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Champions League round of 16 preview: predicting who will qualify in this week’s ties

Last week’s four Champions League ties produced just five goals. But fear not, four more match-ups are coming your way on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Liverpool vs Real Madrid

First leg: 21 February. Second leg: 15 March – read more: Liverpool vs Real Madrid- 5 most memorable meetings

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.

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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