Champions League Predictions
Champions League Predictions
As the end of the transfer window nears, it is time for the larger clubs in Europe to focus on another task, the Champions League. With 16 teams remaining there is still plenty of soccer to be played. That being said, there are several teams who’s outlooks have changed thanks to some deadline deals. But enough preview, let’s get down to business. I’m Michael Hamby for WPTS Radio, and here are my previews and predictions for Champions League round of 16.
Juventus vs Tottenham : Easily one of the most exciting matches in the round of 16, this matchup pits two teams who have struggled as of late but started off very strong this year. Tottenham’s Harry Kane is a goal scoring machine, with 21 goals in the Premier League this season, he has saved the Spurs many times this season. Meanwhile the young Paulo Dybala has lit Serie A on fire in an absolute fantastic season so far. Both teams are strong in the back, with tough and aggressive backlines, and very talented keepers (albeit Buffon is getting old). The difference here is in the attacking prowess up front, and this is where the English side has the edge. Tottenham have arguably the best striker in the world, follow that up with a midfield and wings carrying Heung-Min Son, Dele Alli, and Christian Eriksen, and Tottenham’s advantage is clear.
Prediction: Tottenham 4-3 on Aggregate
FC Basel vs Manchester City: This one should be pretty easy, though in the Champions League you can never tell. In a match that pits arguably the best team in Europe this season with a team from the Swiss Super League (guess which is which). While I do not want to discredit FC Basel too much, they haven’t exactly dominated the scene, currently sitting two points behind Young Boys in their league, and finishing second in their group behind Manchester United by three points. In all honesty it is not because I think Basel is bad, because they have a couple really talented players especially in the midfield, it is just that Manchester City is too good. With only one loss in all competitions this season, City have been putting on a show for all to see. Key players for Basel need to be prevalent in order for the Swiss side to make it competitive, which means dominating performances from Mohamed Elyounoussi and the newly returned Valentin Stocker in the midfield. However, City have a few dominating midfielders of their own who will probably steal the show in this tie, Kevin De Bruyne especially. By the time the final whistle blows, I expect we will see more of the same, bye bye Basel.
Prediction: Manchester City 7-2 on Aggregate
FC Porto vs Liverpool: If I had been asked about this match-up prior to the previous two weeks, my answer would have been simple: the Reds will dominate. However, in lue of recent transfers (Happy Trails Couts!) my opinion has changed on the matchup. FC Porto are no slouch, having won an underrated Portuguese League to get here in the first place. With Vincent Aboubakar being in the form that he is, and with such a talented midfield behind him, Porto will push hard to make an impact early and often in both matches. Liverpool raised some concerns the last week or so, dropping back to back games to Swansea and West Brom, before righting the ship against Huddersfield. Jurgen Klopp’s side has shown it is a masterclass on the offensive, scoring a blistering 90 goals in all competitions this season. The concern of course, are the defensive struggles, which have hopefully been fixed by a very expensive purchase of Virgil Van Dijk. With VVD in the lineup, the Reds hope to solidify their backline, and leave the rest up to the powerful trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah. Porto will look to stop these three monsters with some high quality defending, lead by CB’s Felipe and Marcano. This match will be close, but I believe the Reds have the pace and skill to outplay their Portuguese counterparts.
Prediction: Liverpool 6-3 on Aggregate
Real Madrid vs PSG : Another matchup that should excite, Madrid vs PSG has some of football’s brightest stars on display. Neymar and PSG have impressed in all competitions this season, running through Ligue 1 like a hot knife through butter. This is in stark contrast to a Real team that has struggled in pretty much everything they have done this season, including finishing in second in their group to Tottenham. Their problems seem to stem from their lack of offensive creativity, where a lack of bench depth is blatantly obvious. On the other side, PSG has been unstoppable on the attack, with Edinson Cavani leading all scorers in Europe with 27 goals in all competitions this season. Of course, the combination of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe haven’t been slouches either, accounting for 66 goals between the two of them in all competitions. Real Madrid’s defense has been solid, especially on the wings, so it will be interesting to see how well Neymar fares against Marcelo, and you can never count out the impact Sergio Ramos has on a game. PSG should win on aggregate, but do not expect the two time defending champions to make it easy for them.
Prediction: PSG 6-4 on Aggregate
Bayern Munich vs Besiktas : This matchup will be better than it appears on paper, with Besiktas always playing to the level of their opponent, at least when at home. However, Munich are Munich and that means they will have plenty of attacking power and midfield control in order to win this round pretty handily. Expect Robert Lewandowski to have a couple of goals, and for the midfield pace to be painstakingly slow and methodical. If, Besiktas want to stay in this match, the Turkish side will rely heavily on its playmakers, specifically Ricardo Quaresma and a newly in form Anderson Talisca. Most likely, this will end with Bayern dominating the matches, but keep an open mind.
Prediction: Bayern 5-2 on Aggregate
Chelsea vs Barcelona : If a premier league team is going to suffer a defeat in this round, it will most likely come here, when Chelsea face Barcelona. Barca have been arguably the best team in Europe this season, along with Man City, and they show no signs of slowing down. With Offensive pace that helps keep the pressure off of their backline, Barca have shown dominating performances galore this season. Chelsea on the other hand, have struggled at times, with everything. While their midfield play has been exceptional (what else would you expect from Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante?) the wings and striking positions have been relatively lackluster. On the defensive half, the unit looks lost most of the time, and communication definitely appears to be an issue amongst the players. With manager Antonio Conte on the hot seat, expect the Blues to put up quite the fight, but I expect Messi and Co. to be too strong and win it at Camp Nou.
Prediction: Barcelona 5-4 on Aggregate
Sevilla FC vs Manchester United : This will be a competitive match in the aspect on Manchester United struggling to figure out how to put the ball in the net. United have shown flashes of attacking strength against some of the weaker teams in the premier league, but for the most part Mourinho’s side have struggled to find the back of the net. Sevilla on the other hand, have pretty much sole focus on being successful in the Champions League after seeing how the race for La Liga is shaping up (SHOCKER!). While Wissam Ben Yedder and Pablo Sarabia have had some really strong showings this year, I expect the solid play of Argentine playmaker Ever Banega to be a key for Sevilla to win this matchup. With much to prove this year, United should be motivated to prove that they belong in the Champions League with the other English clubs. However, Sevilla will be extremely tough to conquer at home, where they can come back from almost any deficit. If they play to a draw at Old Trafford, and can dominate the game at home, they just might walk out of this the victors.
Prediction: Sevilla on Away Goals
Shakhtar Donetsk vs AS Roma : This is one of the tougher matchups in to gauge in the round of 16. Shakhtar are in a tight race in the Ukrainian Premier League with Dynamo Kiev and have struggled both times they have come up against the capital club in the league. However, led by star attackmen Facundo Ferreyra and Marlos they strolled to second place in the group behind Manchester City. Their speed on the wings was key to upending Napoli in the group stages and players like Bernard and Taison will look to replicate that success versus Roma. The Italians had a good group stage as well, finishing ahead of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid to claim Group C. They have struggled in Serie A, however, languishing in 5th place, 16 points behind leaders Napoli. Goals have been hard to come by in the league for the Giallorossi outside of star striker Edin Dzeko and winger Stephen El Shaarawy. If the Italian side can get their creative juices flowing this matchup should be theirs. Expect the Bosnian Dzeko to be refocused after a distracting January transfer window and to score the crucial goal to allow Roma to advance. It would be unwise to count out Shakhtar from springing the upset however.
Prediction: Roma 3-2 on Aggregate