As a continuation of my preview of 4 of the last-16 Champions League matchups from earlier this week (which you can read here).
It’s time to look at the other four matchups, and who has a strong chance of being part of the final 8.
Ajax @ Real Madrid (Agg. 1-2)
March 5- Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
The first leg of this matchup was controversial for a number of reasons. Real Madrid came away with the 2-1 victory in a hostile environment, but the Ajax fans will argue that it should have gone differently. Ajax looked to be on the front foot early on, and had plenty of chances, none better than in the 37th minute when Nicolas Tagliafico headed past Madrid goalie Thibaut Courtois to give Ajax the lead. However, the referee looked back at the video review (which is being used in the Champions League for the first time) and disallowed the goal, angering Ajax, their manager, and the home fans.
Real Madrid took full advantage of this ruling, went into halftime at 0-0, and used second-half goals by Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio to end the game with a 2-1 win. The disallowed goal was not the only controversial part of the game, however: Madrid defender Sergio Ramos is being investigated by UEFA for allegedly drawing a yellow card on purpose. The reason for this is- In the Champions League, every two yellow cards a player gets leads to a one-game suspension. But after every suspension, players get a clean slate. So Ramos, who already had a yellow card on his record from earlier rounds, allegedly got a yellow card in this first leg so that he will be suspended for the second leg, and if Real Madrid advances, he will go into the next round with a clean slate. If UEFA finds him guilty, he could be suspended for additional games after this next one against Ajax.
(As of 2/28, Ramos was suspended for the first leg of the next round, if Madrid advances)
All this being said, it is hard to see Ajax traveling to Madrid and leaving with a win, so bet on Madrid to advance to the next round.
Prediction: Ajax 1, Madrid 1 (2-3 aggregate score, Madrid advances)
Roma @ FC Porto (Agg. 2-1)
March 6- Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal
Soccer Highlights Today
Any time we head into the second leg of a matchup with the score of 2-1, you are looking at a very interesting second leg. The team ahead has to balance going forward trying to score, with defending and trying to not give up a tying goal. Meanwhile, the team behind has to throw everything forward to try and score, while also trying not to go behind 2 goals and bury themselves. The first leg was very intriguing- Roma’s youngster Nicolo Zaniolo struck twice in the second half before Adrian Lopez hit back for Porto, with a very important goal that gave them a huge lifeline going into the second leg.
Matchups like this, between two second-tier teams, will always be a toss-up, and hard to predict- but Roma seems to be the stronger side at the moment so I will favor them to go through to the next round.
Prediction: Roma 2, Porto 2 (4-3 aggregate score, Roma advances)
Olympique Lyon @ FC Barcelona (Agg. 0-0)
March 13- Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
The first leg of this matchup went about as well as Lyon could have hoped for. Of course, the best case scenario for them at home would have been to shut Barca out and score 3-4 goals, but this isn’t realistic. Holding Barcelona scoreless and putting the pressure on them to perform in the second leg at home is the result of a great defensive performance by Lyon- each team did have their chances but both defenses and keepers held strong.
This being said, it will still be a very difficult task for Lyon to come away with a win at a very difficult stadium to play in. If they get an early goal, look for them to pack everyone in a defensive position- because if this second leg ends in a 1-1 tie, Lyon would go through on the “away goals” rule. But it will be very difficult to keep Messi (33 goals this season), Luis Suarez (19), and Dembele (13) off the scoresheet and in my opinion, this will be their downfall.
Prediction: Barcelona 3, Lyon 1 (3-1 aggregate score, Barcelona advances)
Liverpool @ Bayern Munich (Agg. 0-0)
March 13- Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
For as hyped of a matchup as this was coming in, yes it might have been very competitive, but it unfortunately did not live up to the goal-scoring prowess that both teams have. The game ended scoreless, which no one would have guessed considering that both teams have the second most goals this season in their respective countries’ leagues. The two main contributors to that were both teams’ defenses playing extremely well, but also both teams missing chances that they’d be expected to put away.
Sadio Mane missed an absolute sitter from about 10 yards out:
Additionally to this, there were plenty more chances from both teams that went missing, most that can be seen here:
I expect the second leg of this matchup to be very different. I would be surprised if there aren’t at least 4 goals scored, and wouldn’t be shocked with as many as 7. This will make for a very exciting game, and one where, hopefully, both teams’ attacking strength and star power are on display beginning to end.
Prediction: Liverpool 3, Bayern 3 (Liverpool advances on away goals rule)
That does it for my predictions for the round of 16, feel free to leave your predictions in the comments and here’s to an entertaining round of matches!