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We’ve reached the business end of the 2013-14 Champions League, with eight teams emerging from six rounds of group stage action.
We correctly predicted eleven of the sixteen teams that progressed to the Round of 16 in our group stage predictions, with the only real surprises coming in the form of Olympiacos and Galatasary, both of whom unexpectedly emerged from tough groups at the expense of Benfica and Juventus respectively.
What lies ahead is two rounds of eight matches between the remaining teams, with a draw used to establish the match-ups for the next stage of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League. The draw for the Round of 16 was:
|Round of 16 draw|
|Schalke 04||vs.||Real Madrid|
|Zenit St Petersburg||vs.||Borussia Dortmund|
A look at the table quickly yields three teams that are likely to reach the quarterfinals, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid all benefiting from a relatively easy draw. Borussia Dortmund also look like strong contenders to get past Zenit St. Petersburg, given their impressive showing in the challenging Group F.
However, the remaining fixtures are more challenging to predict.
Manchester City vs Barcelona
Manchester City is currently the form club in the Premier League, while Barcelona are in the thick of the battle for the Primera Division title against Real Madrid. The match between these two sides is arguably the toughest fixture in the Round of 16, with both teams embroiled in title chases back home but counted amongst the genuine Champions League title contenders. Manchester City scored more points and achieved more wins than Barcelona in the group stages, and given their hunger to achieve something in Europe look like the more dangerous team for this tie. It could go either way, but with Barcelona somewhat off their best, City’s our pick to progress.
AC Milan vs Altetico Madrid
AC Milan are not in great shape this season and are already out of the running for the Serie A title. We can expect a major effort from them on the European stage, but their overall lack of form will make them vulnerable against an Atletico Madrid side that is currently challenging the powerhouses of Spanish football in the Primera Division. The Spaniards focus on their domestic league may distract them from their task in Europe, but given that the team dominated Group G we expect them to progress.
Bayer Leverkusen vs PSG
The result of Bayer Leverkusen against PSG is one of the most difficult to predict. The French side are currently leading Ligue 1 back home and were convincing winners in Champions League Group C. However, Bayer Leverkusen can’t simply be dismissed as they’re currently second behind a runaway Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, and did well to emerge from arguably the toughest qualifying group, Group A. Ultimately this tie is unlikely to produce the tournament winner, but PSG seems the most likely of the two sides to edge the tie.
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
Finally we have a massive tie in the form of Arsenal against Bayern Munich. Arsenal have led the Premier League for much of the season, but were relatively flat in the Champions League group stages as they snuck into the round of 16 by finishing second in Group F. With Arsenal locked in a battle with Manchester City as they attempt to secure their first Premier League title since 2004, the side is going to have a tough time balancing their domestic campaign with European commitments. This means that Arsene Wenger will most likely focus his resources on winning the Premiership.
Bayern Munich have been virtually unstoppable in the Bundesliga this season, and will need to implode spectacularly if they are to miss out on the league title for 2013-14. This should free up resources for Pepe Guardiola to focus on defending the club’s Champions League title. This difference in priorities between Arsenal and Bayern is likely to play into the hands of the Germans, and we expect Arsenal to be eliminated from the tournament come March 12th.
With this assessment in mind, the most likely teams to qualify for the quarterfinals of the 2013-14 Champions League are:
From the quarterfinals onwards things are set to get even more interesting, as several teams attempt to balance European and domestic duties, while the soft draw given to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United could see them emerge from this round with greater momentum than the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich.
We’re still backing Real Madrid to win the tournament. Not only is Cristiano Ronaldo in top form for his side, but they’ve been handed a relatively soft draw which should allow them to preserve their resources ahead of the next three knockout rounds.
Much will depend on quarterfinal draw, but with Real Madrid still priced 9/2 at Paddy Power ahead of the Round of 16, and each-way bets paying out to second place at 1/2 odds, you won’t get a better option than an each-way punt on the Spaniards at this stage of the tournament.
|Champions League - Manchester City v FC Barcelona 19:45-|
|Click red odds to strike a bet|
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