Champions League Round of 16 Preview: Part One

It’s back! After a 3 month wait, the Champions League knockout stages are here! 16 teams remain in Europe’s top competition, and the writers at Off my Pitch are ready to look like fools by making some predictions. Throughout the tournament, we’ll keep track of how all the writers do, as well as how you readers do, so be sure to vote in the polls!!

 

Barcelona – PSG

Leg 1 – 14 February 2017 – Parc des Princes

Leg 2 – 8 March 2017 – Camp Nou

15219479870_ef7bd6b85a_o

Photo courtesy of Ryu Voelkel – Flickr

While Barcelona has struggled to get a foothold in La Liga this year following their title-winning campaign the year before, the Blaugrana have not struggled in the Champions League. Barça won 5 of their 6 games in the group stage, and they ran away from Celtic, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Manchester City to win Group C.

PSG, however, stumbled slightly in Group A. The Parisians drew with group winners Arsenal twice, and the big disappointment was a 2-2 draw at home to Bulgarian side Ludogorets on matchday 6. A win would have sent PSG top of Group A, and if it wasn’t for a late goal from Ángel Di María, Ludogorets would have won the match. PSG is locked into a tough battle at the top of Ligue 1, which is proving more difficult than expected after the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United.

I think Barcelona have too much class to be beaten by PSG. Edinson Cavani has blossomed in his role as the primary goalscorer, but an injury to Thiago Silva will prove detrimental to the Parisians chances for beating Messi and company. I expect a hard fought 1st leg, but Barcelona will run away with this one when the clubs battle it out in Spain.

My Prediction: Barcelona

JP’s Prediction: Barcelona

Pedro’s Prediction: Barcelona

Ryan’s Prediction: Barcelona

Mac’s Prediction: Barcelona

Wes’ Prediction: Barcelona

Benfica – Borussia Dortmund

Leg 1 – 14 February 2017 – Estadio da Luz

Leg 2 – 8 March 2017 – Signal-Iduna-Park

32741939911_b5d6274475_o

Photo courtesy of Linda Marsita – Flickr

These two clubs had very different group stages. Benfica had a relatively easy group, yet they drew twice to Besiktas and they fell twice to Napoli. Dortmund, however, faced Real Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, and Legia Warsaw. Dortmund’s offense combined to score 21 goals, more than any other team; meanwhile Benfica conceded 10 goals in the group stage, joint most of any club that advanced to the round of 16. The pressure is on Dortmund to advance in this matchup, so Benfica can go all out at home in the first leg and try to build a lead. My expert opinion? They’ll be unsuccessful.

My Prediction: Dortmund

JP’s Prediction: Dortmund

Pedro’s Prediction: Dortmund

Ryan’s Prediction: Benfica

Mac’s Prediction: Dortmund

Wes’ Prediction: Dortmund

Real Madrid – Napoli

Leg 1 – 15 February 2017 – Santiago Bernebéu

Leg 2 – 7 March 2017 – Stadio San Paolo

Photo courtesy of VAVEL España - Flickr

Photo courtesy of VAVEL España – Flickr

Real Madrid and Napoli competed in the same groups as Dortmund and Benfica, respectively. Madrid’s disappointing 3-3 draw at the hands of Legia Warsaw in Poland left them in 2nd place in the group, but they got an easier draw against Napoli in the Round of 16. Despite losing Gonzalo Higuain to league rivals Juventus, Napoli’s Dries Mertens has shone in the centre-forward role this year. The Belgian has notched 4 goals and 2 assists in 4 starts in the Champions League and 16 goals in 16 starts in the Serie A. Meanwhile, for Los Blancos, goals seem to be at a premium. Gareth Bale has scored just 7 goals in 18 starts in all competitions, and Karim Benzema has scored 10 goals in 19 starts in all competitions. 4 of those goals have come in the Champions League, however, so the Frenchman will hope to be on target once again this time around. World-beater Cristiano Ronaldo has notched 14 goals in 16 La Liga matches this year but has scored just 2 in the Champions League. This Real Madrid team has too much quality to not advance, but the defending Champions League winners will not find it easy if they fail to keep up with Napoli’s high-powered offense.

My Prediction: Real Madrid

JP’s Prediction: Real Madrid

Pedro’s Prediction: Real Madrid

Ryan’s Prediction: Real Madrid

Mac’s Prediction: Real Madrid

Wes’ Prediction: Real Madrid

Bayern Munich – Arsenal

Leg 1 – 15 February 2017 – Allianz Arena

Leg 2 – 7 March 2017 – Emirates Stadium

12643229285_358f10f721_o

Photo courtesy of Ryu Voeklel – Flickr

Wait… is this right? They’re playing again? Bayern knocked Arsenal out of the UCL round of 16 in 2005, 2013, and 2014, and they’ve faced in the UCL four times in the last five years. Carlo Ancelloti is accustomed to success in the Champions League, and Bayern fans are chomping at the bit to get a title after three straight semi-final appearances. Arsenal are in a bit of a tailspin at the moment, especially after a 3-1 loss to Chelsea a week and a half ago. But then again, it’s February. Bayern is too strong for Arsenal, and that will show in the first leg.

My Prediction: Bayern

JP’s Prediction: Bayern

Pedro’s Prediction: Bayern

Ryan’s Prediction: Bayern

Mac’s Prediction: Bayern

Wes’ Prediction: Bayern

Contact Writer John Horlander via email, and be sure to follow him on Twitter. Also, follow Off my Pitch on Twitter so you never miss an article!

Photo courtesy of Edwin.11 – Flickr

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s