We finish this week with all 8 matches of the first leg played. Now we wait for the rebounds and the remontadas. Champions League. The most prestigious European trophy is on the line. Who are the favorites and who are the underdogs? The first leg of the pre-quarterfinals has exposed a lot of teams while displaying the authority of others. Here's how the first legs went.
Champions League RO16: First Legs
RB Leipzig 0 - 2 Liverpool:
The game was a difficult one for the Reds even as the opponent was the formidable Leipzig from Germany. Having suffered from 3 successive defeats in the Premier League, Liverpool seemed to be thrown back to the ropes. However, they didn't back down and put up a delightful performance against the team. It was arguably their best performance of the season and reminded fans of the 2019-20 squad which was so difficult to play against.
Liverpool played dominantly and pressed high, something they were not doing in recent games. In addition to that, a 20-year old Curtis Jones played a decent game along with Thiago and Wijnaldum in midfield. So, overall their relentless attacking pushed the German team back, until they conceded. With 2 away goals, Liverpool is in a very strong position and look favourites to progress.
Prediction for 2nd leg: Liverpool 2 - 1 RB Leipzig
Liverpool wins the tie with an aggregate of 4 - 1.
Barcelona 1 - 4 Paris St. German
The scoreline is as much a reflection of Barca's leaky defense as PSG's prolific attack. Defensive problems have been a nagging issue for Barcelona since 2016. They cannot seem to find a stable backline that can hold up against top teams. Any team with fast players proves to be a threat for the Blaugranas. Thus, they are heavily reliant on the attack to outscore their opponents. Mbappe was the undoubted hero of the first-leg meeting between the two sides with a splendid hattrick.
The scoreline, however, is a strangle reflection on both teams. PSG is struggling in their own league which is considered to be easier to play in than La Liga or the Premier League. They are third in the table despite possessing a wide array of world class players. The first leg exposed a predictable and slow defense of Barcelona which is going to hold them back for a long time if they don't change.
Prediction for 2nd leg: PSG 2 - 2 Barcelona
PSG move to the quarter-finals with an aggregate score of 6 - 3.
Sevilla 2 - 3 Dortmund:
The third consecutive match in the first leg where the away team won saw another display of Haaland's prowess. The Spanish giants were on a nine-match winning streak coming into the game. The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium has historically been a difficult stadium to get results for away teams. However, Haaland had other ideas. He scored two on the night to make it 18 goals in 13 Champions League matches. Unbelievable!
Haaland's presence on the field baffled Sevilla as they always looked worried about his movement, physicality and speed - of thought and action. They found him very difficult to contain. Having said that, Sevilla didn't have a bad game and had lots of chances. Only if they can be a bit more clinical in attack, they can pose problems to Dortmund in the 2nd leg considering the defense of the Germans isn't world-class.
Prediction for 2nd leg: Dortmund 1 - 1 Sevilla
Dortmund go through with an aggregate score of 4 - 3.
Porto 2 - 1 Juventus:
A world-class team. But a slow, boring performance. That would be an apt description of the way Juventus played against Porto in the first leg. Their transitions were slow and they gave the ball away a significant number of times. Cristiano Ronaldo faced his former teammate from Real Madrid, Pepe. In the battle of the Portuguese, it was the defender who cam up trumps. And Ronaldo never really got into his stride. Predictable passes and crosses gave Porto a chance to capitalize. They scored 2 and it gives them a huge boost for the return leg.
Having said that, you cannot rule out a team that has Cristiano Ronaldo. A goal machine and a match-winner, he has an unbelievable record in the Champions League. It reminds you of matches like the one against Atletico. Ronaldo's hattrick led Juventus through against a tough Atletico. Maybe we will see the same again.
Prediction for 2nd leg: Juventus 3 - 1 Porto
Juventus go through with an aggregate of 4 - 3
Atletico Madrid 0 - 1 Chelsea:
After striving hard for 90 mins, Chelsea finally got the away goal which they so desperately wanted through an amazing strike by Olivier Giroud. Chelsea formed an interesting squad buying young players in the transfer window. However, they couldn't establish the team and kept dropping points in the league. It led to Frank Lampard being sacked. With the arrival of Thomas Tuchel, the team has inherited a different mentality which was clear on the match day.
Atletico's defeat was partly their own fault as they chose to park the bus heavily even after having a strong forward line. Atletico are the table toppers in La Liga. With the addition of Luis Suarez in the squad, their attacking prowess grew significantly. There was never any doubt with their defense as they loved choking their opponents and striking on the counter. In addition to that, Diego Simeone won important matches relying on his defense and he thought that this would be the same. They registered 0 shots on target. Hence, Chelsea had the final say. However, Simeone should have learned his lesson by now and will look forward to overturning the result in the return leg.
Prediction for the second leg: Chelsea 1 - 2 Atletico Madrid.
Atletico Madrid goes through on away goals after an aggregate score of 2 - 2.
Lazio 1 - 4 Bayern:
Bayern's attack is currently the most feared in all of Europe. With Lewandowski leading the line, the reigning Champions are able to score goals relentlessly at any given time. It was an amazing performance from Bayern's 17-year-old, Jamal Musiala who even bagged a goal for himself. Lewandowski also became the third top goal scorer in the Champions League with 72 goals. He now trails only the duo of Messi and Ronaldo.
Lazio tried their best to hold off the German team but could not stop them from scoring. They themselves had 14 chances but all were half chances really. Hence, Bayern took this chance to almost settle the game in the first tie itself.
Prediction for 2nd leg: Bayern 2 - 0 Lazio
Bayern hoes through with an aggregate score of 6 - 1
Atalanta 0 - 1 Real Madrid:
A depleted squad and numerous injuries didn't stop Real Madrid from getting the crucial away goal that they wanted. Real Madrid is the only Spanish team who won the first leg in the Round of 16. Sevilla, Atletico, and Barcelona have all lost their respective games. So, even without key figures like Ramos and Benzema, Real Madrid managed to take hold of the game and drag it right till the end.
Ferland Mendy got the winning goal. With this crucial away goal in hand, Real Madrid is the favorite to win this tie. With such a depleted squad, it was assumed that the game would be difficult for Madrid. Because their current form isn't that good. In addition to it, they are not convincing enough in the final third. Atalanta, on the other hand, has a potent attack that scores plenty of goals. Real Madrid didn't back down even with half of their squad depleted. The away win is likely to set them on their way to the quarters.
Prediction for the 2nd leg: Real Madrid 2 - 0 Atalanta.
Real Madrid will win the tie with an aggregate score of 3 - 0.
Monchengladbach 0 - 2 Manchester City:
Manchester City had an easy win away at Monchengladbach. Rather, it was a predictable game considering the current form that City is in. With the introduction of Ruben Dias in the backline, they have grown hugely in defense and look set to become champions in England. The Portuguese defender is just one of the many things Pep has done right this season. On the other side, Gundogan has proved to be hugely effective after given a free role. Reveling in the freedom, he has scored plenty of goals.
Monchengladbach couldn't really stop City the way they wanted to. On the contrary, they could have conceded more. It is difficult for them to turn the tie around, given that Manchester City play at home in the next fixture.
Prediction for the 2nd leg: Manchester City 2 - 0 Monchengladbach.
Manchester City will go through with an aggregate score of 4 - 0.
Exciting 2nd leg matches of Champions League RO16 await
The first legs are over and now it's time for the return legs where all teams shall try to overturn their defeats. Let's see how many remontadas we have the privilege of witnessing in Champions League.