Side Kick

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 through my lens


With Adebayo Olodan

The 2019/2020 Season of the UEFA Champions League has been quite remarkable with some interesting matches across various groups and a total of 308 goals scored.
Group B with 53 provided the highest number of goals in the group phase.
Interestingly, all the four English clubs booked their place in the last 16 with reigning Champions, Liverpool joined by Premier League holders, Manchester City as group winners.
Meanwhile, the Round of 16 has thrown up some mouth watering and banana skin fixtures chiefly the game between Spanish and European giant, Real Madrid and Premier League Champions, Manchester City.
City, who are looking for their first continental silverware are also set to pay a visit to the Spanish capital. Pep Guardiola’s men face the most daunting task against the 13-time winners, who find themselves in this position after finishing as runners-up in their group.
Based on record, Madrid has the edge with two wins and two draws but on form, City can match Real Madrid toe to toe.
I however believe that this particular tie will be decided by pedigree and Champions League experience. On the basis of this, I expect the Spanish club to edge out the Premier League Champions. The results achieved by Guardiola against Real Madrid during his time at Barcelona will count for nothing in this tricky fixture. City’s defence will struggle against the likes of Karim Benzema, Rodrygo and former Chelsea star, Eden Hazard. I expect the Belgium captain; Hazard may choose this occasion to shine for his new Spanish paymasters.
That said, one particular match-up that is attracting my attention is the tie between Chelsea and German giants, Bayen Munich.  As a Chelsea devotee, I had expected my club to get a better draw and that would have been achieved if Ross Barkley had converted the penalty kick the Blues were awarded against Valencia at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea could also have topped Group H had the club held on to their lead against Valencia or did not concede in basketball manner like they did in the return leg against AFC Ajax; so many buts, you may wish to say.
All that is in the past though as Chelsea is now faced with the herculean task of eliminating a strong opponent like Bayen Munich.
The two sides have faced each other three times in the Champions League, most recently in the 2012 final in Munich. Incidentally, Frank Lampard the Chelsea manager was the captain  for the Blues as they overcame all the odds to defeat Bayen and claim our only Champions League title to date.
When Bayern visited London, earlier this season, they hit their opponent Tottenham Hotspur 7-2. Chelsea will hope that the German club does not enjoy such luck or success when they visit their Stamford Bridge fortress come February.
Chelsea needs to look beyond their present squad if they are determined to advance to at least the quarter finals. In January, the Blues must as a matter of urgency recruit at least three attack minded players as it is obvious Tammy Abraham  does not have the quality and pedigree to score against big teams and at this stage in Europe. Lampard must also consider adding an experienced midfielder and defender to his squad which is largely made up of young and untested players. Expected to make way for the new players are; Oliver Giroud, Pedro Rodrigues, Ross Barkley and Marcos Alonso.
For Liverpool, they will be returning to the same ground where they lifted the Champions League trophy last season as they face Atletico Madrid.  Jurgen Klopp’s men are expected to sail through over two legs.
Another attention-grabbing fixture is the match between Tottenham and RB Leipzig, with the German team the surprise package in recent years.  At the end of it all, I expect the English club to advance especially now that they have Jose Mourinho on their bench. The Portuguese gaffer is one of the few coaches who understand the terrain in Europe better. After succeeding at Porto and Inter Milan, Mourinho will hope Spurs can go one step better than their second place finish last season.
As for the ties between Dortmund and PSG; Napoli and Barcelona; Atalanta and Valencia; Lyon and Juventus, the away teams are likely to carry the day. However something tells me that there may be an upset.

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