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Preview: Champions League Round of 16 Second Legs

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Previewing This Week’s Champions League Round of 16 Second Legs

Europe’s top teams return this week with the first half of the Champions League Round of 16 second leg fixtures. Eight teams will be vying for a place in the quarter finals, with four games being played out over Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Champions League is renowned for its tendency to produce incredible comebacks, and the results from the first legs have left ample opportunity for sides to conjure up another famous European revival. A spot in the quarter finals of Europe’s most esteemed club competition is up for grabs.

Which teams will prevail? Who is going home? We preview the upcoming Champions League Round of 16 fixtures here.

 

Juventus vs. Porto (Agg. 1-2)

When: Tuesday 9th March, 8:00pm Kick Off (GMT).

Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin

Porto were the only home team to emerge victorious in the first leg fixtures, beating Juventus 2-1 with goals from Mehdi Taremi and Moussa Marega. Despite Federico Chiesa’s late reply, the Italian side still have it all to do in the second leg.

Juve’s current home form will give them confidence that they came overcome the deficit as they have won 8 of their last 9 home games in all competitions. However, Porto will also fancy their chances of progressing with an impressive away form of just 1 loss in their previous 10 away games. Neither team are currently top of their respective domestic leagues, making Champions League success even more important.

Time for Ronaldo?

To turn this tie around, Juventus will look to talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese striker has an exceptional Champions League record, with his 134 goals being the most of any player in the competition’s history. He will be looking to replicate his heroics from last season, when he scored a hattrick in the Round of 16 against Atletico Madrid, overturning a 2-0 deficit from the first leg.

Andrea Pirlo’s side are currently in the midst of an injury crisis, with several key players missing out. Paulo Dybala, Arthur, and Giorgio Chiellini are major doubts, while midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur has tested positive for COVID-19 so will not be available for selection. This places even more pressure on the shoulders of Ronaldo to deliver the goals that would see Juventus through to the quarter finals.

History in Europe

Both teams have a relatively impressive European pedigree, having won the European Cup twice each. Porto failed to make it to the group stages last season, although they reached the quarter finals the year before, being beaten by eventual champions Liverpool. Juventus were a surprising casualty of the Round of 16 last season, crashing out to French side Lyon. Both teams will be looking to improve their recent European record with a win in this week’s tie.

This match is tough to call, with Juventus having been favourites before the first leg was played. They were impressive in the group stages, winning 5 of the 6 games and topping their group. Porto came into the Round of 16 as group runner-up, although they still clocked up a commendable 13 points, including a draw against Premier League leaders Manchester City.

This match is set up to be an enthralling Champions League Round of 16 second leg.

Potential Line-Ups:

Juventus: Szczęsny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Chiesa, Rabiot, McKennie, Ramsey; Morata, Ronaldo

Porto: Marchesín; Manafá, Pepe, Mbemba, Zaidu; Sérgio Oliveira, Uribe, Otávio, Corona; Taremi, Marega

 

Borussia Dortmund vs. Sevilla (Agg: 3-2)

When: Tuesday 9th March, 8:00pm Kick Off (GMT).

Where: Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund

The first leg between these two teams resulted in a 5-goal thriller. Dortmund edged out their Spanish hosts by 3 goals to 2, with a typically clinical display from Erling Haaland. Sevilla had taken the lead early on with a strike from Suso, but Dortmund turned things around with a goal from Mahmoud Dahoud and a brace from the in-form striker. Luuk de Jong rounded off the scoring to give Sevilla hope for the second leg.

Looking to Find Form

Dortmund come into the game in somewhat patchy form, having won just 3 of their last 9 league games. They currently sit 6th in the Bundesliga. They are no strangers to the Round of 16, though, having reached this stage in 7 of their last 8 Champions League seasons. However, they crashed out at this stage last year after surrendering a 2-1 first leg lead to PSG.

Sevilla have also struggled for form in the last couple of weeks, having lost their last two league games and exited the Copa del Rey. They are playing in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2017/18. The majority of the Spanish club’s European success has been found in the less prestigious Europa League, which they have won a record 6 times. They will be looking to consolidate their place in Europe’s top club competition with their first trip to the quarter finals since 2017/18.

The Danger Man

They key danger man in this tie is undoubtedly Erling Haaland. Haaland currently has 29 goals in 28 games in all competitions this season, including 8 goals in 5 champions league matches. He impressed at the weekend with two goals against current European champions Bayern Munich. The closest Sevilla player to these numbers is Youssef En-Nesyri, who has recorded 17 goals in 31 games. Although this is an impressive record, Haaland’s goalscoring form is a level above.

Borussia Dortmund will be the favourites for this tie, but Sevilla will take confidence from the two goals they scored in the first leg to give them hope of turning the score line around. This will make for an intriguing Champions League Round of 16 fixture, with hopefully more goals still to come.

