CL Round of 16 Preview

The midwinter break is over and it is time for the CL to return to our screens, a highlight for many football fans across the world. The opening group stages of the competition certainly do provide us with some high quality matches and excitement but it is the knockout rounds where this competition truly comes alive.

There have been so many memorable knockout matches in history with some of the giants of European football clashing on their way to reaching the final. This season there were plenty of surprises and memorable matches that took place in the early group stages and some big teams failed to make it through to the latter stages. 

Surprise Exits

One of the biggest surprises was Manchester United, who finished bottom of Group A, a group that they really should have had no trouble in finishing in the top two yet managed to finish below Bayern Munich, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray. After all the hard work last season making sure they finished in the top 4 in the PL, a poor showing in the group stages would definitely not have been what the Red Devils were hoping for. As it turned out, Bayern were dominant and went through easily, with FC Copenhagen joining them in the knockout rounds and Galatasaray making their way into the EL. Group B saw Sevilla finish bottom, a team that has had considerable success in Europe over recent years, albeit mostly in the EL. Their poor season meant they were unable to get enough points on board to make it through and it was Arsenal who comfortably won the group followed by PSV, whilst Lens will be taking part in the EL having finished third. No real surprises in Group C where Real Madrid dominated and Napoli qualified in second and there was a tough battle between Real Sociedad and Inter in Group D where the Spanish team eventually won the group.

Group E went as many predicted with Atletico Madrid winning followed by Lazio. Group F was the outstanding group of this season’s CL as PSG, Dortmund, AC Milan and Newcastle were grouped together. This was an open group, and with some better luck any of the teams could have qualified but it turned out to be Dortmund that topped the group followed by PSG. AC Milan just did enough to make it through to the EL and Newcastle, despite a strong start, finished in last place. Unsurprisingly, Manchester City dominated Group G with RB Leipzig joining them in the knockout stages and Barcelona and FC Porto were far too good in Group H. 

Therefore, it is the Spanish teams that have performed best as all four managed to make it through to the next stage, followed by three Italian and three German teams. Only two PL teams qualified with the rest coming from Holland, Portugal, France and Denmark. The first set of fixtures will take place on the 13/14th of February with the remaining teams playing the next week, on the 20/21st. 

Tournament Favourites

Manchester City are favourites to win the title for the second year in a row, despite the fact that winning back to back CL titles is notoriously difficult. Bayern Munich are second favourites, despite the fact they are not having the best of seasons domestically. They have lost out on two domestic cups and are unable to overtake Bayer Leverkusen at the top of the table. Nevertheless, they remain an experienced European team. Real Madrid are third favourites and can never be counted out, they are by far the most successful European Cup team. Next up are Arsenal, followed by PSG and Inter. It is not easy to pick this year’s winner as so many teams don’t quite seem up to the usual standards.

The Upcoming Matches

FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City

RB Leipzig vs Real Madrid

Lazio vs Bayern Munich

PSG vs Real Sociedad

Inter vs Atletico Madrid

PSV vs Dortmund

FC Porto vs Arsenal

Napoli vs Barcelona

As one can see, the favourites have all been kept apart, something that they will likely be happy with at this first knockout stage. Despite this, there are some tough matchups in there and we are sure to see a couple of surprise results. FC Copenhagen, RB Leipzig and Lazio will have to work very hard in their first leg home matches as they will surely need a good scoreline going into the second legs. PSG will go into their home match against Real Sociedad confident of winning their home leg and Inter will do the same against another Spanish team, Atletico Madrid. PSV take on Dortmund in what should be an interesting clash with the German team favourites to go through overall but PSV favoured to win the first leg at home. FC Porto will surely need a positive result in their first leg match at home to Arsenal, but it is the visitors who are favourites to win in Portugal. There is very little to choose between Napoli and Barcelona in the first leg, with the Spanish giants slight favourites to leave Italy’s south coast with all three points, due to the Italian team’s poor performances this season. 

The 1/8 finals conclude on the 13th of March and the draw for the final rounds will then take place with the quarter-finals scheduled to start on the 9th of April. This year’s final will take place on the 1st of June at Wembley.

Last Updated: 13.02.2024

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