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Champions League round of 16 preview: predicting who will qualify in each tie

The UEFA Champions League round of 16 gets underway on Valentines Day- 14 February.

All 16 teams will believe it could be they who are crowned champions of Europe at Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadyumu in İstanbul on 10 June, but some of football’s biggest names will fall in the first knockout round.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Bayern Munich

First leg: 14 February. Second leg: 8 March: Read more- PSG vs Bayern: 5 most memorable meetings

This is, without doubt, the heavyweight tie of the round, as the champions of France take on the champions of Spain.

On balance, Bayern Munich come into this one as favourites, not least because they’ve got the second leg at home next month.

Julian Nagelsmann’s team won all six group stage matches, scoring 18 goals and conceding just two, despite being drawn alongside Inter and Barcelona.

January singings Yann Sommer and João Cancelo have hit the ground running, with the Bavarian giants clicking into gear at just the right time.

Kylian Mbappé has been all but ruled out of the first leg, while Lionel Messi, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Presnel Kimpembe are all nursing knocks.

Les Parisiens have lost four of their last six round of 16 ties, with that trend likely to continue this year.

A.C. Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur

First leg: 14 February. Second leg: 8 March

When the draw was made on 7 November, this looked like a pretty even tie.

The good news for Tottenham Hotspur supporters is that, in more recent times, A.C. Milan have been a shambles.

I Rossoneri lost four successive matches, including a 4-0 hammering at Lazio and a 5-2 home reverse at the hands of Sassuolo.

Stefano Pioli’s team were also knocked out the Coppa Italia by ten-man Torino, and suffered two defeats at the hands of fierce rivals Inter.

On Friday night, Milan did, finally, claim their first victory since 4 January, with Olivier Giroud downing Torino.

Even so, Spurs will come into this one as favourites, despite Antonio Conte’s poor record in UEFA competitions.

Tottenham beat Manchester City at home earlier this month, showing they are still capable of competing in big games.

With the second leg to come in North London, even a draw at San Siro would leave Spurs in pole position to advance.

Borussia Dortmund vs Chelea

First leg: 15 February. Second leg: 7 March

Given what’s going on in West London, Borussia Dortmund will very much fancy their chances of getting through this one.

Die Schwarzgelben did only win twice in the group stages, but comfortably qualified above Sevilla and København.

More recently, Edin Terzić’s team have been in terrific form, winning all six matches since the World Cup.

Earlier this month, Sébastien Haller scored his first for the club, having recovered from testicular cancer and, from a pure sporting viewpoint, he makes such a difference.

Dortmund haven’t beaten an English team at home in the Champions League since 2014, but that is likely to change on Wednesday.

As for Chelsea, where on earth do you start?

Due to a UEFA rule, only three of their eight January signings are eligible to play in this competition.

Enzo Fernández, Mykhailo Mudryk and João Félix have been added to the squad but, most notable, Benoît Badiashile, who’s been starting every week in the Premier League, has not.

Graham Potter’s team did win four successive matches to conclude the group phase, but have won just two of their last 15 domestically.

A home win looks likely at Westfalenstadion but, who knows, by the time the second leg rolls around, Chelsea might just have it all figured out… right?

Club Brugge vs Benfica

First leg: 15 February. Second leg: 7 March

Can this season’s surprise package Club Brugge pick up where they left off in the Autumn?

The Belgian champions won their first three group games, before failing to win any of the last three.

This did see them eliminate Bayer Leverkusen and Atlético Madrid, but were pipped to top spot by Porto on the final matchday.

Since then, Blauw-Zwart have sacked manager Carl Hoefkens with Scott Parker, yes really, taking over.

However, things have not gone to plan for Parker, who’s won just one of seven matches in charge, leaving them fourth in the Jupiler Pro League.

So, Benfica cannot believe their luck, as they can’t have come into many Champions League knockout ties as firm favourites before.

Roger Schmidt’s team eased through the group phase unbeaten, notable beating Juventus home and away.

Crucially, they enjoyed a pair of draws with PSG and then, by smashing Maccabi Haifa 6-1, pipped the French champions to top spot, by virtue of away goals scored, the seventh tiebreaker.

Domestically, As Águias are five points clear at the top of the Primeira Liga, now seeking to reach the European Cup quarter-finals in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1969.

The first leg at Jan Breydelstadion will be a scrappy, low-scoring affair, but Benfica should ease through in the end.

Liverpool vs Real Madrid

First leg: 21 February. Second leg: 15 March

A repeat of last season’s final, although neither are as strong as they were when they last met in Paris nine months ago.

