The 2020 Champions League Round of 16 is upon us with two mouth-watering ties to get us underway on 18th February.
Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint Germain, and reigning champions Liverpool visit Atletico Madrid, how’s that for starters? But the last match of the first round is the real blockbuster. When the draw was made, the big Champions League 2020 news was Real Madrid’s clash with Manchester City, two titans of the European game.
But there’s one big difference, and it’s a difference Manchester United fans will quite like. Los Blancos have won the most Champions Leagues of anyone, 13, and six ahead of Milan. Meanwhile, Manchester City are yet to trouble the scorers and the expensively assembled squad is under pressure to deliver this season.
Unbelievably it seems that head coach Pep Guardiola, for once, doesn’t have all the answers. He has won five major trophies since arriving at the Etihad in 2016, but his team is yet to succeed in Europe. Indeed, the Sky Blues have failed to make the semi-finals of the Champions League under Guardiola, having been dumped out of the competition by Liverpool, Monaco and Spurs.
And, after defeat to Spurs at the weekend, during the after-match post mortem, his players allegedly asked him to stop tinkering. Guardiola has not fielded the same starting eleven for back-to-back matches since the start of the campaign, and since Mikel Arteta left for Arsenal, he seems unsettled on a formation.
The former Barca and Bayern boss is a genius, and his experimenting is clearly designed to hand him the perfect formula against Los Blancos, and the latest SBOTOP have Manchester City to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Los Blancos are at 19.00 to win the tournament, but they have a tough defence to break down, conceding just 13 in La Liga this season, and a striker in form in Karim Benzema. They lead the Spanish league at the moment and, if they beat City, I suspect their chances will drop to around 6.00.
Champions have a big advantage
When Liverpool rock up in Madrid they will do so with huge confidence, though no complacency. The Reds have a tangible edge over their European rivals in that they have their domestic league wrapped up, already 22 points clear of Manchester City, and now Jurgen Klopp’s side are clear favourites to retain their European title.
They have been relentless in the league, dropping just two points, which is the best record of any European top-flight club at this stage of the season. Their opponents, Atletico, are not faring so well, down in sixth place in La Liga and 13 points behind Real. Los Rojiblancos lost their main goal threat in Antoine Griezmann and replacement Joao Felix is yet to fill his shooting boots.
Big Guns ready to fire
Take a look at the latest Champions League 2020 predictions and you have to say this year’s competition is wide open. The giants of Germany, Italy and France are serious contenders.
The Bundesliga has been contested by up to six teams so far, which is now down to four, and Bayern have risen to the top in preparation for the run-in. Similarly, Juventus are beginning to click through the gears at the top of Serie A, though a recent defeat to Napoli has kept the Old Lady on her toes. Cristiano Ronaldo has been in scintillating form, in Italy and in Europe, his goals propelling I Bianconeri to the top of qualifying Group D by a clear six points. And his two goals in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Fiorentina stretched his scoring run to nine league games, equalling David Trezeguet’s record.
PSG probably have one of the most difficult tests in the Round of 16 when they take on Borussia Dortmund. Much like Manchester City the French billionaires are yet to break through the European glass ceiling. And their opponents have a combination of youth and experience which is oozing with class.
BVB’s teenage duo of Jadon Sancho and Erling Braut Haaland are making history in the German league. Sancho’s goal in the 5-0 destruction of Union Berlin made the England star the first teenager to score 25 Bundesliga goals. Meanwhile, new recruit Haaland is the first player to score seven goals in his opening three Bundesliga games.
The Norway international is a beast of a player, and one which will give the PSG defence a night they won’t forget.
Add to those two the experience of the excellent Marco Reus and you have an impressive attacking threat.
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