Champions League 2015 Round of 16 – Part II

Tuesday, February 24

Man City vs Barcelona

champions league logoTwo goals from David Silva in a 5-0 beat down on Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium was an ominous reminder to their rival Barcelona what kind of team they will be dealing with coming into Tuesday’s Champions League match. Man City totally dismantled Newcastle’s defence and played like a championship contending team. In the recent past they had not played well at home but now gaining momentum, and with Yaya Toure back in the fold, they probably feel more confident.

They were so confident in fact that the coach spared Sergio Aguero and Silva the last half an hour to keep them fresh for Barcelona. They should have the psychological advantage against Luis Enrique’s side on Tuesday who lost at home 1-0 home to Pellegrini’s former club Malaga on Saturday. Pellegrini said in a news conference: “We are going to try from the beginning as we did today to be an aggressive team and to try and score goals because it is important.” We believe he will get revenge for being knocked out by Barcelona at the same stage last season.

Our Pick: Man City over Barcelona 3-1

Juventus vs Dortmund

Juventus’ defender Giorgio Chiellini is insistant that they will give their all to win in the upcoming Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday. In an interview with media he said: “We know that we will be facing a great team but we will give our all because we all still dream of continuing this Champions League adventure together.” He might be on to something as the long struggling Bundesliga team is coming onto their territory, at home they have the perfect chance to advance in the tournament.

But they need to be careful, Dortmund has had three successive wins in the Bundesliga, and so could arrive to Juventus Stadium reinvigorated and ready to pounce any mistakes Juventus makes. Confident they could handle their rivals, midfielder Andrea Pirlo said: “It will be crucial to win without conceding. We’re not focused on their domestic form, only on their Champions League exploits. Tomorrow we’ll start thinking about preparing for the match.” Juventus Manager Max Allegri is not waiting til the last minute and has been tinkering and adjusting the lines with each passing week since the start of the season, and he may have found his preferred 4-3-1-2 formation. But Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund are going to be forced to play like pitbulls being cornered, so we think there is room for an upset here.

Our Pick: Draw 1-1

Wednesday, February 25

Arsenal vs Monaco

At Selhurst Park on Saturday Arsenal came under intense fire and almost blew a 2-0 lead against Crystal Palace. Trying to prepare for their Champions League game against Monaco on Wednesday they nearly lost their footing but held the barrage off just long enough to win the game 2-1. That’s not the best way to prepare but for sure it has Arsenal more on edge. Arsène Wenger, told media,  “The spirit is there. We want to keep that because we have been to some very tough places. We have fought like mad to come back in a strong position in the league. Not to win at Palace would have been disastrous.” With momentary disaster averted, Wenger’s boys can now focus on trying to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. Ina twist, Wenger managed Monaco from 1987 to 1994, knows the Ligue 1 team well and so is set to face his former club for the first time in a competitive match.

He said that Monaco are very tight defensively. “The last 16 in recent years has been super-tough, but this is a 50-50 game, so it’s two good teams. For us, it is a tricky but possible tie,” he said. We agree with his assessment, as Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim has got the team well-organised and Arsenal knows they will be a tough team difficult to face. But not so tough that Arsenal cannot beat them at home especially since Monaco’s Layvin Kurzawa suffered an injury Friday night and could miss Wednesday’s game with the Gunners.

Our Pick: Arsenal over Monaco 1-0

Bayer vs Atlético Madrid

Coming literally within minutes of shocking the world last year, and taking the Champions League trophy only to lose, Atletico will have the same journey in mind when they play their next knock-out round game against Bayer Leverkusen. But the for they face is one of the best European clubs outside of the big four. The secret to Bayer Leverkusen’s success is not just their high shot totals but how they create those opportunities. They have a hyperactive, pressing style that creates shots quickly by winning turnovers and driving directly at goal with pure speed. No team in Europe has more shots early in possession than Bayer Leverkusen.

To stop Bayer Leverkusen, their opponent must have a clear tactical plan, and be ready to fight for control of the ball for a full 90 minutes. Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi or Hakan Calhanoglu take seconds to drive into dangerous shooting positions. But a team who could do just that, is Atletico Madrid, no club in the world has defensive discipline like them. Watch for Gabi and Tiago to control traffic through the center of the pitch and force Bayer away from the danger zone quickly and for Mandzukic to occupy the Leverkusen defence. This should be a tactical battle between speed and discipline. The winner of this match up has the potential to stop any of the big four so either team is a good underdog pick.

Our Pick: Leverkusen over Madrid 2-1