The biggest club competition has finally made it to the knockout stage, the real nitty gritty, the place where legends are made and tears are shed. Yes 16 teams battle it out to be crowned the best team in Europe for the 2015-16 season, but which of these 16 teams are likely to take that next step into the quarter finals?
Paris Saint Germain v Chelsea
If you look at the two teams league position then there can really only be one winner, PSG are streaks ahead in France and Chelsea are a lower mid table team in England, it seems like a total no brainer, but I’m not so sure.
To be fair it is hard for me to critique PSG too much because I don’t watch French football (I mean why would you?) but I have seen them in Europe for a number of seasons, and I can’t help but think that they are the most over rated team in Europe. They have some good players, but they also have players who are vastly over rated, and when you consider that Ligue 1 is terrible (their top teams out with PSG can’t hold onto players when relegation fodder from better leagues come calling) I think that people have got way too carried away.
Chelsea were obviously quite unlucky with the draw, but it could have been worse. Since Hiddink joined Chelsea haven’t lost, however I wouldn’t describe them as being in good form as such. The thing about Chelsea is that despite having had a terrible season up until now, they do have a good first eleven, who are more than capable of doing things. They have defensive issues with injuries to Zouma and Terry which will give them problems, which will cause worries for Chelsea fans. The thing about Chelsea is that the last time they were so dire they ended up winning the whole thing, this Chelsea team is better than that one and they also have a better manager.
For all the world PSG should win this game and if they don’t it will be embarrassing for them, however I have a sneaky suspicion that Chelsea will just take it. For me this is a very tight tie, what makes it more intense is that this is both of these teams’ seasons, nothing else really matters.
Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg
Not what can be described as a great tie, Benfica and Zenit were two of the teams who everyone wanted to draw, so naturally they drew each other. Zenit were surprisingly effective in the group stages, but I can’t help but think that in a better group they wouldn’t have qualified. The thing being that Zenit are doing ok in the Russian league, but only ok and they are just coming off of the long winter break, they’ll likely be rusty. Benfica aren’t that great but they know what it takes and I think they’ll take advantage of a sluggish Zenit to get through to the quarters, where they will be one of the teams everyone hopes to draw.
Gent v Wolfsburg
Probably the worst tie of the last 16, the two teams that most people wanted to draw managed to draw each other (winner of this will almost certainly draw winner of Benfica v Zenit). No offence to Gent who have done fabulous do make it this far in their first ever Champions League campaign, however I just can’t see a situation where Wolfsburg don’t go through this tie.
Roma v Real Madrid
Roma didn’t really deserve to go through and Real Madrid are one of the best teams in Europe, pretty obvious who is going to win this one.
Real currently don’t look like a team who could go on and win it all, however they’ve been handed a favourable tie and who knows, maybe by the time the quarters come around Zizou will have them playing lights out, however currently they look fragile. Yes, they have the players who are capable of winning the big one, but the midfield is bossed when up against a better side and the defence is all over the place. Real better hope the draw falls very kindly, otherwise they will be lucky to make it past the quarter finals.
So if you’ve been keeping up with the post so far you will have worked out that I have Chelsea, Benfica, Wolfsburg and Real Madrid going through to the quarter finals. Two of the games are pretty clear cut and the other two are pretty tight.
I do have to question the way that UEFA have split the games up, with PSG-Chelsea being the obvious must watch on their quarter, but the second quarter is very weak. What makes this worse is that they have Juve-Bayern and Arsenal-Barca in the same quarter, two of the three best games at this stage, pretty silly if you ask me.
If you’re interested then why not check out my review of the group stages, where I shed tears over another pitiful display by Manchester United.