For a lot of football fans around the world, the Champions League is the single greatest football tournament in the world not named the World Cup. So with the first two matches of the Round of 16 on the horizon, now’s the time to get your popcorn ready and enjoy some of the finest football you’ll see in the calendar year. And yes, that includes the World Cup this July.
Two games are on tap tonight, one featuring Bayer Leverkusen taking on Paris-St. Germain and the other pitting a titanic contest between Manchester City and FC Barcelona.
Bayer Leverkusen vs PSG
Bayer Leverkusen has been a revelation in the German Bundesliga this season and if they can carry their form against Paris-St. Germain, they have the capabilities to make a splash on the European stage. Saying it, though, is one thing; actually doing it is another thing entirely. We don’t expect Leverkusen to give PSG a strong run for its money, especially if ‘ol Zlatan Ibrahimovich is firing on all cylinders. The PSG striker already has 8 goals to his name in the competition and with away goals becoming more of a premium at this stage of the tournament, look for PSG to capitalize on scooping up 1 to 2 goals to bring back to Paris for the second leg.
The French team is favored in this game, although a 1-1 draw could be in the cards before PSG runs roughshod on Leverkusen back in France.
Manchester City vs FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi’s return to form couldn’t have come at a better time for the Spanish outfit. Then again, the same can be said for his counterpart in Manchester City and Argentinian teammate Sergio Aguero. City vs Barca is, without question, the most high-profile match-up in the Round of 16, largely attributed to the insane firepower both teams have on their side.
When it comes to a match of this caliber, it’s easy to point at the potency of both teams’ attacking side, but what could end up playing the biggest role is experience. One team is still largely a neophyte on the European stage while the other is universally regarded as one of the elite teams in the continent.
Man City got the short end of the stick getting drawn opposite a hungry Barcelona team that’s looking to make amends a year after it got demolished by eventual champs Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final. It’s worth noting that Messi was playing hurt then, but he’s ready and raring to go this season.
Man City is knocking at the door, no question, but Barcelona isn’t likely to let them in just yet.
Look for the Spanish outfit to take both games, with tonight’s contest at the Etihad likely to be decided by a single goal.