The Knockout Stage
After a wild and crazy group stage, and the first leg of the round of 16, we’re finally edging closer to the Quarterfinals. Cue the celebrations. Bring on the potential upsets. Let’s see if all 5 English clubs can manage to get through. That would be quite the feat. UEFA has told referees to crack down on serious fouls, so it will be interesting to see how that plays itself out.
How to Qualify for the Quarterfinals
The round of 16 is split over the course of a few weeks. Eight teams will played over February 13th and 14th. The other eight played over the 20th and 21st. The second leg is ready to kick off March 6th/7th and March 13th/14th. Each match-up is play over two legs, allowing each team to play a home and an away match.
The team that scores the greater number of aggregate goals between the two matches will move on. If both teams score the same number of goals in the two matches, the team which scores more away goals will qualify for the next match. At this point, if both have the same number of away goals, two 15-minute periods of extra time will be played at the end of the second leg. If both teams score the same number of goals in extra time, the away team will go through. If no goals are scored, then the game will go to penalty kicks. The team which scores the most PKs, after a minimum of 5 have been taken, will go through.
It’s hard to wrap your head around initially, but it’s pretty easy to figure out. Obviously getting to PKs is pretty exciting, but it’s rare that games go that far.
Liverpool v. FC Porto (Tuesday, March 6th)
Liverpool had a pretty good group campaign, and has been playing well in the league. (Let’s forgot about that loss to Swansea.) The Salah/Firmino connection has been hot as of late, and I see them getting off to a quick start. Adam Lallana, the team spark-plug, finally made his much anticipated return and could play his part in this one. Porto is one of the easier draws Liverpool could have been given. The Portuguese Liga leaders are nothing to scoff at normally, but I don’t see them standing up to Liverpool. Especially after getting spanked in the first leg.
First Leg score: Liverpool 5-0 Porto
Result? To Liverpool goes the spoils.
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid (Tuesday, March 6th)
Real and PSG is a mouth-watering final. A final that is being played 3 rounds too early. Real has been up and down as of late, and are only sitting 4th in La Liga. The Spanish giants have no easy task in Paris, despite being up on aggregate. PSG has the misfortune of being without Neymar for the next 2 1/2 to 3 months. If Real can show up and be the powerhouse they are on paper, this is going to be a dogfight. If not, PSG could slip past them.
First Leg score: Real Madrid 3-1 PSG
The Victor? The Real deal
Manchester City v. FC Basel (Wednesday, March 7th)
I feel a bit bad for Basel here, to be honest. City has been playing out of their minds all season, and has done so in all competitions. They ran away with the first leg in Switzerland, and I see them winning comfortably at home. Basel sits second in the Swiss Super League, but I don’t see any scenario in which they have a shot. Sorry guys.
First leg score: Manchester City 4-0 FC Basel
Who wins? City by a lot
Tottenham v. Juventus (Wednesday, March 7th)
This is a tough match for a couple of reasons. Juventus has the Champions League experience. Tottenham doesn’t. Spurs are coming into form at the right time, and were able to manage a result in Turin. That was as good as a win against a team like Juve, who has been lights out as of late.
That said, Harry Kane could lead this Tottenham team to victory. They’ve been clicking as of late. Giorgio Chiellini is hoping not to get caught covering Kane 1 on 1, so I’m hoping he does. Spurs have had to play replays in the FA Cup against League One and League Two sides, but have been strong in the Champions League.
First Leg score: Juventus 2 – 2 Tottenham
Winner? I want to see Spurs come out victorious at home
Beşiktaş v. Bayern Munich (Wednesday, March 14th)
Bayern is going to win in a lopsided affair. Beşiktaş had a tough task going into Allianz Arena, which is arguably one of the toughest places to play in Europe. I don’t see the point in breaking this down any further.
First Leg score: Bayern Munich 5 – 0 Beşiktaş
The Final? Bayern. Duh.
Barcelona v. Chelsea (Wednesday, March 14th)
Chelsea is a team somehow in shambles, even though they sit 5th in the Premier League. Of all the English teams in the competition, Chelsea are most likely to go down in the knockout stage. There is inner turmoil. Antonio Conte could lose his job any day now, and Chelsea is coming off a brutal defeat at the hands of Watford last week. Barcelona will be without Coutinho, who isn’t eligible to play in Champions League for them since he played in the group stage with Liverpool, but that won’t stop them from coming out on top. Messi finally scored against Chelsea in the first leg, and I’d expect one or two more from him in the second.
First Leg score: Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona
The Winnah? Barcelona
Manchester United v. Sevilla (Tuesday, March 13th)
Sevilla and United is one of the more intriguing match-ups of this stage. United is a stronger team on paper, but they can’t seem to string together consistent performances. They looked at one point to be the only team that would give City a challenge for the Premier League title, but that is all but lost. They have been shut out on the road numerous time in the past month, and haven’t been too much better at home. Pogba looks like a shell of himself, and Lukaku hasn’t been scoring as much as he probably should be. On the other hand, Sevilla seems to only be consistently winning in the Spanish Copa del Rey, so it’s really a toss up.
First Leg score: Sevilla 0-0 Manchester United
Who comes out on top? Manchester United
AS Roma v. Shakhtar Donetsk (Tuesday, March 14th)
Roma finished top of their group after some tough battles with Chelsea, Atletico, and Qarabag. They are off well off the top of Serie A, and need to continue on in the Champions League to be playing for something this year. Edin Dzeko leads the club with 11 goals, and hopes to play a big part when Roma host the Ukrainian club. Shakhtar will be no easy task, however. They handed City their only loss of the group stages, and are up on aggregate. I’ve been going back on forth on my decision to this one.
First Leg score: Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 AS Roma
Ultimately? I’m taking Shakhtar
The Quarterfinal Draw
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