Champions League Last 16 – What Have We Learned So Far
March 7, 2017 (No Comments) by Dean Fitzgerald

champions-league-last-16-what-have-we-learned-so-far

Heading into the knockout stages of this year’s Champions League, there had been a lot of strong performances and results from the usual teams and players. Barcelona and Atlético Madrid both topped their groups, and Lionel Messi scored a near unbelievable 10 goals in the group stages (if it wasn’t Messi that is).

Even so, the 2016/17 edition of the Champions League has thrown in some big surprises. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Porto finished behind Borussia Dortmund, Atlético and Leicester City respectively in their groups. Even Arsenal won their group ahead of PSG! It seemed like the year where anything could happen would come in the knockout stages.

Despite Arsenal drawing Bayern Munich again, and Barcelona drawing PSG again, this year has had a different feel to it. And so the first legs have proven thus far. We’ll look at each game and predict who will reach the Quarter-Finals next month.

Barcelona V PSG (First leg: PSG 4-0 Barcelona)

This was the shock of the round, if not the Champions League so far. Let’s not forget that this PSG side couldn’t overcome Arsenal in the groups, and are fighting hard to retain their Ligue 1 title without Ibrahimović, and yet they systematically destroyed Barcelona in the first leg.

Ángel Di María and Julian Draxler tore through the Barcelona defence and crushed almost any chance of a comeback. It was Barcelona’s worst ever Champions League defeat and even with the second leg in Camp Nou, it will take a miracle for Barcelona to advance past the last 16. PSG advance comfortably.

barcelona-v-psg

Borussia Dortmund V Benfica (First leg: Benfica 1-0 Borussia Dortmund)

As finely poised a tie as you can have. Benfica took home advantage seriously, eking out a one goal win and crucially keeping a clean sheet in the process against a team who scored 21 group stage goals.

However, Dortmund are never a team to count out. Playing in Signal Iduna Park with the ‘Yellow Wall’ behind them, one of the loudest atmospheres in European football, should play into Dortmund’s hands. If Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can hit his stride, Dortmund could scrape through. This could go either way. Benfica squeeze through with priceless away goal.

Arsenal V Bayern Munich (First leg: Bayern Munich 5-1 Arsenal)

That away goal could be extremely important for Arsenal if they… who are we kidding? This tie is over. Arsenal haven’t the skill or mental ability to compete against Bayern. There’s barely any point in even talking about it to be honest.

It’s inevitable that Arsenal will fall in the last-16 for the 7th season in a row. They were schooled by Thiago Alcántara in Allianz Arena, and recent results will do little to suggest anything other than a meek exit. Bayern go through, obviously.

Napoli V Real Madrid (First leg: Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli)

The current holders Real fell behind early in the first leg, but recovered well to give themselves a nice cushion going into the second leg. A lack of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo haven’t hurt Madrid as much as many felt it might have, as the Portuguese star has gotten 5 assists this campaign, his most in any Champions League season.

Not conceding at home, along with scoring at least 2 goals, is key for Napoli if they wish to keep their European dreams alive. Unfortunately, this is a star-studded Madrid side keen to retain for the first time in Champions League history (Which completely ignores all those times teams repeated as winners before 1992). It’s very difficult to see it all fall into place for Marek Hamsik and Co. Real Madrid score in Napoli to kill the tie.

Monaco V Manchester City (First leg: Manchester City 5-3 Monaco)

Firstly, what a bloody game that was! One of the best in recent memory, as both sides went out to win. Forget the shoddy defending, this was two teams showing all the attack they had to offer. Agüero and Falcao impressed in particular, let’s take one more look at that sublime chip from the Colombian captain.

City have been so hot and cold this year, it’s impossible to predict if they can hold on and avoid a two goal defeat in the second leg. Monaco have been consistently performing this year, and away goals may swing in their favour, so expect a dramatic game here. City crawl through by narrowest of margins.

