Okley dokely folks – The Champions League returns this coming week and here is a short preview of each game – enjoy:-
Paris Saint Germain V Chelsea
A repeat of last years quarter final clash, when a late Demba Ba goal put Chelsea through on away goals. I am expecting something similar this year despite both teams having varying fortunes in their league campaigns. Jose Mourinho is the darling of Stamford Bridge and will be looking to progress further than last years semi-final. Laurent Blanc is under severe pressure in Paris – they are making hard work of retaining their Ligue One title, but it is the Champions League performances which will dictate whether he keeps his job beyond the end of this season. A close match and I have a feeling that the French team may well just get their revenge – on away goals.
Shakhtar Donetsk V Bayern Munich
The winter break never seems to help the Ukrainian club and I expect nothing different this time, especially as this will be their first competitive match since the start of December. Bayern have basically all but won the Bundesliga title so their full concentration will be on regaining the Champions League title they surrendered meekly in the semi final against Real Madrid last year. Shakhtar will be a threat with Adriano the top scorer in the competition as we stand a massive danger. Personally I cannot see anything but a Bayern win over two legs – they may find it tough in the away first leg but overall they will be too strong for the Ukrainian champions.
FC Basel V FC Porto
Two things about this match-up. Firstly I can imagine whoever makes it to the quarter finals in the other ties’ they will want to play the winner of this one and secondly it is a huge opportunity for either side to make the last eight. To be fair to both teams they did well to get the results they achieved in the group phase. Porto were unbeaten against decent teams like Shakhtar and Athletic Bilbao and Basel bested a Liverpool side that had spent over 100 million pounds last summer. The heart in me has a sneaky suspicion for Basel but Porto are a very experienced Champions League team and my head tells me that they may well edge this two legged affair.
Schalke V Real Madrid
This is a repeat of one of last seasons round of 16 games – the result a 9-2 aggregate win for Real Madrid, so I can only imagine the thoughts of the Schalke hierarchy when this draw came out in December. To be fair to the German side on their day they are a match for any team, the problem is against the top teams this hardly ever happens. The Champions of Europe are in fantastic form and I expect them to go through without too many problems – I suspect it might not be 9-2 again but it will be comfortable as the 10 times winners strive to become the first team to retain the Champions League.
Juventus v Borussia Dortmund
Despite Juventus dominating domestically they have struggled in Europe’s elite competition. With players such as Vidal, Pogba and Tevez they know they should be doing much better when mixing it with the continents best. They did make the quarter finals in 2013 but were outclassed by the winners that year Bayern Munich. Dortmund have had a nightmare season domestically – they lost their first game after the winter break but have improved since and are now out of the bottom three in the Bundesliga. This is going to be tight, but I can see the Italian’s prevailing in a close contest. Where that leaves Dortmund’s season and Jurgen Klopp who knows.
Manchester City v Barcelona
Another repeat match up from last years round of 16 and WHAT a match up. Barcelona bested the blues of Manchester with a professional performance over two legs which showed Champions League nous and took full advantage of the naivety of the English side. The fact Manchester City are even in the knockout phase is a bit of a miracle and I have no doubt they will give a much better account of themselves over two legs. If they can leave the Etihad with any sort of victory or a 0-0 – I personally think they will have a great chance of progressing. This one is too close to call for me – but to avoid the splinters – I think City can do it but they will have to be clinical or their attempts at reaching the last eight for the first time in their history will be a pipe dream.
Arsenal v Monaco
A homecoming for Arsene Wenger with a return to the club he managed with distinction in the late 1980s and early 1990s, though he wont be going back bearing gifts. The Frenchman will be more than happy with this draw especially as they could have ended up facing Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid. Monaco only let in one goal in topping their group, however the more important stat is the fact that they only scored FOUR!!!!!!! Needless to say I do not expect there to be many goals in this game, though I do expect the North Londoners to prevail as I feel their firepower will be too much for the resolute Monaco backline over two legs.
Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid
Last years runners up (they came within a minute of winning it mind) – started this seasons competition with a shock defeat to Olympiakos. They soon sorted themselves out (unsurprisingly with a manager like Diego Simeone) and ran out clear winners of their group. The German side qualified as runners up in arguably the weakest group. Getting through the group phase has been a bonus and I cannot see them progressing past the crack Spanish outfit and current La Liga Champions. A comfortable two legged victory to come for the Reds and Whites of Madrid in their quest to go one better than 2014.
So my predicted final eight – Bayern, Porto, Real Madrid, Juventus, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid – with Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City as my outsiders to go through in their ties – Who agrees???????
ps The much maligned Europa League also returns this week but this time with the added carrot of the winners going into at least the Champions League play-off round next season and this will be the case for future seasons to come. This now makes this tournament much more appealing rather than hearing the usual moans and groans of it affecting teams (mainly in this country) because of its Thursday, Sunday turnaround. Personally I do feel there are too many games in the competition as a whole (why have a playoff round – for all teams AND then a group phase) – but once we reach the knockout phase all 32 teams left will be (well they should be) going for it big time in my opinion and a shot in the Champions League and the riches it could bring could be theirs.
Let me know what you think – you can also tweet me @biggishmouth or go to my facebook page at www.facebook.com/thebiggishmouth
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