UEFA Champions League bounces back with Round of 16 fireworks: A PREVIEW

By Adeyinka Akintunde, Lagos on February 16, 2016

Views: 1,294

Europe is on the boil again as the knockout stages of the 2015/2016 UEFA Champions League begins tonight. Below is a preview of each match in this Round of 16:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016:                                                                    

PSG vs CHELSEA

Paris St. German and Chelsea meet in the UEFA Champions League for the third successive season. In each of the two previous campaigns, the winners progressed on away goals. Laurent Blanc’s side are aiming for a fourth successive appearance in the quarter finals, haven lost to Barcelona both in 2013, and last season. PSG’s 3-1 loss to Barcelona in 2014/2015 first leg was their only home loss in 37 games in Europe, with 24 wins and 12 draws.

Chelsea, on the other hand, have only one victory in seven visits to Paris. That came in 2004. The blues have lost 4 out of 14 games against Ligue 1 clubs, all away from home. Chelsea seek to reach a fourth quarter-final in six years, and a seventh in their last ten campaigns.

David Luiz joined PSG in 2014, after making 81 appearances for Chelsea, scoring 6 goals. Eden Hazard also played against PSG with his former club, Lille, in the French cup final, which his club won 1-0.

The most recent meeting between these two sides was last season. PSG advanced to the next stage after a 1-1 draw in Paris, and 2-2 draw in Stamford Bridge.

SL BENFICA vs ZENIT

Benfica is drawn against a Zenit side coached by Andre Villas-Boas, the same man whose side tore Benfica apart during his time as coach of FC Porto. They are currently third position in the Portuguese Primera Liga, but they are not doing badly on home soil. They have also had luck in the Champions League, being the only team in the group to beat Atletico Madrid in the group stage, and they did it in Spain. Their creative striker, Nicolas Gaitan is an attacking threat that has been pushing Benfica forward. Without him, Benfica can be easy to handle.

Zenit St. Petersburg scored some great goals during the group stages to advance to the knockout stages as group winners. They seem to be enjoying Andre Villas-Boas at the moment, as they qualified at the expense of Olympique Lyon and Valencia. They are no pushovers, as they have the spirit that drives them on.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016:

AS ROMA vs REAL MADRID

Real Madrid new coach, Zinedine Zidane will be making the headlines when he makes his UCL coaching debut against AS Roma, who also have a new manager, Rudi Garcia. While as a player, Zidane recorded 3 wins, 3 draws and 1loss against AS Roma.

Real Madrid had earlier lost their last eight ties against Italian opposition. Madrid and Roma have met eight times in the UCL, with 4 wins for Madrid, 3 for Roma and 1 draw. Their most recnt meeting was in the round of sixteen in 2007/2008, when AS Roma recorded a 2-1 home and away victory.

Roma are looking to get to their first quarter finals since 2008, and Madrid, being 10 times UCL Champions are pushing for a sixth successive quarter-final appearance.

AA GENT vs VfL WOLFSBURG

AA Gent made it to the UEFA Champions League for the first time this season, and have also made it to the knockout stage, for the first time. They have been rewarded with being drawn against the weakest team they could have drawn, even though there is still a high tendency that they will lose.

Gent is a side made up of a handful of solid U-21, but also have some internationals. They have a solid, well-constructed team. They will depend heavily on Daniel Mililevic, who scored three goals in the group stages, including the winner against Zenit.

Wolfsburg, still adjusting to the exit of Kevin De Bryune, have been a bit less impressive in Bundesliga than Europe, as they have failed to win in their last three games, and are in a serious fight to finish top four in Germany. Their defense is fine and strikers are scoring, but something is not just clicking for Wolfsburg yet.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016:

ARSENAL vs FC BARCELONA

Arsenal and Barcelona have met seven times in the UCL, with the Catalans winning four times, drawing twice and losing just once. That loss came at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg of the last 16 tie in 2011, but Barcelona qualified to the last eight, winning 4-3 on aggregate.

Arsenal survived the group stage that included Bayern Munich, though they had to score a multiple time against Olympiakos on match day six to qualify. They have been doing well in the English Premier League so far, and can stage an upset against the “best team on the planet” so far. The Gunners will depend on Mesut Ozil, who currently has 13 Premier League assists.

Barcelona, the defending Champions of the UCL, have been re-created by coach Luis Enrique as a direct and terrifying machine that seize upon any hit of space like a shark, a three-headed shark (Messi, Neymar, Suarez). They can be beatable, but they are usually in top shape in big matches. It is believed that only two things can stop Barcelona this season; a sudden explosion of injuries, or a mysterious curse that hangs over the UEFA Champions League and prevents any team from winning it two seasons in a row, since 1992.

JUVENTUS vs BAYERN MUNICH

Last Season’s runners up, Juventus face one of the favorites for the trophy this season, Bayern Munich, in what will be a showdown. Juventus qualified as group D winners, and they have a strong European record at home. However, in the past decade, the Biaconeri have been the only foreign team to beat Juventus on home soil. Bayern won the last three encounters between this two sides, including a 2-0 home and away win in 2012/2013.

Juventus have won three of the sides eight encounters, their last victory being in November 2005. They are currently on a 16-match unbeaten home record in the UCL (dating back to when Bayern Munich visited Turin in April 2013).

Arturo Vidal and Coman joined Bayern from Juventus last summer, with Vidal spending four seasons in Turin.

With Josep Guardiola ending his reign in Munich this season, he hopes to end with a UCL triumph, which includes a victory over the Italians.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016:

DYNAMO KYIV vs MANCHESTER CITY

Manchester City will play in an empty stadium against Dynamo Kyiv, as the fans have been banned. But Dynamo managed to keep Andriy Yarmolenko from leaving to greener pastures. It has paid off, as they are now in the knockout stages, for the first time, they qualified at the expense of FC Porto.

Man. City lost twice to Juventus in the group stage, and struggled against Sevilla at home, but excelled in Spain. They are also unbeatable in the Premier League, beating Newcastle United and Bournemouth, and losing out to Liverpool, Tottenham and Stoke City. They will need to step up their game to advance to the last eight.

PSV EINDHOVEN vs ATLETICO MADRID

En-route to the knock-out stage, PSV Eindhoven had dumped out Manchester United. They are the first Dutch team to make it to the Round of Sixteen of the UCL since 2006.

They simply won all their home game, and got a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford to qualify. They use a fantastic 4-3-3 side and it is unlikely they would alter it against Atletico.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico, on the other hand, are quietly going on their business, and winning everything they can. They top their UCL group, they are on top of the La Liga and they are big favorites to make it to the last eight. They are more complete and ruthless this season.

Antoine Griezzmann has been the dependable striker for Atletico, and a terror to opposing teams. He comes out of no-where, and it is hard to track him. Atletico will rely on him in this fixture.

With these preview, all is set for a feast of football, as the UEFA Champions League kicks off again in Europe, on Tuesday.

•Photo shows action from a previous UEFA Champions League duel bewteen Chelsea and PSG.

Source Daily Sports

Posted February 16, 2016


 

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