Atlético Madrid V Bayer Levrkusen (First leg: Bayer Levrkusen 2-4 Atlético Madrid)

One of only two group winners to win their first leg, Atlético Madrid must feel very confident of qualifying for the Quarter-Finals after putting 4 past Levrkusen in Germany. An attack consisting of Antoine Griezemann and Kevin Gameiro mean Atlético must be heavy favourites to advance.

Bayer’s chances are quite slim, with the away goals rule meaning they need at least 3 goals to have a chance. They’ve lost their last 3 games in all competitions, so even Javier Hernández may not be able to save them. Athletico forge on with easy aggregate win.

Juventus V Porto (First leg: Porto 0-2 Juventus)

Two away goals in two minutes gave Juventus a commanding position in this tie, as Porto simply lack the ability to break down such a stout defence who conceded only twice in the group stages. Juventus are quietly building momentum this year.

The build-up is about the golden generation of ‘keepers, Buffon and Casillas, facing off, but only because this game lacks real edge to be shown as anything else. Juventus are too classy for Porto and have bigger fish to fry this year. Juventus dominate second leg to cruise through.

juventus-v-porto

Leicester City V Sevilla (First leg: Sevilla 2-1 Leicester City)

Another intriguing tie, especially given Leicester’s rebirth since Claudio Ranieri’s untimely dismissal. A massive away goal and a quick turnaround in Premier League form puts them in with a shout, but Sevilla have been excellent as of late, daring even to contend for La Liga against the Madrids and Barcelona.

Sevilla are good enough to avoid falling into Leicester’s trap, but they need to be smart enough too. They outplayed The Foxes in the first leg, but time will tell how much Leicester have changed with the change in management. Sevilla advance with second leg draw.

Some of these ties seem like mere formalities, but something tells us we’re still in for some drama in this round and beyond. Let’s just enjoy what’s being put in front of us – Arsenal Fan TV rants after losing in the last 16 (again) to Bayern Munich (again). Some things never change.

Dean Fitzgerald
Can relate any life problems back to GAA. Has an interest in sport of all kinds, including even cricket for some reason.

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Champions League Last 16 – What Have We Learned So Far
March 7, 2017 (No Comments) by Dean Fitzgerald

champions-league-last-16-what-have-we-learned-so-far

Heading into the knockout stages of this year’s Champions League, there had been a lot of strong performances and results from the usual teams and players. Barcelona and Atlético Madrid both topped their groups, and Lionel Messi scored a near unbelievable 10 goals in the group stages (if it wasn’t Messi that is).

Even so, the 2016/17 edition of the Champions League has thrown in some big surprises. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Porto finished behind Borussia Dortmund, Atlético and Leicester City respectively in their groups. Even Arsenal won their group ahead of PSG! It seemed like the year where anything could happen would come in the knockout stages.

Despite Arsenal drawing Bayern Munich again, and Barcelona drawing PSG again, this year has had a different feel to it. And so the first legs have proven thus far. We’ll look at each game and predict who will reach the Quarter-Finals next month.

Barcelona V PSG (First leg: PSG 4-0 Barcelona)

This was the shock of the round, if not the Champions League so far. Let’s not forget that this PSG side couldn’t overcome Arsenal in the groups, and are fighting hard to retain their Ligue 1 title without Ibrahimović, and yet they systematically destroyed Barcelona in the first leg.

Ángel Di María and Julian Draxler tore through the Barcelona defence and crushed almost any chance of a comeback. It was Barcelona’s worst ever Champions League defeat and even with the second leg in Camp Nou, it will take a miracle for Barcelona to advance past the last 16. PSG advance comfortably.

barcelona-v-psg

Borussia Dortmund V Benfica (First leg: Benfica 1-0 Borussia Dortmund)

As finely poised a tie as you can have. Benfica took home advantage seriously, eking out a one goal win and crucially keeping a clean sheet in the process against a team who scored 21 group stage goals.

However, Dortmund are never a team to count out. Playing in Signal Iduna Park with the ‘Yellow Wall’ behind them, one of the loudest atmospheres in European football, should play into Dortmund’s hands. If Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can hit his stride, Dortmund could scrape through. This could go either way. Benfica squeeze through with priceless away goal.

