The Round of 16
The UEFA Champions League is back after a two-month hiatus. Round of 16 ties will be played over two legs for the next month with four matches this week and the other four next week. The elimination rounds have begun. There are some tactically fascinating ties to come, some rivalries that need settling, some David versus Goliath matchups. We analyze the first 2 matches of the match week and give our predictions. It is hard to make predictions with the use of neutral venues due to travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We analyzed based on current form and overall season form.
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
The first-ever meeting between the two clubs will take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest due to coronavirus restrictions.
Leipzig have removed two English Premier League clubs from this competition in the last year alone. Julian Nagelsmann‘s side beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on aggregate at this stage of last season’s competition, when they reached the semi-finals. A spirited 3-2 home win over Manchester United at the Red Bull Arena in their final Group H encounter took Die Roten Bullen into the knockouts once more as runners-up behind beaten 2019/20 finalists Paris Saint-German and at the Red Devils’ expense. Leipzig sit 2nd domestically, 4 points away from sextuple champions Bayern, who have a game in hand. The club is fast overtaking Borussia Dortmund as the 2nd best team in Germany. Their defensive record is immaculate, they have conceded only 18 goals so far, the best in Bundesliga (only Lille, PSG, and Atletico Madrid have conceded fewer in Europe’s top 5 leagues).
Their best player so far is a player Liverpool will be familiar with in former Manchester City star Angelino. 3 goals and 3 assists in the UCL, 4 goals and 4 assists in the Bundesliga. Bayern-bound Dayot Upamecano has been a staple in the heart of the Leipzig defense and will start despite the terrible timing of his transfer which is something Bayern Munich loves to do. It is in the attacking phase that they struggle even though they always find a way to score. They miss gunman Timo Werner as right now left wing-back Angelino is their highest goalscorer. Yussuf Poulsen is a target-man that gets a few goals, Alexander Sorloth is struggling to adapt, and they have not replaced Timo Werner. It will be an interesting battle to figure out as the two German managers face off.
Jurgen Klopp could be without as many as 10 first-team players for this first leg, with their injury crisis deepening within the past week.
Liverpool have struggled to put up a title defense. Injuries to defensive personnel, transfer incompetence, a misfiring forward line and so many other factors mean that by the end of tonight, Klopp’s team can find themselves in 5th place on the English Premier League table. Liverpool lost Virgil Van Dijk to a horrific injury caused by Jordan Pickford, Joel Matip is always injured these days, and they also lost Joe Gomez to injury. The always injured Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are out too. Fabinho has struggled with injuries too, their forwards with Covid-19. They had an incredible 7-minute capitulation filled with so many errors as they lost 3-1 to Leicester City despite being the better team for much of the game. Liverpool will find it tough against these Champions League opponents.
Klopp has defeated Nagelsmann before circa 2017 when Liverpool met Hoffenheim before the 20 years younger coach moved to Leipzig.
Prediction: We predict Leipzig to go through on aggregate (Lol, you weren’t expecting that right?)
Barcelona vs PSG
Barcelona take on PSG, a match that brings back memories of one of the modern classics of UEFA Champions League football. The last time Barcelona and PSG met was in the 2016/2017 UEFA Champions League round of 16 and it served up a classic. Barcelona became the first – and so far the only – side to qualify for the next round following a 4+ goal first-leg loss. PSG had won the first leg at the Parc des Princes by 4 goals to nil for Barcelona. Barcelona overturned the tie with a 6-1 thrashing at the Camp Nou. Neymar put in a remarkable performance that night then signed for PSG in the summer. It is a shame that the PSG forward will be out for this game because it would have been quite the affair to watch Neymar come up against his former mentor and his former employers.
The teams also have more history, since 2012/2013 only Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund(10) have encountered each other more than these two (8).
PSG also have the young and talented Kylian Mbappe in their arsenal but despite topping the french scoring chart, the French attacker has not had the best run of games. It shows how good a player he is that he keeps producing his usual phenomenal numbers despite the drop in form. Let us be honest, Thomas Tuchel’s sacking had nothing to do with the team’s performances on the pitch. Leonardo has brought in Mauricio Pochettino who got the opportunity to secure his first trophy after only a few days in charge. Interesting thing is that PSG’s form has not drastically improved since the Argentine coach took over. That is expected with barely any time to implement his style on the squad but it makes the sacking look more senseless. PSG face a mammoth opponent but they will be expected to put up a good fight.
Midfield maestro Marco Verratti is a doubt for this tie as he is most of these days. Le Parisien believes that the star midfielder is “on track” to travel to the Camp Nou. Verratti has missed PSG’s last two matches due to a right hip bruise injury. He will take part in PSG’s next scheduled training session on Monday. If he can complete it without any setbacks, he will then be slated to feature against Barca. From there, the team’s coaching staff will then decide on whether he is ready to start in this showdown fixture or if it would be better off to bring him off the bench instead.
Moise Kean has continued to show improvement as he gets more game time in France. Chief creator Angel di Maria is also out of the tie. Di Maria came off during PSG’s 2-0 win over Marseille after just 11 minutes with a muscle issue, moments after providing the assist for Kylian Mbappe’s opening goal.
Ronald Koeman says his Barcelona team is feeling confident ahead of the UEFA Champions League tie at the Camp Nou. Why not? Barcelona remain unbeaten over their last 12 La Liga matches and have outscored their opponents, 29-10, in that span. The 57-year-old coach has steadied the side with a sturdy lineup and they are coming with some good form behind them. The only decision for the coach to make is between Ronald Araujo and Gerard Pique with both defenders fighting to show fitness. Also, they have a little magician named Lionel Messi who some claim is the greatest footballer of all time. When you have Messi, there is always a chance, a big chance for Barcelona against a side settling into a new rhythm.
Antoine Griezmann looks better than he did in his earlier days and will be a key player too. Ousmane Dembele is fit at least, that is enough to be happy about. Summer signing Trincao is beginning to find some form after his early-season struggles. The established midfield of Pedri, Frenkie De Jong, and Sergio Busquets should start too.
Prediction: the game will be a tightly-contested affair but we expect Barcelona to qualify due to having a more coherent squad and Lionel Messi.