The UCL knockout draws are out for the season and we are in for some mouth watering contests. The draws are as follows :
- Juve vs Spurs
- Basel vs Man city
- Porto vs Liverpool
- Sevilla vs Man United
- Real Madrid vs PSG
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Roma
- Chelsea vs Barca
- Bayern Munich vs Besiktas
As we have seen numerous times earlier, knockout stages of UCL are separate ball game from group stages. Though all teams qualifying for UCL knockout have equal chances and none should be underestimated, still traditionally there are the UCL heavyweights and the minnows. Let’s take a brief look at the ties and the on paper favorites.
Juventus , a traditional heavyweight will faceoff new challengers ,Spurs. Juve are currently sitting third in seria a, while Spurs are going through a mild bad patch of their own. Though pretty much everything can change when they meet in February, still based on their respective forms now, Juventus are favorites.
Basel will face the behemoth named city led by pep. City are firm favorites and will likely sail through easily.
Porto are no pushovers and are extremely effective at home. Liverpool on the other hand have spurted fire in the group stages with their front four ,or rather front three with Coutinho behind them in support. Liverpool should overcome Porto over two legs, but the tie can be tricky.
Next stop, Sevilla vs Man united. Sevilla have exploded in a downward spiral in recent weeks after news of their manager’s illness came forward. Man united on the other hand,has been extremely clinical in group stages led by Jose Mourinho. They are the easy favorites and should see off Sevilla easily.
Real Madrid vs PSG , the blockbuster tie. The back to back champs and reigning holders vs one of the most potent sides in world at the moment. Though PSG lost their last group stage match against Bayern, it was a dead rubber and naturally should not be given too much thought. We have seen Real Madrid elevating their level in knockout stages several times last few seasons, main reason why they have won 3 of the last 4 UCLs. This one is a virtual coin toss.
Next is Shakthar vs Roma, another fire cracker. Roma topped a group with Chelsea and Atletico. Shakhtar thwarted and ousted Napoli,one of the most in form European sides. Though Roma is favorites on paper, I suspect Shakthar can pull an upset.
Chelsea vs Barcelona, another high profile blockbuster. Current Barca side has certainly some concerns and chinks in their armour with an otherworldly Messi and Ter stegan carrying them so far. Chelsea are also not among top two sides in EPL standings at the moment though they have slowly returned on track with Conte rallying his troops. Add to it with umtiti probably missing the first leg due to injury and Messi never having scored against Chelsea, it slightly tips the scale in the favor of the blues. Still it will be anyone’s game.
Our last stop is Bayern vs Besiktas. Though Besiktas topped a group with Monaco, Porto and Leipzig, still they will be troubled since Bayern have been firing again after Jupp came at helm.Bayern will be firm favorites.
Who are your picks for the knockout stages? Comment and let us know.
By Arindam Chakraborty