How will Premier League clubs fare in UCL last 16?
The next few weeks sees the UEFA Champions League last 16 stage arrive and I’ve been thinking a lot about how the four Premier League teams will fare.
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Will the new winter break make a big difference? Have all four teams been handed favorable ties? What will the key matchups be over the two legs?
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Chelsea, Liverpool (reigning champs), Man City and Tottenham made it a clean sweep of all four Premier League teams in the knockout rounds but all four have very different tests awaiting them.
Below is an in-depth look and prediction for how the four Premier League teams will get on in their UCL last 16 clashes.
Tottenham Hotspur v. RB Leipzig
First leg: Feb. 19 @ Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Second leg: Mar. 10 @ Red Bull Arena
Key battle: Heung min-Son v. Dayot Upamecano
Favorites: Spurs are the slight favorites but both clubs have been stuttering in league play. Mourinho is setting Spurs up to be rapid on the counter with Bergwijn, Son and Lucas Moura but that is exactly how Leipzig play with Werner the livewire on the break. This will be a very evenly-matched clash and could go to penalty kicks.
Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
First leg: Feb. 25 @ Stamford Bridge
Second leg: Mar. 18 @ Allianz Arena
Key battle: Antonio Rudiger v. Robert Lewandowski
Favorites: Bayern are probably the favorites given the experience of their team compared to Chelsea’s youngster and Lewandowski could have a field day against this leaky Blues defense. Christian Pulisic’s fitness will be key as he has the x-factor Chelsea have missed in recent weeks. Chelsea will hope to still be level, at least, when they head to Bavaria.
Real Madrid v. Manchester City
First leg: Feb. 26 @ Estadio Bernabeu
Second leg: Mar. 17 @ Etihad Stadium
Key battle: Eden Hazard v. Kyle Walker
Favorites: This will probably be about 9-9 on aggregate because both teams love to attack but both have issues in defense. Zidane has turned Real into a more efficient team this season and that has flown under the radar given their superstar attackers. We know Pep Guardiola’s side are struggling at the back but will not throw away their playing principles and Man City are the slight favorites due to Aguero and De Bruyne. This is too close to call, especially if Real get off to a flier in the first leg. The pressure is on Man City because Pep knows he needs to deliver the UCL title.
Atletico Madrid v. Liverpool
First leg: Feb. 18 @ Wanda Metropolitano
Second leg: Mar. 11 @ Anfield
Key battle: Thomas Partey v. Jordan Henderson
Favorites: Liverpool, the reigning European and World champs, are the favorites but this isn’t a clash Jurgen Klopp’s side will relish. Atletico are perhaps the only team who will out-work Liverpool but Diego Simeone’s side have been blunted after the departure of Antoine Griezmann and are the underdogs. That is a role they relish. Atleti’s midfield will provide their backline with a strong shield and Oblak will be tough to beat. But this is Liverpool and all season long Jurgen Klopp’s side have found a way to win.