Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Last-16 of Champions League 2020-21

 The groups stages of this season's Champions League has been weird, without spectators much of the atmosphere has been absent, and it probably has had some influence on teams that have also had cases of Corona-virus inside the club. There have nevertheless been interesting, good and surprising matches, and after the end of the group stages, these are the last-16 clashes:

  • Borussia Monchenglandbach-Manchester City: The advance of the German side is a small surprise, as they left behind Shakhtar Donetsk and a poor Inter Milan side, and were close to taking the first spot from mighty Real Madrid. They will have to play their best as they face a Manchester City side that was never in doubt when winning its group with 5 victories and one tie.
  • Lazio-Bayern Munich: The defending champions of Bayern Munich have been awesome with five victories and a tie, and an impressive score of 18-5. In my view, the German side are the strongest contenders to take the title. Lazio got through in an exciting final 2-2 match against Club Brugge, who was only centimeters from making it through. The Italians have not lost any matches, but gone through with two victories and four ties.
  • Atletico Madrid-Chelsea: Probably two teams that did not want to face one another. Despite some difficulties in losing to Red Star Salzburg, Atletico Madrid made it through behind Bayern Munich, and remain one of the most difficult sides to face in the competition. Chelsea made it through ahead of Sevilla in a group where the only competition was about which of those two sides would win the group: Chelsea made sure it was them by an impressive 0-4 victory in Seville.
  • RB Leipzig-Liverpool: Liverpool won its group ahead of Atalanta, and are looking strong despite some signs of weakness in some matches (they did not look good in any of the matches against the minnows of FC Midtjylland). But Liverpool normally rises to the occasion and will have to do it against a Leipzig side that made it through in a complicated group, behind Paris Saint Germain on goal difference, and ahead of a poor Manchester United side. RB Leipzig made it to the semifinal last season and is looking for a surprise repeat.
  • FC Porto-Juventus: Although going through behind Manchester City, FC Porto also went through with style, winning all their matches except against the English side. It may be argued that it was an easy group, so their real test will come against Juventus. The Italians won their group ahead of FC Barcelona, where a 0-3 away victory was particularly impressive, with two goals by the COVID-recovering Ronaldo. The Italian side seems increasingly to depend on the skills of the Portuguese Maestro, but probably will be expecting to get ahead of Porto.
  • FC Barcelona-Paris St. Germain: This is probably the most expected match. Despite five victories in the group stages (including an away win at Juventus) FC Barcelona is in crisis as Lionel Messi does not seem to be comfortable in the team any longer. This is a pity for any football fan, but also represents an opportunity for Paris St. Germain, where Neymar and Mbappe have been important in a team that otherwise struggled a bit to win their group ahead of Leipzig. This match will be hugely important for both clubs.
  • Sevilla-Borussia Dortmund: Two very exciting teams face one another. Borussia Dortmund won their group ahead of Lazio, and their young Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland has continued pouring in goals. Sevilla made it through behind Chelsea in a group where Krasnodar and Rennes did not represent the strongest opposition, and did lose 0-4 at home to Chelsea, so they will have to prove they are better against the Germans.
  • Atalanta-Real Madrid: Real Madrid won their group despite struggling; they lost twice to Shakhtar Donetsk (who did not make it through) and only a last minute 2-2 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach put them in first place. But Real Madrid are Real Madrid and probably still favourites against Atalanta. The Italian side made it through behind Liverpool and against Mayern Munich, and their continued attacking but open style makes them vulnerable to better attacking sides, as their 0-5 home defeat to Liverpool is proof of.

 The last sixteen are are dominated by the big European leagues: four German teams, four Spanish, three Italian, three English, and one each for France and Portugal. The most noteworthy eliminations were probably that of an insecure and disorganized Manchester United side, and a poor Inter Milan side where Antonio Conte has not managed to get the best out of some marvelous players.

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