The Round of 16 of the 2017/18 European Champions League kicks off on Feb. 13th with the teams aiming for glory in the final in Kiev, Ukraine on May 26th. Real Madrid is the reigning champion, but faces a tough task of retaining their title and even reaching the quarterfinals as they’re facing the tournament’s top-scoring squad in Paris Saint-Germain. These two-legged ties feature the eight group winners of the first stage up against the eight runners up.
There are five teams left from the English Premier League with three from the Spanish La Liga, two from the Italian Serie A, and one each from Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Portugal, France and Germany. We’ll take a quick look at the round of 16 with a brief preview of each matchup as well as our predictions on who will advance to the quarterfinals.
8. Juventus FC (3-2-1) vs Tottenham Hotspur (5-1-0)
The first leg takes place in Turin on Tues. Feb 13 with the second leg being held at Wembley in London on Wed. March 7. Juventus won the European crown in 1985 and 1996, but haven’t added to the list despite reaching two of the past three finals, losing to Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. The furthest Spurs have gone has been the last-eight in 2011, but with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen in the lineup they’re hoping to improve on that this year. Tottenham won their group over Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, but weren’t really rewarded with a tough test against Juventus. This is the first times the two clubs will be meeting in Europe with Juventus being slightly favored by the bookmakers.
It’s true that Tottenham has already beaten the Champions League holders Real Madrid, but Real’s having an off-season. But Juventus hasn’t been as powerful as they have been over the past five years or so either. Spurs have had some success against AC Milan and Inter Milan in the past, so may have luck with them against Italian sides, but still have to deal with Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini. Juventus is expected to be missing Paulo Dybala, Benedikt Höwedes, Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi for at least the first contest while Tottenham appears to have a healthy squad.
Prediction: One of the closest of the eight ties with arguably the world’s best striker Kane against the best keeper in Buffon and Tottenham just squeaking through to the quarterfinals.
7. FC Basel (4-0-2) vs Manchester City (5-0-1)
The first leg takes place in Switzerland on Tues. Feb 13 with the second leg taking place in England on Wed. March 7. Basel has never reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but this is the third time they’ve made it to the round of 16. The team, managed by Raphael Wicky, placed second in their group with Manchester United winning it. However, they did down United at home when they met. Man City had no problem winning their group with their lone defeat coming away to Shakhtar Donetsk. Manager Pep Guardiola has managed to win the tournament twice, but City, like Basel, has never tasted Champions League or European Cup glory.
City made it to the final four in 2016, and anything less than that will be seen as a failure this year. Of course the reason for this is the way the squad has been dominating the English Premier League. City’s star players such as Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne may have a field day here the way they’ve been scoring goals in the Premier League. Basel has listed Germano Vailati, Luca Zuffi and Antonio Signorini all as doubtful for at least the first match while Man City is expected to be without Benjamin Mendy, Fabian Delph and Leroy Sane with David Silva being questionable.
Prediction: Man City should win this tie comfortably enough against the huge Swiss underdogs.
6. FC Porto (3-1-2) vs Liverpool FC (3-3-0)
The first leg kicks off in northern Portugal on Wed. Feb 14 with the return fixture on Merseyside scheduled for Tues. March 6. Porto won the European title in 1987 as the European Cup and the Champions League in 2004 with Jose Mourinho as manager. They’ll be looking to pounce on Liverpool’s questionable defense. Liverpool won the tournament a year after Porto and topped their group in the first stage this year. Of course, they also won the old European Cup four times as well. But despite outscoring their opposition 23-6 in the group stage as the tournament’s second-best offensive team, the Reds were held to draws in three of their six matches.
Liverpool hasn’t lost to Porto in their four previous outings, but will face a tough task from Portugal’s top team especially considering this is the Porto’s third trip to the knockout stages in the past four campaigns. Fans should expect quite a few goals in this tie with Vincent Aboubakar leading the way for Porto and Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah countering for Liverpool. In addition, James Milner leads the tournament in assists with five. But let’s not forget the Reds lost Philippe Coutinho and his five group-stage goals to Barcelona during the January transfer window. Porto appears to have a healthy squad while Liverpool lists Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne as questionable. Rhian Brewster is out for the season and Emre Can is suspended for the first match.
