UEFA Champions League round of 16 preview

George Matthew Roar Rookie

By George Matthew, George Matthew is a Roar Rookie

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    As we enter the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, the next fortnight or so will give fans a good indication as to who is a contender and who is a pretender in the race for club football’s biggest cup competition.

    Eight tantalising ties lie ahead, with the first legs of four to be played in the next 48 hours, beginning with Manchester City’s trip to Basel.

    The all-conquering Citizens have had a virtually perfect season, with Pep Guardiola setting up a platform for City to rule England and Europe in years to come.

    Their record against the top six has been near perfect, with the only slip-up coming against Liverpool, in a pulsating 4-3 loss in which a more clinical City could’ve even claimed a point.

    Their biggest strength is that goals can come from many different sources, with Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva all producing mouth-watering displays on a weekly level.

    In short, they should have no problem in sweeping aside Basel. The news that German winger Leroy Sane may even come back from injury for the first leg will make the mountain almost unreachable for Basel.

    Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola leads a dominant, cashed-up Manchester City side. (Photo: AFP)

    The other match tomorrow is an even more mouth-watering contest. Fresh from a North London Derby victory, Tottenham travel to Turin to play the mighty Juventus, who trail Napoli in the Serie A by a solitary point.

    Tottenham’s European form so far has been astonishing, with their 3-1 win against Real Madrid one of their biggest victories in recent years. However, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen will have to be at their brilliant best against a Juventus backline which only conceded one goal throughout last year’s knockout stage, prior to the final.

    It will be a tie loaded with superstars, but all eyes will be on the battle between two of the world’s best attacking players as Kane does battle against Argentine superstar Paulo Dybala.

    The other battle which promises to excite is that between Gianluigi Buffon and Hugo Lloris between the sticks, with both keepers needing brilliant matches to help their teams progress.

    In theory Liverpool should have no problem against Porto.

    Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have shown just how potent they can be in attack, but defensive calamities have become far too common on the red end of Merseyside.

    One player Liverpool will have to be wary of is Vincent Aboubakar, with the Cameroonian known for his goal-scoring exploits.

    Liverpool will be cautious on the road, looking simply to score an away goal in order to the real damage in the second leg, at Anfield.

    As for Porto, they need veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas, and Mexican duo Hector Herrera and Jesus Manuel Corona – who all have vital experience in the Champions League – to stand up if they’re to claim a big scalp.

    The best is well and truly saved for last, with the tie of the round being played out next Thursday when Kylian Mbappe and Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain travel to the Santiago Bernabeu to take on defending champions Real Madrid.

    Perhaps the biggest talking point is how out-of-form Real are, with Los Blancos trailing arch-rivals Barcelona by a whopping 17 points domestically.

    Perhaps the most worrying sign for the Madrid giants is that Cristiano Ronaldo has suffered a rare slump in form this season, while the Parisians have been hailing Neymar as a signing that could land them the Champions League trophy.

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • February 14th 2018 @ 9:39am
      Square Nostrils said | February 14th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Watched Basel vs Man CIty, the prophesy “In short, they should have no problem in sweeping aside Basel” was spot on.
      Wouldn’t bet against this team going all the way.
      On the other hand (and as a long time watcher of English football ,(I await the egg on my face) Harry Kane seems the goods to me. The calm clinical manner he took his goal against a European heavyweight and matching goalkeeper, despite his age, bodes well for the World Cup(more egg maybe).

    • February 14th 2018 @ 10:42am
      punter said | February 14th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      As a long time watcher of English football, I too was very impressed with the way both Man City & Spurs held onto the ball & probed & totally dominated the opposition football wise, Man City especially, they are the best team I have ever seen in the EPL.

      • February 14th 2018 @ 11:02am
        Nemesis said | February 14th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        Probably worth noting that, from the Starting XI in today’s UCL match for ManCity, there were only 3 English footballers:

        Kyle Walker
        Raheem Sterling
        Fabian Delph

        Same with Spurs, only 3 English players in the XI

        Dele ALi
        Harry Kane
        Eric Dier

        So, 2 excellent performances by EPL Clubs in Europe.

