Friday, February 10, 2012

Champions League Round of 16 Preview

The Champions League begins its Round of 16 this week. For my continuing novice soccer fans, the Champions League is an annual competition between the best teams in Europe. Last year, Barcelona defeated Manchester United to win its fourth title overall and third in the last six years. This year’s Round of 16 features three teams from Italy; two teams each from Spain, England, Germany, France, and Russia; and one team each from Portugal, Switzerland, and Cyprus.  

The Round of 16 has eight “home-and-home” matches, meaning each grouping of two teams will face each other once on each other’s home fields. The team leading aggregate score after the two matches advances to the next round. Should there be a tie, there is a rather complex tie-breaking system that starts with away goals being the deciding factor…so teams scoring a goal on the road feel pretty good about themselves going into the second leg even if they only earn a tie in the first leg. If all things are equal after the tie-breaker, extra time will be played following the second leg.

As we near the date of the first matches during this round, I thought it would be fun to make some predictions on how I see things unfolding. Here we go:

Bayer Leverkusen v. Barcelona
Barcelona is having a bit of an up and down campaign, sitting seven points behind Real Madrid in La Liga. They still have to be considered the team to beat, as they feature the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, and the most dynamic midfield around. Leverkusen currently sits in sixth place in the Bundesliga. Their problem will be that Barcelona will inevitably score, which means Leverkusen will have to play more aggressively – opening themselves up for some big counter-attacking goals from the defending champions.
Prediction: Barcelona 6, Bayer Leverkusen 2

Lyon v. Apoel Nicosia
Lyon is having a decent season in France’s Ligue 1, sitting in a tie for third place. Apoel Nicosia is the surprise of the tournament, becoming the first team from Cyprus to reach this stage. Lyon comes in the overwhelming favorite, and I don’t see the Cinderella story continuing over a two-leg matchup with the French side.
Prediction: Lyon 4, Apoel Nicosia 2

Zenit St. Petersburg v. Benfica
The two most dominant teams of this season from Russia and Portugal face off in what should be a very even matchup. Tough one to call, so this is just a gut feeling.
Prediction: Benfica 3, Zenit St. Petersburg 2
AC Milan v. Arsenal
Milan has been solid this year, just one point behind the lead in Serie A. Arsenal has had an inconsistent campaign, but they have the firepower to pull off an upset here. This is my pick for the most exciting matchup of the round.
Prediction: AC Milan 4, Arsenal 3

CSKA Moscow v. Real Madrid
Moscow has been up and down in recent months, while Real Madrid sits atop La Liga. This one could get ugly.
Prediction: Real Madrid 5, CSKA Moscow 2

Napoli v. Chelsea
Napoli has struggled over recent weeks, falling to seventh in Serie A. Chelsea is also struggling to find top form, but they have more scoring options than the Italian side.
Prediction: Chelsea 3, Napoli 2

FC Basel v. Bayern Munich
The Swiss side Basel is a decent club, but seems overmatched by German powerhouse Bayern here. This is another matchup that could become lopsided.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 4, FC Basel 2

Marseille v. Internazionale
Two storied clubs in France and Italy, respectively, will face off here in what should be a very low-scoring, defensive struggle as both teams play that style. Look for Inter to come out on top because they have more scoring punch up front.
Prediction: Internazionale 3, Marseille 2 (extra time)

No comments:

Post a Comment