FC Schalke 04 vs Manchester City
You can hear the whispers… Even around the Etihad, which houses a strange dislike towards the Champions League. Could this be their year?
Many people believe that with their strength in depth and Guardiola at the helm that the famous trophy may on it’s way to the blue half of Manchester this season and a kind draw will add fuel to that belief. City showed a few flaws in their group but after a chastening opening game defeat to Lyon they found their rhythm and deservedly ended up top of the pile.
Schalke on the other hand scraped through a relatively easy group to finish behind Porto leaving them with the unenviable task of facing a seeded side. Their poor league form sees the club drifting in 13th and in a relegation scrap rather than hunting European places, if their league position does not improve over the festive season, City may face the Germans with a new manager at the helm. Die Knappen will surely fall at the feet of the English Champions.
- Leg 1: Schalke 0-2 City
- Leg 2: City 3-0 Schalke
Club Atletico de Madrid vs Juventus Football Club
Arguably, the tie of the round as the Old Lady come up against Los Rojiblancos. Yes, no sooner had Atletico thought they had seen the last of Christiano Ronaldo before he comes knocking once more, this time as one of the reigning Italian champions. These two sides have dealt with major disappointment in the Champions League over the last few years with both sides having lost the final twice in recent memory.
Juventus have cruised the Italian league with Ronaldo adding to their domination but were somewhat labored in the group stages with defeats to Manchester United and Young Boys. Much more is expected from them and considering the staggering investment in Ronaldo nothing but victory in Europe is expected. Atletico will be a tough nut to crack however and although they currently sit third in La Liga they have only lost a single game. If they can get their front pairing of Costa and Griezmann firing they will cause Juve trouble. Expect a tactical and defensive affair.
- Leg 1: Atletico 1-2 Juventus
- Leg 2: Juventus 1-0 Atletico
Manchester United vs Paris Saint-Germain
The PSG faithful will be licking their lips at the prospect of this match. Jose Mourinho on the other hand will be sweating bullets. Most, however, do not expect him to be there at all. The Portuguese has been on the chopping block for most of the season and after falling 19 points adrift of the league leaders Liverpool, the axe may fall very soon. If it does then PSG will be saddled with a wild card.
On paper United have a strong team and star players but at the moment, the manager hasn’t a clue how to harness them. Should a new boss arrive before February then the English club could be a very different prospect. As things stand though, the front line of Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani will be giving the United’s defense nightmares. Only Fulham, currently last in the Premier League, have conceded more goals than United. It could get very ugly for those in Red.
- Leg 1: United 0-2 PSG
- Leg 2: PSG 4-1 United
Tottenham Hotspur FC vs Borussia Dortmund
A game to set pulses racing. The first European tie to be played at the new White Hart Lane comes against the form club in Germany, Borussia Dortmund. Fitting, considering that Spurs actually modelled part of their new stadium on the Westfalenstadion’s famous Yellow Wall. Both sides play fast, flowing football and this one could go either way.
Harry Kane continues to score when his side need it the most and he has been ably backed up by Son and Lucas Moura. In yellow, Paco Alcacer has finally shown the form that persuaded Barcelona to prize him away from Valencia as he averages a goal a game. The supporting cast of Gotze, Reus, Sancho and Pulisic mean that Lucien Favre’s side possess a wealth of talent going forward. Best to only warm the edge of your seat for this one.
- Leg 1: Spurs 2-1 Dortmund
- Leg 2: Dortmund 3-1 Spurs
Olympique Lyonnais vs FC Barcelona
This tie is only about one man: Lionel Messi. Only a blind man can justify how on earth the Argentine was left out of the top three at the Ballon d’ Or this year. The little man seems to have taken it
personally as he scorches every playing surface laid in front of him. Twenty goals already this season, including some of the most outrageous free kicks YouTube has ever seen.
If Lyon are to stand a chance then they may have to hire a hitman to take Messi out. Should they successfully do so they will still have to contend with Luis Suarez, Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele. Good luck.
- Leg 1: Lyon 0-2 Barca
- Leg 2: Barca 5-1 Lyon
AS Roma vs FC Porto
The battle of the underdogs. Roma surprised many last season with a magnificent run to the semifinals of the competition and their fans hoped that they could finally make a push to break the Juventus stranglehold in Italy. Alas, it has not come to pass and they find themselves way off the pace in the league with some indifferent performances.
This patchy form showed in Europe as they played magnificently against Moscow and Plzen only to crumble when Real Madrid came to town. Porto on the other hand have been a model of consistency. Only two defeats in the league and unbeaten in the group stages will embolden the Portuguese league leaders who will fancy a run to the semifinals this season. Iker Casillas has been there, done it all and his leadership will prove vital if they are to progress.
- Leg 1: Roma 1-1 Porto
- Leg 2: Porto 1-0 Roma
AFC Ajax vs Real Madrid CF
The sleeping giant meets the reigning king. Ajax have been in the shadows for too long. The famous Dutch club have struggled to keep up financially with the rest of Europe’s elite and subsequently lost their place at the top table. Unable to buy players, Ajax have reverted to what made them great in the past: nurturing talent through the ranks.
The current crop of players have made people sit up and pay attention with their performances against Bayern Munich and league exploits. A recent 8-0 victory making the headlines for obvious reasons. Madrid are the polar opposites.
The Galacticos are stuck in a post Ronaldo hang over as they try to cope without his goals. Simply put, they can’t. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have failed to pick up the slack and Julen Lopetegui paid the price. Santiago Solari has come in from the B-side and stopped the bleeding but it will be a long road to recovery. Ajax will go into the tie with belief that at their best, they could give the current champions a run for their money.
- Leg 1: Ajax 2-2 Real
- Leg 2: Real 2-0 Ajax
Liverpool FC vs Bayern Munich
Jurgen Klopp returns to the country of his greatest triumph. His Dortmund side famously won back-to-back league titles, breaking the Munich stranglehold. His “hard rock” football has taken a few seasons to implement on Merseyside but the results are now plain to see. Only a trophy is missing and the Kop want their side to go one step further than last season’s final. In their way stand a Munich side at a crossroads. Many of the stalwarts of this five-time league champion’s side have lost their edge and find themselves well off the pace in the Bundesliga.
Munich fans will have to say goodbye to the likes of Robben and Ribery at the end of the season but will hope to send them off with one last hurrah.
Liverpool’s speed and endurance however may be too much far for this aging side to handle.
- Leg 1: Liverpool 2-0 Bayern
- Leg 2: Bayern 1-2 Liverpool