        But, only 6 English players are good enough to play in these teams.

        • February 14th 2018 @ 11:25am
          punter said | February 14th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

          This is something that many people in Australia forget when assessing that many Australians are no longer in the top leagues.

          1. The competition is so much higher, with many Sth Americans, Africans & Eastern Europeans.
          2. The more physical players also need to possess good skills, Paulinho, Ferdinho & Kante like.

          Even the British players who have a far, far bigger football culture have been caught out.

          • February 14th 2018 @ 7:43pm
            Kangajets said | February 14th 2018 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

            Punter

            Man city the best team you’ve seen in the epl ?

            I guess if they win one title in a row, they are the best

            Manchester United 13 titles in 20 years

            Or Liverpool with 4 European cups in 10 years might just be 100 miles ahead of city

            But it’s good that you are acknowledging some quality for now . You Real Madrid buy everything policy is sure hard to beat .

        • February 14th 2018 @ 4:24pm
          Kris said | February 14th 2018 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

          3 Portuguese players for Porto, 2 Spaniards for Real Madrid, 4 Frenchmen for PSG, 4 Italians for Juve.

          • February 16th 2018 @ 7:16pm
            Mark said | February 16th 2018 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

            Ramos, Nacho and Isco started. Asensio and Lucas Vasquez came off the bench. No idea how you get 2 Spaniards for Madrid.

    • February 14th 2018 @ 1:25pm
      That A-League Fan said | February 14th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

      Agreed, but Nemesis has a valid point.

    • Roar Guru

      February 14th 2018 @ 7:28pm
      Rick Disnick said | February 14th 2018 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

      I doubt we’ll see any European teams in the UCL semis in the coming years. Too much money in the EPL for them to compete. It’s only going to get worse for the rest of Europe, especially Real and Barca when their country goes completely broke.

      • February 14th 2018 @ 9:10pm
        shirtpants said | February 14th 2018 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

        England has had more money in it for a long time and have largely struggled the last decade…

        • February 15th 2018 @ 8:18am
          Kangajets said | February 15th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          Shirt pants

          I don’t think facts back you up at all

          Real Madrid have spent by far the most over the previous decade.

          Now psg and man city are cashed up

          • February 15th 2018 @ 10:14am
            shirtpants said | February 15th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            As a league they have. They have had either 4 or 5 of the 10 richest clubs in the world every year (Deloitte Football Money League) for the past decade. In no way have their performances reflected this in the Champions League. Barca and Real are global brands, and that isn’t changing any time soon.

            • February 15th 2018 @ 1:05pm
              Kangajets said | February 15th 2018 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

              Global brands ,, you might be in market research

              I just like the words football teams

              and it’s looks like your getting a bit too upset that Spain doesn’t have all the money now, by the way who said Barcelona were going away , not me .

              What goes around. Comes around and it appears it’s English time to have European dominance in the clubs just like the 1970s.

            • Roar Guru

              February 15th 2018 @ 1:44pm
              Rick Disnick said | February 15th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

              It will when the German taxpayer final gets sick of the Spanish government subsidising them.

              The EPL is only going to richer. It’s now the premier football competition the world watches in the masses. Critical mass has been achieved, which will result in the bandwagon effect taking place further year upon year upon year.

              European football has no chance in the long-term.

              • February 15th 2018 @ 5:36pm
                shirtpants said | February 15th 2018 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

                You’re both speaking as if England hasn’t had enough money in the league to compete over the last decade; which is just ridiculous to suggest.

                And I’m certainly not upset about Spanish football or Barca in the least. I don’t like Barca at all, or Real Madrid for that.

          • February 15th 2018 @ 6:14pm
            Mark said | February 15th 2018 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

            The current Man City and PSG squads cost far more than Madrid’s squad. PSG’s spending in the last off-season alone wouldn’t be far off Madrid’s spending in the last 10 seasons.

            Of the squads over the last couple of seasons, only Ronaldo, Bale and James were bought for big money. The rest were bought for a pittance compared to what Man City and PSG have paid for most of their players…or been developed within the club.

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