Some good games to look forward to, with some hard to call and some (hopefully) that are easier to call. In this post, we will review each tie and say who we think will go through.
Tie 1: Manchester City (England) vs Monaco (France)
Considering Man City had a pretty easy selection of opponents, they can feel quite worried about the top scoring side in Europe’s top leagues – Monaco currently average 3 goals a game, and have scored 11 more than anyone else. Given Man City’s poor defensive displays recently, this should be a tough test for them – and the result could hinge on whether Guardiola is able to bring in any defensive reinforcements in January.
Who will go through? My gut feeling says City’s better attacking players should be able to outdo Monaco’s – it will be tough for them though. Man City to go through.
Tie 2: Real Madrid (Spain) vs Napoli (Italy)
Real Madrid had the easiest possible set of opponents for the draw – as they were unable to get Dortmund, Barcelona or Atlético – so they will look at this tie as a good chance of going through to defend their title. That said, Napoli are doing well given the circumstances they have been in – losing Higuain over the summer, before his replacement Milik was injured for several months (and is still out, but should return in time for the tie). Being able to stay close to the top of a competitive Serie A despite not having a decent striker is a good show by the Naples side.
Who will go through? This will be a tough ask for Real, especially given Napoli’s Champions League history (in their last knockout appearance, they gave Chelsea a real fright before losing in extra time at Stamford Bridge in the season Chelsea won the Champions League). Champion’s normally find a way though, and Real should. Real Madrid to go through.
Tie 3: Benfica (Portugal) vs Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Two sides who put their emphasis on youth square off in what is admittedly one of the weaker draws on paper (but could be a great couple of games). Benfica are comfortably the best side in Portugal at the moment, having already got positive results against their two big rivals. However, they made hard work of their group – especially in throwing away a 3-0 lead against Beşiktaş. Dortmund meanwhile have some of their best players in great form – Aubameyang is in the form of his life, whilst Reus has been making up for lost time after returning from injury. With Dortmund playing so well, it represents the biggest test Benfica’s normally solid defence will have to face this season.
Who will go through? Benfica have some great youngsters, but it’s too big a learning curve for them. Dortmund to go through.
Tie 4: Bayern Munich (Germany) vs Arsenal (England)
It was bound to happen for Arsenal, the Champions League just seems to have it in for them. Even if they had finished runners up in their group instead, they would have got Barcelona! But, this is a new Arsenal who rarely lose – and Bayern are only just getting used to how Ancelotti wants them to play.
Who will go through? It will be ttough for whoever wins, but I can see Arsenal’s dynamic duo of Özil and Sanchez proving the difference. Arsenal to go through.
Tie 5: Porto (Portugal) vs Juventus (Italy)
Two sides with a rich European pedigree square off in this one – although only one of these historic teams has a realistic chance of challenging this season. For the most part, Porto were disappointing in their group, only really performing well when Leicester played their second string side in the last game. Juventus appear to have got over their mini wobble earlier in the season, and look like they have a good balance to their squad – with enough depth to mount a big challenge in Europe.
Who will go through? Juventus’ newfound strength in depth means this should be comfortable. I can see Higuain getting a few as well. Juventus to go through.
Tie 6: Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) vs Atlético Madrid (Spain)
Neither of these sides are doing particularly well in their leagues, so this could be a fairly even tie. Leverkusen have an abysmal away record this season though, and it is Atléticos last season at their current stadium – so they’ll want to end on a high.
Who will go through? Bayer Leverkusen’s terrible away form means I can’t see them doing all too well in Madrid, and Atlético are too solid to suffer a big defeat in Germany. Atlético to go through.
Tie 7: PSG (France) vs Barcelona (Spain)
Another clash between two big teams, albeit neither are doing as well as they would like in their respective leagues. PSG seem to have gone backwards under Unai Emery – bought in to do well in Europe, they have underwhelmed in their group (especially in the draw with Ludogorets that landed them this game) and in the league (currently 3rd despite having dominated in recent years). Barcelona meanwhile, stalled a bit after losing Iniesta to injury and find themselves 6 points behind their fierce rivals from Madrid.
Who will go through? These are the sort of games that Unai Emery was brought in to win. Even with a transfer window to improve the squad to his liking, Barcelona should be too good for them. Barcelona to go through.
Tie 8: Sevilla (Spain) vs Leicester City (England)
Leicester fans are forced to wait even longer if they want to face one of Europe’s elite, but there is no doubting that this is still an incredibly tough draw for them. Sevilla are having one of their best league seasons in recent memory, finding themselves in 3rd place – just a point behind Barcelona! However, the way Sevilla play will be perfect for Leicester – this tie has one of the best pressing and attacking sides taking on one of the best counterattacking sides in Europe (as shown in that great win against Man City).
Who will go through? A tough ask for either side, and I feel this will be the closest tie. However, Sevilla are European specialists and should have just about enough to get through. Sevilla to go through.