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Champions League Round of 16 Preview – Week 1

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The Champions League returns and there’s some eye catching fixtures from the first week of the Round of 16. I’ve covered week one of the knockouts in this Champions League preview below.

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AC Milan vs Tottenham

This is an intriguing tie because both sides are experiencing hit and miss form but each side will fancy their chances of advancing and building some confidence.

How are they fairing this season?

AC Milan won the Scudetto last season, yet this time around, they’ve been miles off it. They’re in 5th position currently which isn’t disastrous, but they’re a whopping 18 points behind pace-setters Napoli already.

The league position of Milan isn’t the most worrying thing, it’s their recent form and performances of late which have been subpar. They’ve lost three of their last four Serie A matches which include heavy 4-0 and 5-2 defeats to Lazio and Sassuolo respectively, before losing to rivals Inter.

They won their last match against Torino but the performance was again below the level expected and it’s hard to say they were deserving of the win.

Spurs are so difficult to read right now. They picked up that impressive 1-0 home win over Man City, but then went on to suffer a heavy 4-1 defeat at Leicester over the weekend. It’s difficult to ever know what to expect with them.

How did they reach this stage?

Milan finished second in Group E, a group that they shared with Chelsea, Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb. They won three of their six matches and scored the most goals out of all four sides with 12.

Spurs won their group, and it was a tight one with three other strong clubs in Frankfurt, Sporting and Marseille. They didn’t set the group alight with just eight goals scored, but they did suffer just a single defeat.

Who will advance?

It’s a huge advantage that Spurs get to host the concluding leg at the Totteham Hotspur Stadium and one that holds great weight. Conte’s side will fancy their chances at the San Siro, but as long as they avoid defeat, I think they’ll be big favourites to reach the last eight of the Champions League.

It’s weird to say that Milan are in an unfamiliar stage, but it is their first appearance in the Champions League Last 16 since 2013/14. Stefano Piolo is under great pressure, and he must be worried considering Milan have lost four of their last five in all competitions.

Predicted outcome: Tottenham to advance

PSG vs Bayern

Clash of the titans this one and it’s a repeat of the 2015 final in Lisbon where Bayern ran out 1-0 winners thanks to Kingsley Coman. Unfortunately, it was played behind closed doors due to the pandemic, but we should be treated to two bumper crowds with good atmospheres this time around.

How are they fairing this season?

PSG are top of Ligue 1 currently, exactly where you’d expect them to be. Although all things considered, things aren’t too rosey for PSG right now. They come into a match against Bayern having suffered successive defeats against Marseille and Monaco.

Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi were listed as injury doubts ahead of the first leg but both have been included in the first leg squad and that must be a huge boost.

As for Bayern, they’re top of the German Bundesliga, but they haven’t had it all their way this season. Union Berlin set a strong pace and Borussia Dortmund are also in great form which means Bayern have serious competition domestically.

How did they reach this stage?

PSG enjoyed an unbeaten Champions League Group Stage campaign. They shared a group with Benfica, Juventus, and Israeli side Maccabi Haifa.

There was a monumental situation in this one as Benfica won the group on the number of goals scored away from home. Both they and PSG won four games and drew two, and they both scored 16 goals and conceded seven. To add to the madness, both games between PSG and Benfica finished 1-1.

Bayern were another side who came through the group unscathed. Staggeringly, they won all six group matches despite sharing it with both Inter Milan and Barcelona. Czech side Viktoria Plzen were the unfortunate whipping boys.

Bayern’s domination was great. They scored 18 goals across their six Champions League group matches and they only conceded two goals.

Who will advance?

PSG are one of the strongest sides in Europe, but arguably, there can’t be a better time to face them than now. Bayern get to take on the Parisian side while they’re out of form and are missing key players. The loss of Mbappe for their home tie is a huge blow.

