Champions League last 16: tie-by-tie analysis

first_img Pinterest Twitter Topics Share on Messenger Share on WhatsApp Antonio Conte will not resign as pressure builds on Chelsea manager Paris Saint-Germain Chelsea v BarcelonaTuesday 20 February, Stamford Bridge and Wednesday 14 March, Camp NouBarcelona are the last team Chelsea would want to face at the moment. The Catalan side looked forlorn last summer with Neymar lost to PSG but have responded magnificently. They have played 4-2-3-1 most of the season and sometimes even 4-4-2. Lionel Messi is still Lionel Messi. His connection with Jordi Alba is crucial, with Sergi Roberto at right-back decisive too. Luis Suárez is flying and, with Philippe Coutinho unavailable for the Champions League, Andrés Iniesta will play. Antonio Conte must rejuvenate his tired squad. Tiémoué Bakayoko is struggling in midfield and where are goals coming from with Álvaro Morata injured?Verdict BarcelonaShakhtar Donetsk v RomaWednesday 21 February, OSK Metalist Stadium and Tuesday 13 March, Stadio OlimpicoShakhtar got out of a group also featuring Manchester City, Napoli and Feyenoord by beating all three at home. They will play their first competitive game for more than two months on Thursday and their captain, Darijo Srna, is suspended after failing a drugs test, but they kept hold of their key player, Fred, despite interest from both City and Manchester United. Central defence is a weakness, as is squad depth. Roma have problems in defence and midfield, with Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan out of form, but their goalkeeper, Alisson, has been outstanding. But they have not replaced Mohamed Salah while Edin Dzeko has pretty much stopped scoring.Verdict ShakhtarSevilla v Manchester UnitedWednesday 21 February, Sánchez Pizjuán and Tuesday 13 March, Old TraffordUnited arrive in Andalucía with hopes of reaching the last eight for the first time in four years. The home side have a new manager since the wild draws with Liverpool in the group stage, Vincenzo Montella having taken over from Eduardo Berizzo. The former Italian international prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation with Éver Banega and Steven Nzonzi key in midfield. Sevilla concede far too many goals and have Jesús Navas playing at right-back and Mercado, the right-back, playing at centre-back. United, of course, have been strengthened by the arrival of Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal and, although Paul Pogba blows hot and cold in midfield, José Mourinho’s side are clear favourites to go through.Verdict United New era edges closer as Spurs seek to draw a line under austerity years blogposts Bayern Munich v BesiktasTuesday 20 February, Allianz Arena and Wednesday 14 March, Vodafone ArenaBayern are unrecognisable from the team that struggled in the autumn under Carlo Ancelotti. Jupp Heynckes, who won the Champions League with the club in 2013, was reinstated on 6 October and they have lost only once since. The 72-year-old immediately reintroduced rules (heavy fines for lateness, players to tidy the dressing room) from his last spell and the squad responded positively. Manuel Neuer is injured but James Rodríguez has been outstanding. Besiktas impressed as they won Group G ahead of Porto, RB Leipzig and Monaco but have since sold Cenk Tosun to Everton. Several key players – Pepe, Atiba Hutchinson, Ricardo Quaresma and Ryan Babel – are over 30.Verdict Bayern Juventus v TottenhamTuesday, Juventus Stadium and Wednesday 7 March, WembleyWhat an intriguing game. Spurs beat Real Madrid and eliminated Borussia Dortmund in the group stage but Juve offer a different challenge. Defensively superb, with Medhi Benatia now fully integrated in the back four in place of the departed Leonardo Bonucci, Max Allegri’s side are approaching their best. Allegri does have some injury problems, though, with Paulo Dybala and Blaise Matuidi expected to miss the first leg. In the end it may well come down to a shootout between Gonzalo Higuaín and Harry Kane. The battle of the full-backs will be important, too: will both sides attack the way they normally do? Mauricio Pochettino will be delighted to have Toby Alderweireld back in defence but Dele Alli’s form is a worry.Verdict JuventusReal Madrid v Paris Saint-GermainWednesday, Bernabéu and Tuesday 6 March, Parc des PrincesExactly the kind of tie PSG’s Qatari owners were dreaming of when they bought the club in 2011. On the pitch Adrien Rabiot is having a renaissance in his Blaise Matuidi-esque role while Giovani Lo Celso has been the big surprise package, replacing the injured Thiago Motta with aplomb. Neymar and Edinson Cavani have been in excellent form, despite the on- and off-pitch drama. Real, meanwhile, are a shadow of their former selves. They are not scoring the goals they were and are vulnerable at the back – Nacho, their most reliable defender, will be at right-back instead of in the middle because of Dani Carvajal’s suspension. One warning, though, the Champions League is Real’s entire season now.Verdict Real MadridPorto v LiverpoolWednesday, Estádio do Dragão and Tuesday 6 March, AnfieldLiverpool are favourites but could be punished by Sérgio Conceição’s slick side. It will be fascinating to see how much attacking licence Jürgen Klopp gives his team against Conceição’s hybrid 4-4-2, which is aided by two very attacking full-backs – Ricardo and Alex Telles – and has Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Marega up front. Porto are attacking but also play quite aggressively and physically. Klopp has one of Europe’s most exciting forward lines in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané and, if Virgil van Dijk marshals his defence as well as he did for the first 80 minutes against Tottenham, Liverpool should go through. If not, Porto will pounce.Verdict Liverpool Virgil van Dijk could be crucial in the heart of the Liverpool defence if they are to get past Porto and reach the quarter-finals. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Manchester City Share on Twitter Baselcenter_img Share on LinkedIn Real Madrid Share on Pinterest Juventus Read more Champions League Tottenham Hotspur Basel v Manchester CityTuesday, St Jakob-Park and Wednesday 7 March, EtihadIt was a fairly tumultuous transfer window for Basel with two key players, Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund) and Renato Steffen (Wolfsburg), joining Bundesliga clubs. However, the Swiss club also re-signed Valentin Stocker (Hertha Berlin) and Fabian Frei (Mainz) and the coach, Raphael Wicky, says they “have more quality now than we did in 2017”. City, though, should be able to expose Basel’s lack of pace all over the pitch and the Swiss side were devoid of attacking ideas in a recent 1-0 home defeat against Lugano. Wicky is likely to play a 3-4-3 formation against City and it would be surprising if Pep Guardiola’s side did not get past Basel’s wing-backs to create chances, even without the injured Leroy Sané.Verdict City to go through Share via Email Sportblog Facebook Read more Reuse this content Share on Facebooklast_img