The Champions League. Only mentioning it makes me replay the famous anthem in my head and well… I’m sure I’m not the only one. As one of, if not THE most prestigious tournament in the world, it’s a tournament which is not only spectacular to watch but also important for the team you support to win. For the bragging rights that come with it of course.
While it’s still unclear which 2 teams will face off against each other on June 1st, 2019 at Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, we eagerly anticipate 1/8-finals where we will see the best 16 teams fighting for a spot in the quarterfinals.
It seems like such a long time ago since we watched the group stages of the Champions League, and well to be fair it was. At the time of writing this article, it’s been over a month and a half since we last saw teams compete in the Champions League, but you know what? Only 2 more weeks and the Champions League will return to our TV screens when the top 16 teams in Europe go against each other in 1/8 finals.
Since the December 17th, when the results of a draw were released, there is one thing going through everyone’s head; Which 8 teams will advance through to the quarter-finals? It’s a question that pops up every year, and it seems like the answer is harder to find each time. While there are some matches where one team is clearly superior, most of them are not like that, which is a good thing right? Well for a spectator surely, as he/she will get a chance to see some highly entertaining and nail-biting matches, however from a bettor’s perspective who is trying to figure out which team will be victorious, not so much.
Now let’s check the fixtures that await us in February and my thoughts on how the teams will perform.
AS Roma v Porto
The match will be played at the same time as Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain so we can expect this one to be played in the shadow of the “clash of the giants”. Nonetheless, it should be an interesting match and if there is a day to use 2 TV screens this is the day for it.
Looking at Roma and Porto H2H matches, the two sides met each other once before in the Champions League qualification round in 2016, when it was Porto who advanced with an aggregate score of 1:4. While we cannot expect either of these two teams to go on and win the Champions League, they fall into the category of teams that are capable of upsetting a football giant. I think we all remember last season when Roma knocked out Barcelona and even came close to reach the finals right? Well for the sake of entertainment and memorable moments I think I can speak for all of us when I say I hope we see something similar this year.
Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain
Just seeing these two names being put together, you can already expect a highly entertaining match, so cancel all your plans for 12th February and enjoy the spectacle. With these 2 football giants going against each other, you might be surprised this will be the first competitive match between the two sides, that is if we do not count the International Champions Cup match played on July 30th 2015. The match ended 0:2 for the French champions with Matiudi and Ibrahimović scoring both goals. This time, PSG will not have those 2 players at their disposal, with the departure of Matiudi to Juventus and Ibrahimović to the Los Angeles Galaxy. However, they will have Angel Di Maria, who moved from Manchester United to PSG only a few days after the mentioned match. When facing off against your former club, players usually give 110%, just to prove their former club what they lost, and with Di Maria’s story at Manchester United, that will surely be the case in this encounter.
Ajax v Real Madrid
We can keep it simple and say there is only one way this match will go. While Ajax is a respected team in the world of football, producing some of the best players in the world, they were outmatched in the draw, which paired them with a 13 times champions of the Champions League. Real Madrid has not only won the Champions League 6 more times than AC Milan but has also won 4 titles in the last 5 years, 3 of which were consecutive titles from 2016-2018. It’s simply hard to deny the huge gap between these two sides, and while I would like to see Ajax making Real Madrid work hard for their win, and maybe even winning the first match in Amsterdam, the final result will most likely see Los Blanco’s advancing into the quarterfinals.
Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund
Another great match between Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund will take place on February 13th, the 2nd day of 1/8 finals in the Champions League. Unlike other pairs, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund have played a fair share of matches against each other, more specifically 4 in total. The first time they met was in March 2016, when the sides played against each other in 1/8 finals of Europa League. The aggregate score was in favour of the Germans (4:2) who advanced to quarterfinals where they fell to Liverpool. The second time Tottenham played against Borussia was in 2017 in the Champions League group stage. That time, it was Tottenham who were the dominant side, winning both matches 3:1 and 1:2. With that, the teams are tied with 2 wins each in H2H matches. As for the match ahead of us, it is hard to call out a winner just yet. Borussia Dortmund are on an impressive run in their domestic league and well.. they just might win the Bundesliga title this season. On the other side, Tottenham are 3rd in a very strong Premier League and while they most likely won’t win the league we could argue the 3rd place is just as valuable as the 1st place in Bundesliga. Any way we look at it, this should prove to be a match worth checking out.
Liverpool v Bayern Munich
A heavyweight clash between 2 teams who have won the Champions League 5 times will take place on February 19th. After a disappointing result last season, when Liverpool lost in the finals against Real Madrid, they will look for another chance this season, but first, they will need to defeat Bayern Munich. Bayern are not in the dominant form like we are used to seeing, as they are 2nd in the Bundesliga, but nonetheless, they should be respected.
Liverpool and Bayern played against each other twice in the history. The first time these two sides met was in 2001 when Liverpool won 2:3. The 2nd and the most recent match between Liverpool and Bayern Munich took place on August 1st 2017 in the Audi Cup, which was once again won by Liverpool (0:3).
While Liverpool is leading in the H2H matches, this will by no means be an easy match for either of the teams and both players, as well as coaches are well aware of it. We could argue that Liverpool has a slight advantage due to Klopp’s knowledge of the German teams. On the other side, a lot can change in the course of the next 2 weeks with the form of the teams on the day of the match playing a huge factor in who will win. Whichever way it will go, this is one of the matches we could imagine seeing in the finals, but the “luck of the draw” gave us a chance to see it a few months earlier.
Lyon v Barcelona
These two teams have played a fair share of games against each other, 6 to be precise, all in the Champions League, however not since 2009. In the 6 H2H matches, Barcelona won 4 times, whereas 2 ended in a draw. Historically Barcelona is a better side, but as we saw before, underdogs sometimes manage to surprise even the biggest and strongest teams in the world. With the first match taking place in France, Lyon will have a decent chance to get a lead prior to the match in Spain. The bookmakers will surely heavily favour Barcelona to advance, but I cannot call out a winner yet. While this might be my biased opinion after Barcelona being knocked out by Roma last season, I would not like to be called out if I say Barcelona will have an easy time in 1/8 finals.
Atletico Madrid v Juventus
Heavily anticipated match between the Serie A giants and Atletico Madrid, who despite appearing in the finals of the Champions League 3 times have not yet managed to win. Most recently Atl Madrid were defeated by Real Madrid in 2016 finals after penalty kicks. These two sides have met each other only twice before in the Champions League group stage back in 2014 when it was Atl Madrid who won the first match 1:0, whereas the game in Italy ended in a draw 0:0. Much like many other matches in the 1/8 of the Champions League, this one is one without a clear winner. While Juventus is far more successful in this competition (2 titles, 7 times runner-ups), both teams will have to work hard to advance.
Schalke v Manchester City
Manchester City can be happy to draw Schalke as their 1/8 finals opponents. While Manchester City celebrated the draw, we can safely assume Schalke, who with their mediocre performances this season sit at the mid-table in Bundesliga were not too keen on the draw. All in all, Schalke has not been performing well this season, but same cannot be said for Manchester City who are 2nd in the Premier League with only 4 defeats in 24 games played at the time of writing.
The 2 sides have met each other 3 times in their history, most recently in 2008, when Manchester City won 0:2. While the mentioned match happened about 11 years ago, it would be hard to imagine this match going any other way.