The most decorated and prestigious football tournament in continental Europe is finally back. Oh my, it has been a long winter...
As TV broadcasters figured out that they can maximise the number of viewers, they are splitting the 1st leg of Round 16 into two weeks. We will now enjoy two glorious games each Tuesday and Wednesday (except for the week of February 26) until March 14. I’m loving it, are you?
No matter if you a neutral football fan or passionately support one of the 16 qualifiers, you will find enough attraction in the upcoming games.
This week brings us four games:
Tuesday, February 13
FC Basel v. Manchester City
Wednesday, February 14
(Valentine’s Day - sorry ladies, it may need to wait, because your man is busy tonight)
Real Madrid v. Paris Saint Germain
What to expect?
First and foremost, expect some great fun.
I’m a Real Madrid fan from the age of ten, and I’m fearing for my team in this round. The reigning champions are struggling this year, constantly plagued with injuries. We finally seem to have our best squad back, so this gives all Blancos fans around the world a glimpse of hope.
PSG has been bossing Ligue 1 since their first day, but they clearly struggled against Lyon in mid-January. I’m expecting a low-paced affair in Madrid, but anything can happen in the return leg. Both teams are obviously better in attack than in defense, therefore the goals will be just a matter of time. All pressure though will be on the French side, as the whole world is expecting them to stop a Madrid/Barcelona hegemony.
In my eyes Tottenham are about to have an audition to join the European mighty club. They finally look like a guaranteed Top 4 team back home, and the time is right to show their European credentials. Harry Kane is on fire, and so are his attacking partners Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min.
Juventus, on the other hand, isn’t the unspoken Italian leader this year. They are still strong defensively, but they don’t score many goals. Will the Spurs’ youth and passion overcome Old Lady’s experience and defensive strength? My money is on Spurs.
Two more games will see Liverpool and Manchester City play FC Porto and FC Basel. If the games are to be won on paper, then these two are rather obvious. Nevertheless, I can’t recall the last time when any team made it safely into the next round without some great effort on the pitch. Pressure will be on the English sides, and God only knows how they iwll respond to it. With this in mind, I can’t see Basel shocking the Citizens, but Liverpool has been too vulnerable this year to give us a sure result. It will be a toe-to-toe game in Portugal, but the Salah / Firmino / Mane trident should eliminate any doubts in Liverpool.
Here is my reimagined team:
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
David Alaba / Gerard Pique / Jordi Alba / Mats Hummels
Raheem Sterling / Kevin de Bruyne (C) / Arjen Robben
Mo Salah / Roberto Firmino / Robert Lewandowski
I will switch the captaincy from the Belgian to my favourite FPL asset Mo Salah if City struggle in Switzerland.
Is this going to be the week when Zinedine Zidane will be shown the door? Will PSG finally proclaim themselves as a new European power house? Do Harry Kane and Co have a chance to eclipse Juventus?
Let’s chat and enjoy the UEFA Champions League return!