The Champions League draw for the round of 16 has delivered a host of intriguing matchups, the most eye-catching of which is without a doubt the Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain tie as Neymar faces off against Lionel Messi and his old team in a rematch of their famous 2017 matchup.
Meanwhile, a couple of English clubs in Chelsea and have Liverpool both been handed dangerous foes in Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig, respectively, who both have experience in knocking out Premier League opposition.
Read on below as SBOTOP takes a look at what to expect from each of the eight Champions League round of 16 matchups.
Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
Lionel Messi and Neymar have both expressed the desire to play with one another once again. But for now, the old mates will have to go up against one another as Barca have been paired up with PSG in the marquee tie of the round of 16.
It will be the two clubs’ first meeting in the Champions League since the famous La Remontada of 2016-17, where Neymar helped Barca orchestrate an amazing second-leg comeback to knock PSG out.
The Spanish giants are struggling this season, though, so the French champions look like the superior side and the clear favourites to go through to the quarter-finals. That is, if Neymar is fit to play after his latest ankle injury.
But as Neymar and the rest of PSG will know all too well, it will be foolish to count out Messi and his ability to conjure some more Champions League magic.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City
Gladbach were one of the surprises of the group stage as they produced some impressive performances against Inter and Real Madrid. Although, the Champions League 2020 results of those matches were not as good.
Given how dangerous the Germans looked on the break, they looked like a side that would have given past Pep Guardiola side problems. But Manchester City have made some key changes that have made his side looking more solid at the back. They conceded just a single goal during the group stage, the best defensive record in the competition.
Winning the Champions League will once again be Pep and City’s main priority this season, and the Foals are unlikely to stand in their way.
Lazio vs Bayern Munich
Champions League holders Bayern Munich should be quite pleased with drawing Lazio as their round-of-16 opponents. While the Italians went undefeated during the group stage, they have been nowhere near the team that looked like true Serie A title contenders before the COVID lockdown derailed their season.
Bayern have had a few issues of their own in recent weeks and have looked far from the all-conquering side that steamrollered everyone en route to the title last season. But the German champions will be able to rest and regroup during the winter break and should have more than enough to handle Lazio over two legs.
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
For the second year in a row, Atletico have been drawn with an English side in the round of 16. Last year, they knocked out Champions League holders Liverpool as Diego Simeone proved once again that his side’s style of play can cause even the best teams in Europe plenty of problems.
Frank Lampard will no doubt be wary of the threat Atleti pose to his Chelsea side. While the Blues clearly have a more talented squad, Lampard will need to step up tactically to avoid getting outsmarted by the experienced Simeone and upset like Liverpool.
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
Speaking of Liverpool, they have drawn a tough matchup themselves in the form of RB Leipzig. Despite the loss of star striker Timo Werner, Julian Nagelsmann’s side has remained quite a dangerous team in Europe, as both PSG and Manchester United – whom Leipzig beat during the group stage – can attest. The Red Bulls also ran Tottenham out of last season’s tournament in the round of 16.
When Liverpool are at full strength (or at least close to it), they should still be more than capable of overcoming Leipzig, who have a lack of top-calibre talent, particularly in attack. But if the Reds continue to suffer the rash of injuries they’ve been dealing with all season, this tie could potentially be much more competitive than Liverpool would like it to be.
Porto vs Juventus
Juventus’ big win over Barcelona, which earned them top spot in the group, paid off in a big way as they drew arguably the weakest side left in the round of 16 in Porto. The Italian champions aren’t quite as strong as in recent years, but they showed in the group stage (five wins in six) that they can still do the business in Europe, especially when Cristiano Ronaldo is fit and healthy.
The Portuguese superstar will get to play back home, which will definitely be a nice treat for him. But it would take something quite extraordinary for Porto to send Ronaldo and Juventus home after two legs.
Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund
Sevilla should also be satisfied with their draw as they got Borussia Dortmund, who were arguably the weakest of the eight group winners. And now, there’s even more uncertainty surrounding the Germans after they sacked manager Lucien Favre.
Dortmund will still be a dangerous proposition with the likes of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho leading the attack, but Sevilla should like their chances in this tie. They have a significant advantage in terms of European experience over a very youthful Dortmund side, as well as a capable defence that can see them squeeze through.
Atalanta vs Real Madrid
Atalanta will face a Spanish side in the round of 16 for the second straight year. Last season, they absolutely thrashed Valencia 8-4 on aggregate, with Josip Ilicic scoring four goals in the second leg and five overall.
That result seems highly unlikely against Real Madrid, though. Atalanta’s form has dipped as they’ve failed to hit those same heights both in the league and in Europe. But they can still cause some problems against a vulnerable Real Madrid side that laboured during the group stage.
However, Zinedine Zidane showed in their win over Gladbach that he can still get a tune out of his veteran squad when it matters most, so the Champions League 2020 betting odds should still have them as favourites to go through.
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