Prediction: Liverpool plays a reckless, entertaining style of football and should score enough to advance to the quarterfinals.
5. Sevilla FC (2-3-1) vs Manchester United (5-0-1)
This tie gets underway in Spain on Wed. Feb 21 and concludes at Old Trafford in Manchester on Tues. March 13. Sevilla has won the Europa League five times in total and three times in a row from 2014 to 2016, but will be trying to capture the Champions League for the first time. They struggled in the group stage though with just two wins in six games, but somehow finished as runners up to Liverpool. On the bright side, they’ve been beaten just once in knockout stages in Europe in the past three seasons when Leicester City downed them last campaign. Still, they’re basically 100/1 underdogs to win the Champions League next May. Manchester United topped their group, but looked mediocre in doing so and have been quite inconsistent under Jose Mourinho this season.
United’s happy playing Sevilla rather than Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Juventus as they attempt to rule Europe for the fourth time. Sevilla can’t be taken too lightly though as they battled back from a 3-0 deficit to Liverpool in the group stage at home for a 3-3 draw and also drew the Reds at Anfield. United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic has become a forgotten man at Old Trafford with tax-cheat Alexis Sanchez joining from Arsenal in the January transfer window. Look for him to work up front with striker Romelu Lukaku. Injury-wise, Phil Jones and Marcus Rashford are questionable for the first leg while Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Marouane Fellaini are expected to miss it. Sevilla has listed Sébastien Corchia, Simon Kjær and Nolito Groin as questionable while Ever Banega is expected to miss the first outing.
Prediction: Man United has the stronger squad, but Sevilla should make life difficult for them. Look for Man United to advance when all is said and done though.
4. Shakhtar Donetsk (4-0-2) vs AS Roma (3-2-1)
Wed. Feb 21 is the date of the first leg for this tie in Ukraine with the second match being held in Italy on Tues. March 13. Shakhtar Donetsk finished as runners up to Manchester City in the group stage on the strength of winning all three of their home games, including a win over City. They’ve never won a European Cup and are returning to the knockout round for the first time since 2015. Roma topped their group as they edged Chelsea, who also had 11 points, and are also seeking their first Champions League title. They managed to beat Chelsea at home and drew 3-3 against the Blues in London. This may be one of the least attractive matchups to some fans, but it could be one of the closest.
The last time these two sides met in the Champions League in 2010/11, Shakhtar pulled off an upset with a convincing 6-2 win on aggregate and winning both games. Neither side has been dominant in this year’s tournament though, but Shakhtar may have some added incentive to win since the Champions League Final will be played in Ukraine on May 26th. Of course, Roma will be out to avenge their defeats of 2010/11.
As far as injuries go, Shakhtar has listed Wellington Nem, Bernard Anicio Caldeira Duarte and Alan Patrick as questionable for the first leg while Maksym Malyshev is expected to miss the match. Roma is expected to be without the services of Rick Karsdorp for both games while Jonathan Silva, Maxime Gonalons and Patrik Schick will miss the first match, but could return for the second.
Prediction: Don’t underestimate the Ukrainian side and manager Paulo Fonseca as they beat Man City and finished ahead of Napoli in the group stage. This is close, but Roma should advance.
3. Chelsea FC (3-2-1) vs FC Barcelona (4-2-0)
The first leg of this rivalry goes Tues. Feb 20 in London with the return match being held Wed. March 14 in Spain. Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 after knocking Barcelona out of the competition in the semifinals and Barcelona is hoping to be crowned champions of the continent for the sixth time. Chelsea hasn’t really done much in the competition since winning the silverware and neither has Barcelona really with two exits in the round of 16 in the last two seasons. Barcelona’s in better form though as they top the Spanish league and won their group by going unbeaten. Chelsea’s been struggling under manager Antonio Conte lately and were runners up to Roma in the group stage. They both had 11 points, but Roma had the better head-to-head record.
