off magical moments on a football pitch. However, Messi and company will be too much to handle when they play at the Camp Nou, and the 0-0 draw to Lyon will be nothing more than a bump in the road.
Prediction: Barcelona 3 Lyon 0; Barcelona advance 3-0 on aggregate
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