Champions League: Round of 16 ties and what we expect

It is a straight knock out tournament in Portugal for UEFA Champions League 2020. Eventual tournament winner of  Europe’s elite competition this season is very hard to predict, unlike in previous editions where pundits could easily and correctly pick the champion.

Champions LEague Round of 16 ties going down in stadia without fans (Photo: SkySport)

UEFA Champions League 2020 will be remembered for being special in many ways. The knock out stage will be single legged games, played behind closed doors. For the first time ever, in the competition’s 65 years illustrious history, all the games from the quarter finals will be played in a neutral ground. Portugal’s  Lisbon will be the home of this tournament.

Interestingly, the road to the finals was also outlined since the quarter and semi final draw was unveiled simultaneously. Perrenial tournament favourites like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will live no room to error or else their quest for the trophy will be cut short.

Already qualified for the quater finals on their debuts, German side Leipzig and Italian’s Atalanta, will be looking to go deeper into the competition on their maiden appearance.

However, both underdogs face an uphill task against potential tournament winners. Leipzig must work extra hard to eliminate Spanish giants Atletico Madrid. The Spanish side, despite struggling in Laliga, rarely disappoints in Europe, having eliminated defending champions Liverpool in a two -legged tie.

Notably, Atletico have got a good record against German oppositions in the competition. Newly improved Atalanta will have to be cautious of attack minded and re-energised Paris Saint Germain who on paper looks like they got what it takes to be victors.

The French side, despite having a deep and strong squad combined with huge financial muscles, the champions league has been evasive in recent years. For the first  time in four years, PSG broke the round of 16 curse which had struck them previously, even when they were contenders.

Though not fully qualified for the quarter finals, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus have a chance of competing favourably in Portugal. They got an impressive side but must first overturn a narrow 1-0 defeat by Lyon. The Italian champions will aim to better their performances from their last season’s quarter final defeat by Ajax.

There is no doubt that the Portuguese international and the all time leading goal scorer in the competition will be influential in how far the Italians progress.

Traditional favourites Bayern Munich have been impressive all this season. They have been a free scoring side with a very talented and experienced  squad. Though not fully through to the quarters, they face minimal threat against Chelsea whom they inflicted a 3-0 thrashing at Stamford Brugde in the first leg.

The Bavarians have Robert Lewandowski the second best scorer in Europe this season in profilfic form. The Polish has reached several goal scoring heights this season and no doubt Bayern Munich will be the team to watch in Portugal.

Zinedine Zidane’s Real face a daunting task against an in form Manchester City as the barrier which stands between them and Portugal. A 2-1 home deafet by the English side leaves the tie very balanced. Zidane will have to get his tactics right or else the Spanish giants will stare at a possible round of 16 elimination for the second successive year.

Lionel Messi and crisis- hit Barcelona have an upper hand against Napoli when they host them for the second leg. The teams had drawn 1-1 in the first leg and Barca will  be forced to rely on their formidable  home record in the competition.

The Catalans have never lost at Camp Nou since 2013, in the process going 35 games unbeaten. However, their inconsistency in front of goal and a shaky defence has seen Laliga title slip them to their eternal rivals Real Madrid.

Even though a side containing Messi can never be ruled out, more is wanting for them if they are to better their from their semi final appearance last season.

The club has spent tremendously in recent years in pursuit of world class players, majority of them struggling to live up to their expectations. For instance, Antoine Griezmann has been a shadow of the player he was at Atletico Madrid despite the world cup winner being accorded good game time.

Its no doubt that it will be interesting to see how events in Portugal will infold in the first ever tournament-organised champions league. Fanatism aside, this is the most unpredictable showpiece ever in the history of the competition.

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