It’s that time of the year when the Champions League starts to get serious. The draw has been made for the final sixteen stage of the competition. No more group stage matches. Its knockout time.
Here is the draw made on December 17th 2018. The first legs of the last 16 ties will be split over two midweek dates, on February 12/13 and 19/20, with the second legs played over March 5/6 and 12/13.
Schalke v Manchester City
Atletico Madrid v Juventus
Manchester United v PSG
Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund
Lyon v Barcelona
Roma v Porto
Ajax v Real Madrid
Liverpool v Bayern Munich
The last tie looks to be an interesting one. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (above) knows all there is to know about how tough games against Bayern Munich can be. The German opponents may not have begun this season strongly, but Liverpool will have to be at their best to beat a reviving Bayern side. I think Liverpool will progress.
Real Madrid have been poor this season and Dutch opponents Ajax could clean up and cause an upset by knocking out the holders. But they will have to get a good win in that first leg at home.
Tottenham face another stiff task. As I have been telling members of VG Tips for several weeks, Borussia Dortmund are a good outside bet to make the semi-finals or even the final.
If Manchester United cannot beat PSG at home in their first meeting, then they don’t deserve to progress any further. PSG – a team and dressing room dominated by one mercurial, conceited and demanding player – may be able to romp away with the French title, but that league is a poor one. PSG can turn it on when they want to and you would expect their front three to have fun against the Manchester United defence. David de Gea, so often the saviour for United this season, will be busy again but this two game tie is an opportunity for the likes of Paul Pogba to show what he can really do. If the manager he does not get on with him plays him.
Atletico Madrid versus Juventus sees the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to a city and a stadium he knows well. He’s yet to fire on all cylinders in this competition while wearing a Juve shirt, but the Atletico defence know what they will be up against.
Manchester City, the bookies favourites to win the Champions League next May, should be beating Schalke over two legs to progress further in the competition. Being at home in the second leg should be an advantage come next March.