Chelsea will have to be wary of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, but not Philippe Coutinho since he’s ineligible to play for Barcelona after completing his move to Camp Nou from Liverpool in the January transfer window. Still, Barcelona’s going to be tough to stop and they’re just as good defensively as they conceded only once during the group stage. This is a good rivalry as the clubs have met several times and Chelsea has usually held their own and now have world-class Eden Hazard in the lineup. Barca has listed Adrian Ortola Vano, Lucas Digne, Thomas Vermaelen and Gerard Piqué as questionable while Sergi Samper is out for the season and Nélson Cabral Semedo is suspended for the first match. Chelsea lists Andreas Christensen, Ross Barkley, Marcos Alonso and Pedro Rodriguez as questionable while Isaiah Brown is out for the season.
Prediction: Looks like a fun tie, but Barcelona should be too strong and will advance.
2. Real Madrid CF (4-1-1) vs Paris Saint-Germain FC (5-0-1)
This could very well be the most anticipated showdown of the round as it features two of this year’s heavyweights. The opening game goes in Madrid on Wed. Feb 14 with the second leg in Paris on Tues. March 6. Reigning champions Real Madrid are after their 13th European crown and third in a row while PSG seeks its first. There’s no doubt Real is struggling slightly this season as they finished runners up to Tottenham in the group stage. And even though Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t scoring left, right and center in La Liga he leads the Champions League with nine of his team’s 17 goals. PSG is the top-scoring side though with 25 goals as Neymar and Edinson Cavani lead the side with six apiece.
PSG won their group over Bayern Munich as they both finished with 15 points and their only loss coming in Munich. There are some excellent matchups in this showdown such as Mbappe vs Ronaldo, Cavani vs Benzema and Neymar vs Bale and there could be an avalanche of goals. Unfortunately, one of these high-scoring, entertaining teams is going to go home in March. Heading into the first match PSG has listed Hatem Ben Arfa, Lavyin Kurzawa and Édinson Cavani as questionable due to minor injuries. Real Madrid lists Daniel Ceballos as questionable with Jesús Vallejo expected to miss the first leg. In addition, Daniel Carvajal will also be absent from the opening match with a suspension.
Prediction: Hopefully the teams will go toe-to-toe in this tie which would be a treat for the fans. This could be a coin toss and home pitch advantage in the second game may be the difference. Look for PSG to dethrone the champions and move on.
1. FC Bayern Munich (5-0-1) vs Besiktas JK (4-2-0)
Turkish side Besiktas doesn’t have much luck. They topped their group and now have to face Bayern Munich who finished as runners up to PSG in their quartet. The opening leg gets underway in Germany on Tues. Feb 20 with the second contest set for Wed. March 14 in Istanbul. Besiktas is likely just happy to have made the final 16 and are the underdogs of the tournament at 200/1. On the other hand, Bayern Munich is seeking to reign as kings of Europe for the sixth time. They haven’t made it past the final four in the last three seasons though. Besiktas won their group over Porto, RB Leipzig and Monaco, but are really up against it here.
Perhaps surprisingly, Bayern is the only German club to reach the final 16 this season, so they may feel a bit of added weight as they’ll have the expectations of the entire country on their shoulders. They scored 13 goals and allowed six against in the group stage while Besiktas banged 11 in and conceded five. Bayern is hoping that Javier Martinez and Thomas Müller will have recovered from their injuries in time for the first game, but goalkeeper Manuel Neuer isn’t expected back until early March. Meanwhile, Besiktas has listed Atinc Nukan, Dusko Tosic and Atiba Hutchinson as questionable for the first match due to injuries.
Prediction: The Turkish champions should put up a decent fight, but look for Bayern Munich to go through to the next round.