Arsenal V Bayern Munich (First leg: Bayern Munich 5-1 Arsenal)

That away goal could be extremely important for Arsenal if they… who are we kidding? This tie is over. Arsenal haven’t the skill or mental ability to compete against Bayern. There’s barely any point in even talking about it to be honest.

It’s inevitable that Arsenal will fall in the last-16 for the 7th season in a row. They were schooled by Thiago Alcántara in Allianz Arena, and recent results will do little to suggest anything other than a meek exit. Bayern go through, obviously.

Napoli V Real Madrid (First leg: Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli)

The current holders Real fell behind early in the first leg, but recovered well to give themselves a nice cushion going into the second leg. A lack of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo haven’t hurt Madrid as much as many felt it might have, as the Portuguese star has gotten 5 assists this campaign, his most in any Champions League season.

Not conceding at home, along with scoring at least 2 goals, is key for Napoli if they wish to keep their European dreams alive. Unfortunately, this is a star-studded Madrid side keen to retain for the first time in Champions League history (Which completely ignores all those times teams repeated as winners before 1992). It’s very difficult to see it all fall into place for Marek Hamsik and Co. Real Madrid score in Napoli to kill the tie.

Monaco V Manchester City (First leg: Manchester City 5-3 Monaco)

Firstly, what a bloody game that was! One of the best in recent memory, as both sides went out to win. Forget the shoddy defending, this was two teams showing all the attack they had to offer. Agüero and Falcao impressed in particular, let’s take one more look at that sublime chip from the Colombian captain.

City have been so hot and cold this year, it’s impossible to predict if they can hold on and avoid a two goal defeat in the second leg. Monaco have been consistently performing this year, and away goals may swing in their favour, so expect a dramatic game here. City crawl through by narrowest of margins.

Atlético Madrid V Bayer Levrkusen (First leg: Bayer Levrkusen 2-4 Atlético Madrid)

One of only two group winners to win their first leg, Atlético Madrid must feel very confident of qualifying for the Quarter-Finals after putting 4 past Levrkusen in Germany. An attack consisting of Antoine Griezemann and Kevin Gameiro mean Atlético must be heavy favourites to advance.

Bayer’s chances are quite slim, with the away goals rule meaning they need at least 3 goals to have a chance. They’ve lost their last 3 games in all competitions, so even Javier Hernández may not be able to save them. Athletico forge on with easy aggregate win.

Juventus V Porto (First leg: Porto 0-2 Juventus)

Two away goals in two minutes gave Juventus a commanding position in this tie, as Porto simply lack the ability to break down such a stout defence who conceded only twice in the group stages. Juventus are quietly building momentum this year.

The build-up is about the golden generation of ‘keepers, Buffon and Casillas, facing off, but only because this game lacks real edge to be shown as anything else. Juventus are too classy for Porto and have bigger fish to fry this year. Juventus dominate second leg to cruise through.

juventus-v-porto

Leicester City V Sevilla (First leg: Sevilla 2-1 Leicester City)

Another intriguing tie, especially given Leicester’s rebirth since Claudio Ranieri’s untimely dismissal. A massive away goal and a quick turnaround in Premier League form puts them in with a shout, but Sevilla have been excellent as of late, daring even to contend for La Liga against the Madrids and Barcelona.

Sevilla are good enough to avoid falling into Leicester’s trap, but they need to be smart enough too. They outplayed The Foxes in the first leg, but time will tell how much Leicester have changed with the change in management. Sevilla advance with second leg draw.

Some of these ties seem like mere formalities, but something tells us we’re still in for some drama in this round and beyond. Let’s just enjoy what’s being put in front of us – Arsenal Fan TV rants after losing in the last 16 (again) to Bayern Munich (again). Some things never change.

Dean Fitzgerald
Can relate any life problems back to GAA. Has an interest in sport of all kinds, including even cricket for some reason.

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