There’s honestly nothing better than the UEFA Champions League returning in the midst of a hectic semester. Hearing the angelic “the chaaampiooonsss!” makes you forget everything going on for 90 minutes. This time around, it’s the first leg of the Round of 16; and there are some great fixtures that will be played today and Wednesday. Per usual, I give a small insight to how the teams are doing and my prediction for this first round.
Barcelona vs. PSG (Feb. 16)
To start off this week of European soccer, this is probably the game to watch. A bittersweet history, which included the famous ‘La Remontada;’ it’ll be interesting to see if history will repeat itself or if it will go the other way.
Starting with the Catalonian giants, they’ll be entering the match in alright form. Fresh off a 5-1 win against Alavés, Barcelona has won three more matches in the past five with Its only defeat from a 2-0 Copa del Rey first-leg semi-final. If you were to ask me a few weeks ago who I thought was going to win this leg, I would’ve easily said PSG. However, with Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi getting back in-form, and the club going from the mid-table to third in La Liga, it’ll be a tough game to call. Culers will just have to hope Ronald Koeman doesn’t play Lenglet as Pique could see a return in the squad after having a knee injury.
This doesn’t mean the Parisians won’t put up a great fight. Currently runners-up to Lille in Ligue 1, PSG are in a similar form, winning all but one match in their past five. There’s no doubt about it that PSG have a lethal set of forwards, like Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, but with Neymar getting injured recently, it wouldn’t be bad shout for Moise Kean or Julian Draxler to take his spot for the time being. Their defense, on the other hand, is what could cost them a defeat. Additionally, the potential of Marco Verratti returning to the squad list from injury could help boost the Parisians’ performance.
A great game to watch if you’re a neutral, but something tells me Barcelona’s going to barely come out on top. Prediction: Barcelona 3–2 PSG
Sevilla vs. Borussia Dortmund (Feb. 17)
Not as neutral-friendly as the match above, but it’s still a game I would argue for you to put on your radar this week.
Starting with the home side, Sevilla knows their way around these European championships; and given the fact they haven’t lost a match across all competitions since Jan. 12, they’ll be ready to strike.
The Spanish club’s most in-form player on the night will be none other than Youssef En-Nesyri, who scored four of Sevilla’s past seven goals in the Champions League. Given his more physical style of soccer and his agility on the ball, don’t be surprised to see En-Nesyri pick off Dortmund’s defense. Another player manager Julen Lopetegui will hope to perform well is Papu Gómez, who recently joined the team in the January window from Atalanta.
As for Dortmund, it’s difficult to find much support as I do for Sevilla. Sure, the BVB have players like Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Giovanni Reyna to bring a lethal attacking force, but they simply haven’t been in their greatest form in the Bundesliga to prove this. However, they did have a decent start in the group stage by finishing at the top of their group, so they could continue to their European form. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening for Edin Terzic’s men. Prediction: Sevilla 3-1 Borussia Dortmund