UEFA Round of 16: Match Previews pt. 1

In December, the last 16 teams in the UEFA Champions League learned their fates. If you need to be reminded of the awesomeness that awaits us, below is the full draw:

  • Roma vs. Porto
  • Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain
  • Ajax vs. Real Madrid
  • Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund
  • Lyon vs. Barcelona
  • Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich
  • Athletico Madrid vs. Juventus
  • Manchester City vs. Schalke 04

The Champions League is set to return to action next week. For part 1, we’ll begin by looking at the first eight teams and oh boy, some things really changed since the draw…

Roma vs Porto

From a glance: Pikachu vs Eevee.

Some injuries have made headlines ahead of the upcoming fixtures and Roma vs Porto can be put in that category.

Porto begin their Round of 16 journey being dealt a huge blow with Moussa Marega ruled out via a muscle injury. The 29-year-old suffered a muscle strain and leads the team with 16 goals across all competition; this comes after Vincent Aboubakar was ruled out back in September. Without their two most expensive forwards, the current league leaders may be on their last bit of luck.

The responsibility will now fall on midfielder Yacine Brahimi (7 goals in league play) and forward Tiquinho Soares (9 goals in league play) and of course, the man, the myth, the legend: Iker Casillas manning the goal.

If they manage to get past the round of 16, the remainder of the season and tournament may become a burden rather than a blessing. Porto currently sit in first place in the Primeira Liga.

6th place in Seria A, Roma qualified in second place in their group stage behind Real Madrid. Edin Dzeko was their top scorer with five goals.

El Shaaraway and Dzeko lead the italian side with league goals, while winger Cenzig Under has netted three times in Champions League play.

Assuming the 19-year-old midfielder Zaniolo starts, he might have a troublesome time finding space and playing his style with the likes of Hector Herrera, Oliver Torres and Corona on the opposite side. Check out his first goal for Roma below. ewwwwwwwwwww.

While neither club is expected to win the Champions League, this will be an entertaining match.

Winner: Porto

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

From a glance: Goku (after going Super Sayian for the first time) vs. Freiza.

Gosh… I really, really wanted to say PSG was the favorite. I really did.

In December, there was no way Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United was ousting Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani. Although United never come to mind as “an easy team,” they were vulnerable.

But in the world of football, managers get axed at any given moment throughout the season. Some are tasked to simply finish the job at hand, but others are brought in to salvage the season – enter Ole.

Since the UCL draw, Jose Mourinho’s controversial stint at Old Trafford has come to an end and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the team from Clark Kent to Superman in the matter of days. Ask the players and they would say even minutes *cough cough Pogba*

Since December 22nd, 2018, Paul Pogba has been directly involved with a goal or assist in every game to date (except against Newcastle on 1/2/19). The french international is shining how he was intended to from his initial transfer to the English club.

This clash of the titans has taken a 180, with United breezing through their opponents, while PSG suffered a major setback with the ankle injury of superstar Neymar and failing to acquire Acosta from D.C. United to compensate.

PSG are still a very good team, however, January has come and gone with only bad luck. If anyone can lead the Red Devils past PSG, it’s Solskjaer.

Winner: Manchester United

Ajax vs Real Madrid

From a glance: Tom and Jerry, and Jerry’s won this round.

Being in third place isn’t a good place for Madrid.

Gone is Ronaldo. Gone is Bale’s best form. Gone are the days of “BBC”. To put it succinctly, they are no longer feared throughout Europe.

While we may never know what Florentino Peréz was thinking when he chose not to replace a player of Ronaldo’s caliber, he’s now cornered. The last stretch of La Liga is upon us and its evident Barcelona will walk away with the league title, while its only a possibility, not a reality, they’ll advance to the next round of Champions League.

Production up top has fallen onto Benzema’s shoulders who currently has 10 goals in La Liga. No other player on the team is even close to the Frenchman’s number. Is he to be blamed if Los Blancos don’t edge past Ajax?

Ajax on the other hand have reached the knockout stages for the first time since 2005-06. With De Jong and De light as their superstars and the Dutch team on the verge of winning their league since 2013/2014 – they have momentum.

I also want to throw in they tied 1-1 and 3-3 against German giants Bayern Munich throughout the group stage. That speaks volumes.

“Ajax are playing very well, with a mix of youth and experience, and extraordinary dynamism in their play,” Real Madrid director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno said. “They are very strong at home with the support of their fans. It will be spectacular for the fans, two historic clubs who have contributed to the development of this competition, two teams who aim to attack. It will be difficult for us for sure.”

I actually think Ajax are the favorites.

Winner: Ajax

Tottenham vs Borussia Dortmund

From a glance: A dying deer about to get trampled by a tractor trailer.

Injuries to the Tottenahm squad: Delli Alli & Harry Kane.

Injuries to the Dortmund squad: Manuel Akanji, Leonardo Balerdi, Marco Reus.

Who do you think will be hurting more during these matches?

I’m not taking any credit away from Heung-min Son, the only pillar left standing for Tottenham’s offense. But will the Korean himself be able to lift the Spurs against the scoring threats of Dortmund’s side? Borussia sit with 49 points on top of the Bundesliga and are favorites to walk away with the league title. While sources say Reus’s return from his thigh injury is up in the air for the upcoming fixture, I believe Spurs will have a difficult time without their key starts.

But Tottenahm have a chip on their shoulder.

Tottenham won both games against Dortmund in the Champions League group stages last season.

“Those games away at Real Madrid and Dortmund last season gave us the confidence that we can beat every team,” Vertonghen said. “I think it helped us to go through this year after we were beaten by Inter [Milan] as we kept believing. We went to Barcelona for a result and we got it at the end so we believe we can beat the best teams in the world. In my opinion, we’ve got one of the best teams in the world and we can beat them.”

Winner: Borussia Dortmund

The final will take place in Spain at Atletico Madrid’s Estadio Metropolitano on Saturday, June 1, 2019

Stay tuned next week when 789 previews the next 8 teams!

Andy Moran

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