With less than a fortnight to go before the return of Europe’s most entertaining club competition, it’s time for a Champions League knockouts first leg preview. There are some fascinating encounters in store for the fans this time. Will champions Liverpool steamroll their way past struggling Atletico Madrid? Or will the magic of the cup repeat itself in Italy? It’s the LWOF blockbuster Champions League knockout first leg preview!
Champions League Knockout Stages: First Leg Preview
Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool
Is it possible to look past Jurgen Klopp’s reds as the best team in the world right now? Defending champions Liverpool have been in fantastic form, sitting atop the Premier League with a 22 point lead. Atletico, though, isn’t in the best of positions in La Liga. They haven’t been helped by injuries to Joao Felix and Diego Costa either. Although they seemed to have lost their spark under Diego Simeone, a trip to the Wanda Metropolitano will not be an easy one for Liverpool. Both teams play with styles that perfectly complement each other. One adept at sitting back and defending while the other capable of tearing apart teams that do sit back. Atletico will have to be very careful of the likes of Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk.
Borussia Dortmund vs Paris Saint-Germain
One of the more exciting fixtures to look forward to, this one could witness a lot of goals. Both teams have talented attackers who can score at will. Kylian Mbappe continues to shine for the Ligue 1 leaders while Dortmund’s young stars keep scoring for fun. With a combined total of 118 league goals, both teams could be in for an eventful night at the Signal Iduna. However, both Dortmund and PSG have been guilty of defending poorly throughout the season. Leaking goals and not being clinical enough in front of goal has been a worry for both teams. Marco Reus has already been ruled out of the 1st leg and there is no clear news regarding the availability of Neymar. Even then, this promises to be a very high- intensity contest. It will also be interesting to keep an eye on Thomas Tuchel as he comes up against his former side. PSG does seem to have better overall depth and quality. They might just have too much in the tank for Dortmund to handle.
Atalanta vs Valencia
Atalanta’s comeback to make it to the round of 16 was nothing short of a miracle. Valencia, on the other hand, put in some scintillating performances in their group. And now, they face each other in what promises to be another end-to-end fixture. Both teams love to attack by building up from the midfield. Evidence of this is some beautiful passing goals from both teams in the group stages. They’re both in an around the Champions League spots in their respective leagues. Needless to say, the confidence will be very high when they play each other. The likes of Josip Ilicic and Rodrigo will be the highlight of this tie. Both players have been in great form this season and will be looking to impact the game. It’s a very close one to call, but one thing is for sure. There will be loads of drama and action in this one.
Tottenham Hotspur vs RB Leipzig
Spurs against Leipzig promises to be another exhilarating clash. Having lost Harry Kane long-term, the London outfit seems to be starting to look more like a Jose Mourinho team. With the pace they have up front, they can sit back and wait to counter when given a chance. Leipzig, on the contrary, is a very direct team. Their blistering start to the Bundesliga might have faded away, but Timo Werner has been scoring left, right and centre for Nagelsmann’s side. His threating pace combined with a wonderful knack of scoring goals makes him a deadly striker. No wonder Leipzig is challenging Bayern for the title. Tactics aside, this one surely has a lot of goals in store. Mourinho’s experience in this competition is unparalleled but Leipzig’s youthful exuberance might just be enough to push them through.
Chelsea vs Bayern Munich
A Champions classic with history written all over it. Chelsea against Bayern has always given fans emotion and entertainment. Now, they face each other for the first time after an action-packed 2012 Champions League final. Bayern had a very rocky start to the season but they have slowly made their way to the top of the Bundesliga. Meanwhile, Chelsea themselves have been very erratic in the Premier League. Robert Lewandowski took the group stages by storm with 10 goals as Bayern breezed past their opponents. Chelsea had a much more uphill task, as their young side had to battle hard to get to the knockout phase. It’s certainly not an easy game for them but Lampard’s side have shown zeal and passion. However, Bayern seem to be favourites for this one. Stamford Bridge has witnessed a lot of classics over the years. Who knows, this could be another one.
Napoli vs Barcelona
Given their Champions League experience, this seems to be an easy one for the Spanish champions. Napoli hasn’t had the best of seasons by their standards either. They’re 11th in the Serie A and haven’t been exceptionally good like last season. However, this doesn’t mean Napoli can’t cause Barcelona problems. The Catalonian side saw the top spot in La Liga slip to Real Madrid and still seem to be adapting to Setien’s style. The San Paolo is a surprisingly fierce stadium for big teams. Both Juventus and Liverpool have faced excellent performances from Napoli, fueled by sheer desire and passion. Lorenzo Insigne will be a huge trump card for the Italian outfit but can you look past Lionel Messi? His performances keep defying the odds. The pure quality and magic he possesses are enough to terrorize defences by himself. This game surely has the potential to be a cracking contest.
Lyon vs Juventus
Arguably the easiest fixture of the round, it’s very hard to see Lyon causing an upset in this one. They have their task cut out because of Memphis Depay’s injury. And they haven’t been particularly good in Ligue 1 either, languishing in 8th place. Juventus, on the other hand, are top of Serie A. They haven’t quite had their usual domination in the league but the ever-reliable Cristiano Ronaldo keeps ushering them on. He’s etched his mark of quality on the league in some style too. Age is just a factor, as he keeps breaking records left and right.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City
What a tie this could turn out to be. All that can be said about this one is that it is going to be a fiesta. The fixture has goals, drama, emotion, and entertainment written all over it. Although Manchester City haven’t had the best of seasons by their usual standards, they possess one of the best squads in the world. Kevin de Bruyne is back to his brilliant best. Sergio Aguero has been scoring for fun when he’s in the mood. Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane are also expected to add to this already classy City side. However, La Liga’s table-toppers will be no pushover. The likes of an in-form Karim Benzema could be a huge worry for the English Champions. Madrid’s Champions League experience could be a huge factor in this one too. Will Zidane’s side showcase their Champions League dominance or will Guardiola’s Premier League champions prove to be too strong for them? Only time will tell.