Potential Line-Ups

Dortmund: Hitz; Morey, Can, Hummels, Guerreiro; Delaney, Dahoud; Reus, Reyna, Sancho; Haaland

Sevilla: Bono; Navas, Koundé, Carlos, Escudero; Jordán, Fernando; Gómez, Rakitić, Suso; En-Nesyri

 

PSG vs. Barcelona (Agg. 4-1)

When: Wednesday 10th March, 8:00pm Kick Off (GMT)

Where: Parc des Princes, Paris

The last time Barcelona met PSG in the Champions League knockout stages it produced one of the greatest comebacks in football history. Barcelona won 6-1, with three goals coming after the 87th minute, to secure a famous victory against the French side, overcoming a 4-0 first leg deficit to make it into the quarter finals.

Paris Saint-Germain will look to avoid a repeat this time around. They lead 4-1 from the first leg at the Nou Camp, with footballing prodigy Kylian Mbappe netting a hattrick and Moise Kean adding another after a Lionel Messi penalty had given Barcelona the lead. It will take some effort to stop the Parisians from progressing to the next round.

Mbappe vs. Messi

This match is of particular interest due to the current scrutiny over Kylian Mbappe. The young French forward has been touted by many as the successor to Lionel Messi as the best player on the planet. In the first leg, Mbappe outperformed the Barcelona legend on his own turf. If he manages to do the same in Paris then Barcelona don’t stand a chance of reaching the quarter finals. Messi needs to show why he is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time for Barcelona to have any possibility of overturning this tie.

European History

Despite PSG’s domestic domination over the past decade, they have never won the European Cup. Last season was the closest they have come; they reached the final, where they were beaten by 6-time champions Bayern Munich. They will hope to take the final step towards European glory this year. Barcelona will be looking to win their 6th title, having last won the trophy in 2015. Both sides have significant motivation to make it into the next round.

The Comeback Kings

If either of them are to improve their European record, they will need to perform in the second leg. PSG are the heavy favourites, but you can’t completely rule out a Barcelona comeback; they’ve played a part in several in this competition. Their 6-1 win against PSG in 2017 was one of the greatest European comebacks of all time. They will also be particularly optimistic about their chances after coming from two goals down to beat Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey last week.

However, they have also been on the receiving end of such miraculous fightbacks, having famously crashed out of the Champions League to both Liverpool and Roma in recent years after winning the first leg of the tie by three goals. The Catalan club will be hoping that they can replicate this feat themselves against PSG on Wednesday. If they do, it will go down as an all-time classic European fixture.

This is set up to be an entertaining Champions League Round of 16 clash.

Potential Line-Ups:

PSG: Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Paredes, Verratti, Gueye; Draxler, Icardi, Mbappé

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest, Piqué, Mingueza, Araújo, Alba; Busquets, De Jong; Dembélé, Griezmann; Messi

 

Liverpool vs. R.B. Leipzig (Agg. 2-0)

When: Wednesday 10th March, 8:00pm Kick Off (GMT)

Where: Puskas Arena, Budapest

Liverpool produced one of their best displays of 2021 so far with a professional away performance in the first leg of this tie. They ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, albeit with some help from a hapless Leipzig defence. What will have impressed Jurgen Klopp most about his side was their ability to keep a clean sheet against a potent attacking force. Replicate that feat and Liverpool will be in the Champions League quarter finals.

Form Guide

Liverpool and Leipzig will return to a neutral venue in Budapest for the second leg of their tie due to Germany’s COVID-19 travel restrictions. Liverpool may not be too disappointed with their loss of a home advantage however, having lost 6 consecutive games at Anfield for the first time in their 129-year history. The Reds have been in poor form recently, having won just 5 of their last 15 games in all competitions since the turn of the year. They will need to improve on this in order to confirm their place in the quarter finals.

Leipzig on the other hand are enjoying a fine run of form. They sit second in the Bundesliga and have won 9 of their last 11 games in all competitions. They also came from 2-0 down to beat Borussia Monchengladbach 3-2 in the Bundesliga last week, which should give them all the confidence they need that they can turn this tie around.

Salah vs. Upamecano

Leipzig still have a significant hill to climb, however. Regardless of form, Liverpool possess quality players with vast attacking threat. Forward Mo Salah is currently the Premier League’s top scorer. Leipzig will have to be at their best to contain him while they seek the goals to cancel out Liverpool’s lead. Much of this pressure will be on the shoulders of centre back Dayot Upamecano, the German side’s most important defender. If he puts in a good performance then Leipzig are more than capable of turning this tie around.

Points to Prove

Liverpool will want to banish the demons of last season, when they surprisingly exited the competition at this stage at the hands of Atletico Madrid, having reached consecutive finals in the two seasons before. Leipzig have only ever made it further than the round of 16 stage once; last season, when they made it all the way to the semi-finals. They will be out to prove that this European adventure was not a one-off.

This tie remains in the balance, with both sides having a point to prove in Europe. This makes it an unmissable Champions League Round of 16 fixture.

Potential Line-Ups:

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Ozan Kabak, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago Alcántara, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mané

Leipzig: Gulácsi; Mukiele, Upamecano, Orban, Halstenberg; Adams, Sabitzer, Kampl, Angeliño; Olmo, Poulsen

 

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Preview: Champions League Round of 16 Second Legs’. Who do you think will reach the quarter finals? Let us know!

 

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Daisy is currently a final-year student at Newcastle University, where she is studying Politics at an undergraduate level and is on the committee of the Non-League Football Society. You can contact her at daisyruddock@hotmail.co.uk.

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