Previewing the Champions League Round of 16


The Champions League Round of 16 gets underway next week. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Next week, the UEFA Champions League will continue with the first leg of the round of 16. Out of the eight ties, only four of them will be played next week, with the other four being played the week after. The round of 16 consists of two legs, with each side playing a match at home and a match away. Whoever has the most goals on aggregate from both matches will advance to the quarterfinals. Until this year, there was an away goal rule, which meant if the aggregate was tied, the team who scored more away goals would advance. However, that rule has been scrapped. If, after both matches, the aggregate is equal, then the tie game will go into 30 minutes of extra time. If it is still tied, then it goes into the penalty shootout. 

From the group stages, each group winner was paired with a runner-up team that wasn’t in their group or from their country. The initial draw with was invalid due to technical errors, but the second draw gave us these ties (group winners are named first):

Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint Germain (PSG)

Manchester City vs. Sporting CP

Bayern Munich vs. RB Salzburg

Liverpool vs. Inter Milan

LOSC Lille vs. Chelsea

Juventus vs. Villareal

Manchester United vs. Atletico Madrid

Ajax vs. Benfica

The group winners have the huge advantage of playing the second leg at home, which means that the first leg is hosted by the runner-up. The four matches that will be played next week are the ties with Real Madrid and Manchester City playing on Tuesday and the Bayern and Liverpool ties on Wednesday. The biggest match, without a doubt, is Real Madrid against PSG. PSG has limitless attacking options with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi. Mbappe is in the middle of a transfer saga with heavy speculation that he will join Real Madrid at the end of the season on a free transfer. This tie will also bring Sergio Ramos back to Madrid, where he left last season on a free. Madrid, on the other hand, is also stacked with stars, especially in the midfield and with Karim Benzema leading the attack up front. This should be a titanic battle between two giants.

As for the other matches, City is a huge favorite against Sporting and should easily cruise to the quarterfinals. Bayern is also heavily favored against Salzburg and should tear through its defense with someone like Robert Lewandowski up front. The final tie in the week is Liverpool against Inter, which is more balanced. Inter is currently top of Serie A and has been impressive this season. Liverpool, on the other hand, is second in the Premier League and has sometimes switched off, which has punished them in the league. This should be another great match, but with an attack of Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota, Liverpool should make it to the quarterfinals.

However, this is the Champions League, so take my predictions with a pinch of salt.  Heavyweights have been knocked out by the underdogs many times. With only 16 teams left, each team knows that every single goal counts as they try to progress in the biggest club competition in the world.