The group stages of the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League concluded in December, with 16 teams left to vie for continental supremacy in the knock-out stages of the tournament. The draws for the round of 16 were held on December 14, with winners from different groups avoiding one another in the round. All games will be played in two legs, one at home and one away.
Here’s our look at some of the most exciting encounters to watch and predictions for the round.
Barcelona FC vs. Paris Saint-Germain FC
The most exciting draw of the round, the face-off between Lionel Messi’s Barca and Neymar’s PSG is likely to produce a repeat of the iconic in the 2016-17 season at the same stage. In that match, Barcelona overcame a 4-0 first-leg loss to beat Paris 6-1 at home to produce one of the most memorable comebacks in football history.
PSG have entered the round as winners of Group H this season, with the Brazilian striker’s Matchday 6 hat-trick helping them secure the club’s place at the top of the table. On the way, they have won four of their six games in the group stage. Neymar is the joint leading scorer of the tournament, alongside Erling Haaland, Marcus Rashford and Alvaro Morata, with six goals to his name.
Barcelona meanwhile had to settle for the second position in Group G after losing their final encounter at home against Juventus, which ended their long unbeaten run at the Camp Nou in the Champions League. This was Barcelona’s first home defeat in 39 (34W, 4D) matches, a streak that started in 2013.
With Barcelona still struggling to find their form this season, Paris look to be the favourites. They will be aiming to win the Cup this year, after reaching their first European Cup finals only last year.
Prediction: PSG likely to advance in an exciting encounter, but never underestimate the tenacity of Barcelona.
FC Bayern Munich vs S.S. Lazio
Defending champions Bayern will start as favourites when they face Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio which has reached the Round of 16 for the first time in 20 years. After hitting new heights in their last season of Serie A, the Italian team has failed to reproduce such results again.
The Munich-based club continues its imperious form both at home and abroad. They remain the title favourites at home, sitting comfortably at the top of the table. Bayern have remained unbeaten in their group stage encounters in the League, winning five and levelling one fixture along the way. Since their title-winning last season, Bayern have won 16 of their 17 League games, with an overall goal difference of +48 (61 for, 13 against). Robert Lewandowski has scored 31 goals in his 33 appearances in the League, more than any other player, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Lazio’s thin squad and added scheduling demands make it a tough fixture for Inzaghi’s men to pull through, and Bayern’s commanding presence in the field is likely to make this a one-sided affair.
Prediction: Bayern will sail through to the next stage.
Liverpool FC vs RB Leipzig
Premier League champions Liverpool will face last year’s semi-finalist RB Leipzig in what promises to be another exciting encounter between two highly-rated teams. Germany’s celebrated young coach Julian Nagelsmann of Leipzig will go head-to-head against Liverpool’s Juergen Klopp, who is likely the best manager in England.
Liverpool will bank on their past performances and the strength of their bench as they head into the game. They are unbeaten in their last ten matches against German teams across European competitions, a record that extends back to 2002. Jurgen Kl opp also cut his teeth in Germany, perfecting his craft and applying it to Liverpool.
The Reds will, however, be facing a fearless attacking team that has nothing to lose. None of their encounters in the League so far have ended goalless, more than any other side in the history of the competition. An experienced manager and superior talent might give Liverpool the slightest edge in the fixture.
Prediction: Liverpool likely to advance in a close encounter.
Juventus FC vs FC Porto
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus will take on 04’ champions Porto as he looks to chase his sixth Champions League title. This will be the third team with which the Portuguese superstar aims to achieve the feat, after guiding Manchester United and Real Madrid to the title on previous occasions.
Juventus finished their group stage at the top, with five wins and one game drawn. Juve have failed to match the intensity and effort of lesser opposition during their travels, either due to overconfidence or fatigue. While the Italian side does boast of a superior and well-balanced side compared to Porto, they’ve been far from infallible since Andrea Pirlo took the reins at Turin.
Porto have proved that they have what it takes to hold off a heavyweight when they faced Manchester City in the group stages. If Sergio Conceicao can devise a scheme to contain Cristiano Ronaldo, Porto can expect a tight match.
Juventus will be heading into the fixture as overwhelming favourites, however, shaky performances in away games this season will give Porto some confidence heading into the fixture. Do not write off the Portuguese side just yet.
Prediction: Juventus will advance to the quarter-finals.
When: The first leg of the round of 16 will start on February 16, 2021.
Where to watch: Sony is the official broadcaster of the UEFA Champions League in India. The matches will be telecast live on Sony TEN 2, Sony TEN 2 HD, Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD TV channels. All games will be streamed live on SonyLiv.
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