Champions League Returns for Round of 16

The Champions League Round of 16 is here and things are heating up quickly. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The Champions League Round of 16 is here and things are heating up quickly. (Courtesy of Twitter)

With February finally upon us, it can only mean one thing: the Champions League is back. With the group stages now in the past, it’s all about the round of 16. In the round of 16, it is a two-legged affair with both teams playing one of the legs at home. The draw was done last year in December with the eight group winners being seeded and playing the return leg at home with the runners up playing the first leg at home. As a reminder, here are the upcoming ties for this stage of the competition:

Paris Saint Germain (PSG) vs Bayern Munich

AC Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur

Club Brugge vs Benfica

Borussia Dortmund vs Chelsea

Liverpool vs Real Madrid

Eintracht Frankfurt vs Napoli

RB Leipzig vs Manchester City

Inter Milan vs Porto

As a reminder, the winner of the tie is determined by the aggregate score of the two legs. If after the second leg the aggregate score is tied, extra time and if needed, penalties are used to determine the winner. Due to this format, the group winner is rewarded for winning their respective group by playing the second leg at home, giving them a form of “home field advantage.” Half of these ties are taking place next Tuesday/Wednesday with the other half taking place the following week. For this article, I’ll be focusing on the four that take place next week which are the PSG, Tottenham, Benfica and Chelsea ties.

The first tie I want to discuss is the PSG and Bayern clash — a repeat from the 2020 final where Bayern defeated PSG 1-0 to claim its sixth Champions League. For Bayern, they lead the Bundesliga only by a single point after having a rough run of results. Bayern are without forward Sadio Mane who was injured prior to the start of the World Cup. They are also without captain Manuel Neuer due to a season ending injury but were able to sign a new goalkeeper in the form of Yann Sommer.

They also added in the transfer window with the surprise signing of fullback Joao Cancelo on loan from Manchester City. As for PSG, they are leading Ligue 1 by eight points and are in a comfortable position. PSG’s main focus, and with reason, is on their deadly trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe. However, Mbappe has been ruled out of the pivotal clash due to an injury.

There are also injury concerns to both Neymar and defender Sergio Ramos. Despite the injuries on both teams, this should be one of the more fascinating ties with both teams looking to go far in this competition. This match will be too close to call with PSG hosting the first leg and Bayern hosting the return leg.

The next tie is Milan vs Tottenham. For the reigning Serie A champions, it’s been a rough season for Milan and as of the writing of this article, are sixth in the championship. Milan are without their star goalkeeper Mike Maignan who has been injured since the World Cup. Despite their current struggles, Milan have attacking firepower with players like Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud to give any team trouble. As for Tottenham, they currently sit fifth in the Premier League but after beating Manchester City, they are within touching distance of the top four. With players such as Harry Kane, Son Heung Min and Dejan Kulusevski in attack, they can deal a lot of damage to Milan, especially if they are without their number one goalkeeper. Milan hosted the first leg with Tottenham hosting the return leg.

For the third tie, Club Brugge faces off against Benfica. Club Brugge shocked everyone when in the group stages they advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. They are only the second Belgian team to ever advance to the knockout rounds. As for Benfica, they won the competition twice with back to back victories in 1961 and in 1962. As we take a look at the present, Benfica has lost one of its main stars in Enzo Fernandez who was sold to Chelsea for a record breaking $132 million. Back in the group stages, Benfica shocked everyone by winning the group despite opposition from both PSG and Juventus. Club Brugge hosted the first leg with Benfica hosting the return leg.

The final tie next week is Borussia Dortmund vs Chelsea. For Borussia Dortmund, they are third in the Bundesliga, threepoints behind Bayern. They have stars such as Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna who can cause havoc on any opponent. As for Chelsea, their new owner, Todd Boehly is making his presence known by outspending every other club, and even some leagues with the amount of money the London club spent in the transfer windows. Since the start of the season, Chelsea has spent nearly $660 million with 24 new arrivals such as Enzo Fernandez and Mykhaylo Mudryk, who cost around $100 million. Despite their big spending and plethora of new talent, Chelsea have struggled this season and are a lowly ninth in the Premier League. Dortmund hosted Chelsea in the first leg with Chelsea hosting the return leg.

The PSG and Milan ties are next Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 3 p.m. with the Benfica and Chelsea ties taking place on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 3 p.m.. And, with all of these ties too close to call, expect the teams to come out swinging to be in the driver’s seat for the second leg.