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UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Preview

Rippa Staff 12 Feb 2018
  • Knockout stages get underway
  • Juventus v Tottenham and Real Madrid v PSG the pick of the games

The UEFA Champions League knockout stages get underway with four games this week including Juventus v Tottenham and Real Madrid v Paris Saint Germain.

We preview all four games and give our best bets and predictions for the Round of 16 matches.

Juventus v Tottenham 


Last week proved to be a successful one for Tottenham, who progressed to the next round of the FA Cup with a replay win over Newport County before getting one over on bitter rivals Arsenal thanks to a Harry Kane header in the North London derby. They now turn their attention to the European stage, as they look to put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but standing in their way is a formidable challenge in the form of Italian kingpins Juventus.

Juventus have dominated Italian football over the past six years and as are result they are on the hunt for a seventh-straight Serie A title this season. They have not been able to reach the heights of previous seasons because they are playing catch-up with Napoli a point ahead of them in the tables at this time, but they are keeping the heat on their rivals with a blistering run of form that has seen them win their last eight games and drop points in just two of their last 16 outings. And if you want to look at the bigger picture, ‘The Old Lady’ have now won their last 11 games in all competitions and have now gone 16 without defeat, winning 14 of them.

That shows you the size of the challenge that is awaiting Spurs as they venture to Italy, and while they have recorded some huge results against the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Real Madrid this season, those victories have all come at their temporary Wembley home. They did manage a couple of wins on their travels during the group stage of this competition, but their away form over the past few months has been poor with only three wins coming in their last 12 away games in all competitions, and that spells trouble for them here.

Juventus have been almost flawless at home this season – they have collected 31 points from a possible 36 in Serie A, while in this competition the only team that managed to avoid defeat at the Juventus Stadium during the group stage was Barcelona, and that match ended in a goalless draw. Juventus are now unbeaten in their last 11 competitive fixtures at home, winning 10 of them, and they have kept clean sheets in each of their last eight, so I have to have confidence in backing the Italian league leaders here and I expect to see three goals or less. That has been a winning bet in 14 of their last 17 home games in all competitions.

Basel v Manchester City


Manchester City’s quest for a stunning quadruple remains firmly on course and it now feels only a matter of time before they are crowned Premier League champions. Pep Guardiola’s team took full advantage of Manchester United’s loss at Newcastle United this weekend, thrashing Leicester City 5-1 to open up a commanding 16-point lead at the top of the table, and they will now look to move a step closer to the collecting the European crown too when they take on a team that have a knack for upsetting English clubs.

Basel may not be one of European football’s big guns, but the name will send a shiver through the spine in some fan bases in England because St Jakob-Park has not been a happy hunting ground for English clubs over the years. Manchester United slipped to a 1-0 defeat when they visited Basel during the group stage of this season’s Champions League, and that is the second time the Red Devils have tripped up here because they were also beaten by the Swiss side in 2011. Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are among the other clubs that have lost at this venue over the years, so Manchester City cannot afford to take them lightly.

However, there is absolutely no way I am going against City here. They have been simply outstanding this season and Guardiola, in his two seasons in charge, has certainly solved the Achilles heel that was their flaky away form under the previous manager. They have won 10 of their 13 away games in the Premier League this season, losing just once, and on their travels in this competition they won two of their three group games, with their only defeat coming in the ‘dead rubber’ with Shakhtar Donestk after they had already booked a last-16 berth. When it has mattered, City have delivered this season and I fully expect them to deliver again here.

The odds available for them to win the match are not particularly appealing, but that does not mean there is a shortage of options for those looking to back Guardiola’s side. For me the most appealing is backing City to win & both teams to score. As you will already know this Manchester City side is loaded with goals, but at the other end they continue to concede regularly. The Premier League leaders have managed just two clean sheets in their last 10 games in all competitions, so it would be no surprise to see them concede against a Basel outfit that scored in all three of their home games in the group stage, sticking five past Benfica.

FC Porto v Liverpool 


The Champions League represents Liverpool’s last chance to win silverware this season, but only the most ardent of supporters will believe they can go all the way in this competition. The Reds return to European action when they head to Portugal to face FC Porto in the first leg of this last-16 tie, and they go there in decent form having bounced back from the shock FA Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion by sandwiching a draw at home to Tottenham Hotspur with away victories at Huddersfield Town and Southampton.

However, FC Porto are a step up from the Terriers and Saints. The Portuguese league leaders stumbled out of the blocks in this competition as they fell to a surprise home defeat at the hands of Besiktas, but they did rebound to win three of their final five matches to book their place in the last-16, and they go into this match in strong form having lost only one of their last 24 competitive fixtures, winning 19 of them. They have been particularly dominant at home, winning each of their last eight home games while going 15 matches without a defeat in front of the home supporters, so Liverpool face a stiff test here.

And while Liverpool, on their day, can be an irresistible force going forward, I am not convinced they will pass this test. They managed only one away win during the group stage of this competition and they have now dropped points on their travels on six occasions in the Premier League – that sort of record does not look appealing when taking on a Porto team that have been rock-solid at home for several months now. However, Liverpool did avoid defeats in those two group matches they failed to win, so I do like their chances of returning home on level terms.

The odds on the draw are appealing, but I am looking for a bigger return so I recommend backing the draw & both teams to score. Porto managed just one clean sheet during the group stage of this competition and that does not bode well for a meeting with a Liverpool side that have failed to score in only two their last 25 competitive outings. However, the Reds are not exactly renowned for rock-solid defending despite keeping clean sheets in their last couple of victories, so you have to believe they will concede against a Porto side that have failed to score in only two of their competitive home fixtures this season.

Real Madrid v Paris St Germain


Real Madrid are seemingly drinking in the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ when it comes to lifting a major trophy this season. The Spanish giants will need a miracle if they are to win the La Liga title, so that means the Champions League is offering them one last shot at glory and they could not have asked for a much tougher tie in the last-16 than a two-legged showdown with a Paris St Germain outfit who are looking to finally make their mark on the biggest stage in club football.

PSG strolled through the group stage of this competition, winning their first five matches to storm into the last-16 with a game to spare. A 3-1 defeat in the ‘dead rubber’ at Bayern Munich did little to dampen what had been an outstanding campaign that saw them set a new Champions League record more most goals in the group stage (25), and they will go into this match brimming with confidence as they look to complete a memorable domestic and European double.

But can Paris St Germain register a huge away win and take command of this tie, or will holders Real Madrid ensure they head to France in a couple of weeks with the lead? If I was to lean towards a winner of this first leg, I would have to go with PSG. The French giants have won 14 of their last 15 games in all competitions and the goals have certainly been flowing because Unai Emery’s side have failed to score in just one of their competitive outings. In Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe they have one of the most dangerous forward lines in world football and if this trio are at the top of their game on Wednesday night, it would be no surprise to see PSG win at the Bernabeu.

However, there are some statistics that put some doubt in the back of my mind. Since Zinedine Zidane was appointed manager, Real Madrid have won 10 of their matches in the knockout stage of the Champions League and, more importantly, they are a perfect six for six in the home games played in this phase of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition. Therefore I suggest playing it slight safer and going with the PSG-Draw Double Chance. The visitors are certainly more than capable of avoiding defeat at the Bernabeu.


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UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Preview

The UEFA Champions League knockout stages get underway with four games this week including Juventus v Tottenham and Real Madrid v Paris Saint Germain.

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