In Liverpool’s case, the drop-off has been enormous, currently sat tenth in the Premier League, having failed to win any of their four matches in 2023 so far.

Jürgen Klopp’s side look a shadow of their former selves, so, all other things being equal, should have no chance of getting through this one.

However, the Reds were generally impressive in the group phase.

On matchday one, they were taken apart by Napoli at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, but bounced back well, winning all five fixture subsequently.

Real Madrid also are not as strong as the side that, last season, ousted PSG, Chelsea, Man City and then Liverpool en route to picking up their 14th European Cup.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team won just one of their three group stage away games, and this was a hard-fought victory at Celtic Park.

Meanwhile, in La Liga, los Blancos are 11 points adrift leaders Barcelona, following recent away defeats at Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal and Mallorca.

Los Merengues were crowned champions champions of the world for the eighth time on Saturday, beating Al Hilal 5-3 in Saturday’s FIFA Club World Cup Final, but are certainly not the best team around in reality.

So, a Liverpool victory at Anfield wouldn’t surprise many but, with the second leg at the Bernabéu to come, Real are still strong favourites to advance.

Eintracht Frankfurt vs Napoli

First leg: 21 February. Second leg: 15 March

Napoli have never reached the European Cup/Champions League quarter-finals, falling at the round of 16 stage four times.

Given how Luciano Spalletti’s team are playing right now, that’ll surely change and, who knows, they might just be amongst the favourites to go all the way.

I Partenopei have been simply sensational in Serie A this season, sat 16 points clear at the top, having won 19 of 22 matches so far.

In the Champions League too, Napoli scored 20 goals in six group games, notably smashing Liverpool 4-1 and then Ajax 6-1 in Amsterdam.

With a first Scudetto since 1990 pretty much in the bag, can the Neapolitans make a splash in this tournament too?

Opponents Eintracht Frankfurt did win last season’s Europa League, so are competing in this competition for the first time since reaching the final 63 years ago.

Thus, Die Adler were just delighted to get beyond the group phase, doing so thanks to a comeback 2-1 victory over Sporting in Lisbon on the final matchday.

Oliver Glasner’s team are sixth in the Bundesliga, so will be no push-overs, but Europe’s in-form team from Southern Italy are strong favourites to get through.

RB Leipzig vs Manchester City

First leg: 22 February. Second leg: 14 March

Will these two serve up another goal-fest?

In last season’s group phase, Manchester City beat RB Leipzig 6-3 at the Etihad, before the German club prevailed 2-1 in a dead-rubber at home.

That is the Citizens’ only defeat in Germany since September 2014 and, despite being strong favourites to advance, this tie will not be easy.

Pep Guardiola’s team cruised through this year’s group phase, winning their first three matches, before taking it easy in the last three.

However, in the Premier League, they’re three points below leaders Arsenal, following recent defeats to Man United and Tottenham.

In short, the Sky Blues will probably get through to the quarter-finals, but RB Leipzig will have something to say about that.

They’ve really found their mojo under Marco Rose recently, losing just once since the winter beak, notably drawing 1-1 with Bayern Munich last month.

Die Roten Bullen have won their last two Champions League home games, against Celtic and Real Madrid.

The only time they’ve previously won three on the spin, this culminated in crucial victory over the other side of Manchester.

Don’t be too surprise if the Premier League champions are seriously tested at Red Bull Arena, even if they’re strong favourites to ultimately get through.

Internazionale Milano vs Porto

First leg: 22 February. Second leg: 14 March

Can Internazionale Milano reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2011, back when they were the holders?

I Nerazzurri ousted Barcelona in the group phase, beating the Catalan giants 1-0 at San Siro, before a truly manic 3-3 draw at Camp Nou.

More recently, Simone Inzaghi’s team have started to find form in Serie A, swatting aside A.C. Milan in the Derby della Madonnina earlier this month.

However, all Inter supporters will be wary of the threat Porto can pose.

The Portuguese champions actually lost their first two group games, including being embarrassingly hammered 4-0 by Club Brugge at Estádio do Dragão.

After that though, Sérgio Conceição’s side won four on the spin, conceding just once, so not only qualified, but did so in first place.

In recent seasons, the Dragões have made a habit of knocking out Italian opposition, recording wins over Lazio, A.C. Milan, Juventus and Roma under Conceição.

This tie is likely to be low-scoring, with Inter desperate to take a lead with them to Northern Portugal on 14 March.

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Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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