Bayern are a versatile side in that they can dominate and thrash sides like they did against Plzen in the Group Stages. And they can also allow sides to have more possession and focus on the counter attacking side of the game with the likes of Sane, Gnabry and Musiala. They beat Barcelona twice despite the Spaniards having more of the ball on each occasion.

Predicted outcome: Bayern to advance

Club Brugge vs Benfica

There’s no doubting that Benfica are the bigger club here, and they’re big favourites to advance at just 1.29 to advance. They’re also odds-on to win the first leg of the tie in Belgium.

How are they fairing this season?

Club Brugge finished as runners up in the Belgian Pro League last season over the course of the regular 34 game campaign. At the minute, they’re currently in 4th place and a large 20 points behind leaders Genk.

Benfica will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Club Brugge in their current form. They’ve won just one of their last nine matches across all competitions.

Benfica are enjoying a great season domestically. They’re top of the Portuguese league, five points ahead of Porto, and they’ve suffered just a single defeat all season. They’ve outscored every other side in the league and they also boast the joint-best defence.

How did they reach this stage?

It’s fair to say that it was unexpected that Club Brugge would reach the Champions League Last 16 and they’ve done incredibly well. They finished second in a group which included Porto, Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid.

Club Brugge beat Porto 4-0 away from home, so they’ll be dreaming of achieving a similar feat against another Portuguese giant over the course of their two attempts.

That achievement of edging out PSG on away goals in the Group Stage led to Benfica being able to take on Club Brugge rather than Bayern Munich, causing a huge sigh of relief I’m sure.

Who will advance?

Benfica should advance here because of their European prowess, their current form and the fact that they’re taking on an out of sorts an inexperienced Club Brugge side.

Benfica also boast having some incredible talent. They have a young goalscorer in Goncalo Ramos who impressed at the World Cup with Portugal, and they’ve also got Rafa Silva who created 11 open-play chances during the Group Stages, more than any other Benfica player.

Predicted outcome: Benfica to advance

Dortmund vs Chelsea

This is another heavyweight clash of this year’s Last 16 in the Champions League, German side Borussia Dortmund against Graham Potter’s Chelsea.

There isn’t much in it with the bookies struggling to split the two sides in the first leg, however Chelsea are the odds-on favourite to advance at 1.47.

How are they fairing this season?

Dortmund are having a strong season domestically, but it may appear that way with Bayern having dropped a lot of points. Dortmund have already lost six matches in the league, but they’re just three points from the table’s summit.

You can’t fault Dortmund’s current form, they’re a run of six successive wins in all competitions. They’ll be buoyed by their home performances in the Group Stages of this year’s Champions League also, they trashed Copenhagen and secured draws against Sevilla and Man City.

Chelsea are in a transitional period right now with lots of new signings coming into the club and Potter trying to put his stamp on the team. Chelsea are 9th in the Premier League which isn’t good enough, but the focus will likely be on the Champions League and more long-term thinking.

How did they reach this stage?

Dortmund shared a group with Man City which never makes things easy, but they did manage to finish in second ahead of Spanish side Sevilla. They lost just a single game and kept things tight with just five goals conceded.

Chelsea won four of their six matches in the group and finished top ahead of AC Milan who they beat twice by five goals to nil on aggregate. They lost the opener against Zagreb which led to the exit of Thomas Tuchel, but they went unbeaten across their next five, winning the last four in succession.

Who will advance?

Like Tottenham, Chelsea have the advantage here in the sense that they’ll place the second leg at home and in front of their own fans at Stamford Bridge. That’s always a huge advantage.

Chelsea have lost just two of their last 15 matches at the Bridge in all competitions and those defeats came at the hands of Arsenal and Man City. Potter has come in and made Chelsea effective on the defensive front, and they’ll have confidence in beating Dortmund who’ve lost just under a third of their league matches.

Predicted outcome: Chelsea advance

That’s all for this Champions League preview. Come back next week where we have more European action. You can also check out my Bet Builder Stats Packs for each of the games if you’re picking a bet builder.

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