The road to the Champions League Final continues this week with the culmination of the first leg of the round of 16. The eight teams vying to advance this week represent five different leagues in Europe, each having their own unique style of play. With the second leg of the home and away format scheduled for March, each team will want to put themselves in a favorable position to advance heading into the second leg of this competition.
Let’s see which teams will be advancing beyond the round of 16.
Juventus vs. Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund advanced out of group play that included two weaker teams, Anderlecht and Galatasaray. While having won three straight matches in the Bundesliga, they currently find themselves in eleventh position, and this tournament is their final opportunity to win some silverware for their efforts.
It would seem that they have a difficult road ahead, however. Juventus currently holds the top spot in Serie A, ten points clear of their nearest rivals. Both teams have veteran leadership, with Dortmund led by Marco Reus and Juventus anchored by Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon. With this match being played in Turin, it affords the Italians a huge advantage, having not lost at home in their last forty matches.
Dortmund will need to make the most of their opportunities, relying on counterattacking and set pieces. In the end, though, there are too many factors favoring the Italian side and Juventus will easily prevail.
Prediction: Juventus 4, Borussia Dortmund 1
Manchester City vs. FC Barcelona
When one thinks of Barca, images of Messi and Neymar come to mind. But this is a team that has performed unevenly this year, on the road and at home. This weekend saw them fall 1-0 to a lowly-ranked Malaga squad at the Camp Nou, managing only five shots on frame in spite of fielding a potent offense. Within their respective leagues, these teams have much in common, as each find themselves in second place.
While Barcelona is the favorite to advance out of the round of 16, they should not take last season’s EPL Champions lightly. Coming off a 5-0 drubbing of Newcastle United this weekend, they are a solid team with no discernible weaknesses, from Vincent Kompany in the back to Sergio Aguero up top. With this match being played at Etihad Stadium, look for Manuel Pellegrini’s men to play with fire and disrupt Barcelona’s offense while creating offensive havoc for Barca’s back four.
Prediction: Manchester City 3, Barcelona 1
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid
Bayer advanced out of group play in second position in a group that included AS Monaco, Zenit St. Petersburg and Benfica, and were expected to advance based upon the group they competed in. Advancing beyond the group stage may prove to be a difficult challenge, and Diego Simeone’s squad is expected to give Bayer more than they can handle.
Currently in third position behind Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the Rojiblancos lack the financial resources of the top two teams, but are nipping at their heels in the third spot. Bayer is a well-managed team as well, and is currently in sixth position in the Bundesliga. This game will be played at BayArena in the North Rhine, and the home field will prove to keep the match closely contested.
Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 1, Atletico Madrid 1
Arsenal vs. AS Monaco
Monaco advanced out of the same group as Bayer Leverkusen, which was expected against lesser-talented opponents. Arsenal can be expected to provide more than ample competition for Les Rouges et Blancs, who finished last season in second place in Ligue 1 but this season find themselves fighting for the fourth spot in the table.
Arsenal started the season somewhat sluggishly, but seem to have found their form under the steady leadership of Arsene Wenger and have overtaken rivals Manchester United for the third spot in the EPL table.
With the match being played at Emirates Stadium, look for Arsenal to take advantage of a stout defense and free-flowing offense led by Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez, with the ever-dangerous Olivier Giroud up front. More importantly, Arsenal will not concede a goal to Monaco, making the second leg of the competition that much more difficult for Monaco.
Prediction: Arsenal 3, AS Monaco 0