With the first series of Champions League Round of 16 matches already played earlier this week, three teams already look to have booked their place in the quarters, while the fourth spot is still a toss-up. It was an exciting two days of action, and soccer fans can finally breath a huge sigh of relief that Champions League is back in their lives.
With the next set of games scheduled to kick off next week, some teams may already be eyeing their potential matchups, and may even be able to rest a few of their stars for the second leg.
Paris Saint-Germain was easily the biggest winner of the week, and barring a major catastrophe, the Parisians are basically guaranteed to return to the quarterfinals. With stirker Zlatan Ibrahimovic propelling the team to a 4-0 win away at Bayer Leverkusen, the German side needs to score five goals without conceding at PSG’s Parc de Prince if they want to make it to the next round. Let’s just say that is highly unlikely.
Arsene Wenger and Arsenal were handed the most difficult team imaginable, reigning champions Bayern Munich, and the Gunners did not have enough fire power to break down the Bavarian’s stout defense. A 2-0 home loss does not bode well for Arsenal, and Bayern will happily take their two away goals back to Germany, where a repeat of Arsenal’s win at the Allianz Arena last season is not in the cards.
Another team to come away with two crucial away goals is FC Barcelona, who made short work of “juggernauts” Manchester City in England. A Lionel Messi penalty and a Dani Alves goal did the damage, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s men face a near impossible task to score three goals in the cauldron that is the Camp Nou.
Continuing on with the trend of away goals, Atletico Madrid escaped from Italy a 1-0 win away at AC Milan, a Diego Costa header proving to be the difference. Milan striker Mario Ballotelli could be ruled out of the return leg in Madrid with a shoulder injury, but if he plays, this game could really go either way. Atletico is strong at home, but this is the exact type of game that Milan needs to turn their abysmal season around.
With the exception of Milan, it is hard to see any of the previously mentioned teams overcoming two and four goal deficits, and the way things stand, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG are all returning to the quarters. In my opinion, Milan has not played well enough this season to deserve to go through, and the feeling is that Atletico will prove to be too strong for the lone Italian representative.
My picks are Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG and Atletico.