After a break of a couple of months over December and January, the Champions League and the Europa League return to the football calendar this week with the start of the knockout phase in both competitions. In the Champions League, that means that we will have four out of the eight Round of 16 first leg ties taking place this week, with the remaining four first leg games taking place next week.
The second legs of all eight of those games then take place across two weeks in early March. This allows the Europa League to play through two rounds of fixtures (Round of 32 and Round of 16) to ensure that both competitions reach the quarterfinal stages at the same time.
There are some cracking games to enjoy this week which feature a number of top teams from around Europe, including some recent past winners and one of last year’s finalists.
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Let’s now take a look at the games we have scheduled for this week in the Champions League which includes some of the teams rated by the bookmakers as the favourites to win the competition overall.
Champions League Fixtures
Tuesday 16th February
Red Bull Leipzig v Liverpool
Due to travel restrictions, this game will take place at the Puskas Arena in Hungary and I think that is a benefit to Liverpool, as Red Bull Leipzig cannot play at home. The German side have beaten Man Utd and PSG on home soil in the league stage of this competition, so that is a big blow to Ralf Nagelsmann’s team.
However, they are facing a Liverpool side that is badly out of form at the moment, especially at Anfield. The Reds have had a massive injury crisis at the club, particularly in defence and it is this which seems to have played a key role in derailing their season, which was going ok up until early January.
The Reds though look decent on the road still though and I feel they may have a better chance of getting something from the away leg than they do from the home. As such, I would back them for the draw here.
Our Tip – Liverpool’s struggles at home are a worry but they have looked ok on the road. With this in a neutral stadium take the Reds to pick up a share of things here at 5/2 for the draw.
Barcelona v Paris St Germain
I don’t really know what to make of Barcelona under Ronald Koeman. Sure they have Messi, but he has not been as important and impressive a player for Barcelona this season as he has in the past. They have lots of talented players but they are a team that doesn’t really have an identity.
In contrast, I think Paris St Germain are a team trying to make their mark in Europe. They have invested heavily in order to achieve that and they reached the final of this competition last year, losing to Bayern. However, I think they are by far the stronger of the two teams at the moment.
That said, beating Barcelona at the Nou Camp is never a given and as such, I think the best that Paris fans can hope for is for their team to earn a draw here and then take them back to Paris for the second leg.
Our Tip – Barcelona once beat PSG 6-1 in a second leg tie, they won’t do that here. Back the French side to be good enough to land a point. Take the draw at 29/10.
Wednesday 17th February
Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund
I have to admit to being more impressed by Sevilla over the last few months than Dortmund. The Spanish side look a well organised, strong and combative unit and they have proven that when facing the top teams in Spain and getting good results against them, such as beating Barcelona in the Spanish Cup last week.
Dortmund in contrast lie 6th in the Bundesliga and have lost eight games so far this season. That is a huge amount for a team that has so many talented players. There are clearly some issues within the squad here at Dortmund and little wonder that there is talk of a big rebuild taking place at the club at the end of the season.
The Germans did win their group to qualify for this stage of the competition but I think Sevilla are a better side than they have faced and I am backing the Spaniards to take a lead with them into the second leg in Germany.
Our Tip – I can’t say I am convinced by Dortmund this season. Sevilla look a much better organised side and I am backing them to win at 6/4.
FC Porto v Juventus
FC Porto are one of the most common teams when it comes to reaching the knockout phase of the Champions League. They always tend to reach this stage of the competition but then struggle and end up getting knocked out by their opponent. In truth, I can’t see anything different to that happening this year.
Juventus are a very strong side even though they have not been at their very best in Serie A this season (lying 3rd in the table ahead of the weekend). They do have Cristiano Ronaldo however, the leading scorer in the history of the Champions League, and he is a huge threat to any team at this stage of the tournament.
I did feel Juventus had an outside chance of winning this competition this year and while they are a little off the pace to do that at the moment, I still feel they should be more than good enough to get the win on the road to set up a relatively comfortable second leg in Turin.
Our Tip – Juventus should be too strong for FC Porto here. Back the Italian side to land the win at even money with bet365.
*All odds shown were correct with bet365 Sport as of 9.10am on Friday 11th February