The UCL season with the most hattricks was 2019-20 with ten. Kilyan Mbappe demolished Barcelona last week with a historic 7th Hatrick in this season’s UCL. Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud and Borussia M’Gladbach’s Alassane Plea recorded hattricks in the group stage this season. They are joined this week with six stars that played a part in last season’s record-breaking achievement; Josip Ilicic, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Serge Gnabry, and Robert Lewandowski. The number of clubs was cut in half after the Group stage, but the quality of the matches has risen exponentially. NMA authors look at looming fixtures and predict their outcomes.
It was my utmost pleasure to take part in NMA’s Round of 16 podcasts. My predictions were clearly outlined. While I consider tactical play went exactly as it should have, Mbappe, RB Leipzig, Pirlo and Sevilla front line cost me heavy points in fantasy. Otherworldly Mbappe devoured Barcelona’s defense; Leipzig’s two errors gifted two goals to Liverpool in a match that was supposed to end in a goalless draw; Pirlo’s inconsistency has become a constant in itself, leading his team to one of their worst performances; and Sevilla’s front-line was subbed out in one shot (3 players) early in the second half due to their incompetence in front of goal.
For this week (the 2nd half of “match-day” 7) , I am sticking to what I said in the podcast: Manchester City will “visit” Borussia M’Gladbach (via neutral ground) and effectively put themselves into the quarterfinals. The Germans may be able to get a goal or two, but that will definitely not be enough.
Chelsea will travel to play against Atletico Madrid (also on neutral ground). Atletico should have the advantage from Simeone’s versatile style of play, which could change formation during the game. But Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel have been doing well and will look to have the final say in the return leg.
Bayern Munich should not have any trouble getting past Lazio, so any other result would without question be a heavy blow that would happen only if the Italians are mentally well prepared by Simeone Inzaghi.
Finally, the match that I have been looking forward to since December: Atalanta hosts Real Madrid in what I consider to be the end of Zinedine Zidane. It has always been a mistake to rule out Real Madrid like this, but Atalanta fields a fully fit squad against a dismantled Spanish Giant with broken limbs listing almost 10 injured players.
Burossia M’Glabach 1-4 Manchester City
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Chelsea
Lazio 0-3 Bayern Munich
Atalanta 2-0 Real Madrid
Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City
Although the Sky Blues have struggled to find consistent attacking form, evidenced most recently by yesterday’s 1-0 victory over Arsenal, Pep Guardiola has fashioned City’s defense into one of the best in the world. Ederson has collected a string of shutouts that is beginning to border on the ridiculous. Meanwhile BM’s rearguard is suspect, plus with Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan emerging as world-class talents, and with Kevin De Bruyne now fit again, I see this match-up going only one way.
Prediction: BM 0-3 MC
Atetico Madrid v Chelsea
Chelsea has improved dramatically under Thomas Tuchel, but unlike Atletico, the S-XI still seems unsettled. Diego Simeone’s familiarity with his players, and his players’ familiarity with his system, should be enough to see AM through. I am really looking forward to watching Diego Costa face his former club by the way.
Prediction: AM 2-1 Chelsea
Lazio v Bayern Munich
This match should be all about Robert Lewandowski. Arguably the world’s best striker, he has three goals from four games so far, so he should be too much for Lazio to handle.
Prediction: Lazio 1-3 Bayern
Atalanta v Real Madrid
Normally we would consider this a David vs Goliath match, but Atalanta is punching above its weight, and Real Madrid is not the powerhouse of old. This one could go either way, but I’ll go out on a limb and give the nod to host Atalanta.
Prediction: Atalanta 2-1 Real Madrid
I think it’s fair to say that my predictions for this second quartet of fixtures are largely tied to the players I’ve picked for my fantasy team. Otherwise, why would I have grabbed them? 10 of my 15 players feature this Tuesday and Wednesday, so I’m very excited! I’ve got:
- Manchester City (4): midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling, defender John Stones and keeper Ederson
- Bayern Munich (3): forward Robert Lewandowski, midfielder Kingsley Coman and attack-minded “defender” Joshua Kimmich
- Atletico Madrid (2): forward Luis Suarez and defender Stefan Savic
- Atalanta (1): defender Cristian Romero
So I’m really hoping that my very biased score line predictions aren’t too far off. Manchester City and Atletico Madrid boast the stoutest defenses in the EPL and La Liga, respectively, so I’m backing clean sheets from that pair, although I’m not expecting offensive explosions from either. I foresee more open games from the other two fixtures, and in particular Bayern’s lethal attack should find joy.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 0, Manchester City 2
Atletico Madrid 2, Chelsea 0
Lazio 1, Bayern Munich 3
Atalanta 2, Real Madrid 2
Some great fixtures this time around, but incredibly tough to call; which certainly makes it more exciting. The only team I can clearly back is Man City as they look unstoppable at the moment; Bayern would be my next shout but Lazio are doing well currently.
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Chelsea
Lazio 1-2 Bayern Munich
Atalanta 1-1 Real Madrid
Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-2 Man City
What do you think about the four matches this week? Have you made your bench substitutions yet? Who is your captain? And how many of your players have already crashed out, needing to be replaced before the next round? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments, and then come back for more UCL coverage as UCL MD7 continues!