Champions league get started again. It’s the Knockout Stages – the business end of the competition.
The draw was good for certain teams and not so good for others. From the big boy’s point of view, Liverpool, on paper, look like they’ve got a pretty tough draw. I still think pound-for-pound, Liverpool have far too much experience and quality to let Inter worry them.
Bayern will be up there as favourites again. It will be a lot about whether they’ve wrapped up the Bundesliga by the time the back end of this competition comes into play. It’s always been a bit of a problem for them; they sort of take their foot off the gas. They’ll need to go into their games mentally and physically prepared for them.
Even though they’re on top of the La Liga table, Real Madrid don’t necessarily have the firepower or influence this season to win the competition.
With regards to Paris Saint-Germain. You just don’t know what you’re going to get at this point. Their superstars can turn up and produce an unbelievable performance, or they can get knocked out. You still have to treat them with respect, of course.
The two other English teams, Manchester City and Chelsea – you can’t rule them out.
There’s plenty of quality left in the competition, but obviously, the draw plays a big factor once you go through – who you stay away from. For me, the ones to look out for are still Liverpool, Manchester City and Bayern Munich. They’ll probably be the favourites.
As an outsider, Ajax will raise a few eyebrows as one of the only teams to go through the Group Stage without losing a single game. In that respect, Ajax have scored a lot of goals this season, and they play very expansive football. You have to look at them as outside favourites – like a few seasons ago when they almost got to the final. They would be a possible outsider to go all the way. Have they got enough experience to win it? – I’m not so sure, but I would like to see them go far!
Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United
Having watched Atletico Madrid against Liverpool, I think that Atletico paid them a little too much respect. Only once they went a few goals down did they roll their sleeves up and start showing a bit of quality. It was then you saw the real Atletico Madrid.
Simeone will certainly be pushing his players to get a performance against Manchester United. Home and away, he’s got two bits of the cherry.
Manchester United have the tools and the players to go far in this competition – certainly enough to get past Atletico Madrid. It’s more about whether it gels for them over the two legs. I’m not so sure Rangnick will be able to do it; I think Simeone will get the better of him. I think out of the four British teams, it will be United that fall short.
I think Atletico will want to take the second leg at Old Trafford with some kind of a lead, and I can see that happening. I’m going to go for a 2-0 Ateltico Win against Manchester United at home.
- A 2-0 Atletico Madrid win is available at 10/1 (11.00).
Inter vs Liverpool
I think Liverpool have enough firepower to go to the San Siro – which they already have this season and beat AC Milan – and do the job in Italy. I think Anfield will be a foregone conclusion.
I don’t see any slip-ups here for Liverpool. Certainly, there’s quality in this Inter Milan team. At home, they’ll want to score and take something to Anfield. They’ll know Anfield will be a mountain to climb – certainly if they’ve conceded or lost the game in Milan.
I’m actually going to go for a narrow 1-0 victory for Liverpool.
- A 1-0 Liverpool win is available at 6/1 (7.00).
Chelsea vs Lille
Lille have done well to get out of their group, but I don’t think they’ll offer a big challenge to Chelsea over two legs.
I don’t think Chelsea will have any problems getting past Lille. Lille, winners of Ligue 1 last season, but it’s not going to plan this season. They’re sitting 10th and they don’t seem to score a lot of goals. Defensively they’ve got the fourth or fifth-worst record in the league, and that will put a smile on Tuchel’s face – who has got firepower in abundance.
Lukaku will see this as an opportunity to score a few goals and gain some confidence. I can’t see this being a problem for Chelsea over two legs. At the Bridge, it will be a foregone conclusion, and I’m going to go for 4-0 Chelsea.
- A 4-0 Chelsea win is available at 13/1 (14.00).
Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City
Well, Sporting aren’t doing exceptionally well this season in their domestic league. I don’t think they should offer too much of a challenge to Manchester City. Pep is desperate for this trophy, and he won’t mess up against Sporting Lisbon.
I don’t think Sporting Lisbon will pose any problem to Manchester City. In the last few seasons – maybe an area in which Pep has fallen short is maybe wanting it a bit too much in the latter end of the competition. Usually, he gets his side out of the first round knockout stage.
I see an away win for Manchester City, and I don’t see any upset here at all. I’m going to go for a 2-0 away win for Manchester City against Sporting.
- A 2-0 Manchester City win is available at 11/2 (6.50).
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid
The draw – well, the second draw – has pulled out this unbelievable fixture. In years gone by, this would have been such a glamorous game – it still is on paper, and there’s certainly lots of quality out there, especially from the PSG point of view, with Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos.
Loads of quality and stardust in this fixture.
Real Madrid, although they’re on top of La Liga, Real Madrid, they’re not the force they were a few years ago.
I just can’t see a team like PSG, who are desperately trying to win this competition, slip up at this stage. It will be a fascinating matchup over two legs, but I think PSG will go through with their quality and experience PSG will go through over the two legs.
From my Liverpool experience, in two-legged competitions, it’s always good to play the away game first. For PSG, it’s not worked out that way as they go to Madrid second. They’ll want to put some goals past Real Madrid in Paris and look to take a heavy lead back to Madrid.
I’m going to go for a 3-1 win. I think Madrid will give themselves an opportunity with an away goal, but I’ll go 3-1 for Paris Saint-Germain.
- A 3-1 PSG win is available at 14/1 (15.00).
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*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing