Champions League returns! 5/5 (4)

Champions League returns with knock out phase! 16 of the best teams in Europe are left to fight it for the lucrative title of the best on the continent!

All contestants left are well known to the general public and used to compete in the latter stages of the competition.

Champions League round of 16 fixtures

I guess you’re all informed how the draw works but we’re quickly sum it up. Group winners are seeded teams with the advantage to play the return game at home.

Second-placed teams are non-seeded and play first match at home. At this stage two criteria that need to be considered when pairing is:

  1. Clubs that played in the same group can’t meet in the round of 16
  2. Clubs from the same country can’t meet in the round of 16

The principles really narrowed the possibilities for English clubs since all 4 of them progressed from the group stage. Spanish and German competitors also had limited options left with 3 clubs from each country earning promotion.

Champions League
Buy tickets to Champions League matches, home and away

France and Italy managed 2 participants each. Last spots were secured by Dutch and Portuguese representative.

This is what the urn in Nyon prepared for us:

Schalke 04 (GER) – Manchester City (ENG)

Atletico Madrid (SPA) – Juventus (ITA)

Manchester United (ENG) – Paris SG (FRA)

Tottenham (ENG) – Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Lyon (FRA) – Barcelona (SPA)

Roma (ITA) – Porto (POR)

Ajax (NED) – Real Madrid (SPA)

Liverpool (ENG) – Bayern Munich (GER)

Final triumph favorites

Based on what we saw till now in Champions League alone front-runners are Juventus and Barcelona.

Juventus didn’t have overly tough group even if Manchester United was part of it. But we all know how United performed in the autumn under the previous manager.

Champions League

Despite some shaky moments and 2 defeats, the Italian giants showed impressive strength in depth and real desire to finally get their hands on the trophy! Well, at least until topspot and qualification were granted.

Healthy advantage in Serie A allows Allegri to rotate his players domestically in order to focus on the Champions League.

In the last few years Juventus was competitive but every time lacked something. That crucial little detail that eventually swings the fortune your way.

That detail has been taken care of in the summer with Ronaldo’s acquisition. Now they can’t hide anymore. The squad is complete and it’s up to the manager to make it perform as it can.

Barcelona is a mainstay in the knock-out stages in the competition for nearly 2 decades. Not much can be said about the Catalans that hasn’t been said already. Several times!

Group wasn’t the easiest on paper with Tottenham and Inter, returning to Champions League after a prolonged period. PSV rounded it up but never had realistic chances of progression.

Champions League

Squad on Valverde’s disposal is balanced, talented and experienced. Beside the natural will to win every competition they enter, this year additional motivation is to finally dethrone the arch rivals from the Spanish capital.

Whatever domestic success Barcelona accomplished in the last 3 years, Real Madrid overshadowed it by winning Europeans’ prime competition.

Second row

Real Madrid, as reigning champion, has to be viewed as a favorite. At least in the wider circle.

Losing the technical leader and best scorer along with one of the most successful managers in club’s lustrous history left scars. Deep ones! The voids weren’t filled adequately and it shows!

There is still abundance of quality in the team, even unused. However, despite recent upturn in form, Real lost some of its fear factor.

Abysmal first part of the season granted group top spot only due to Roma’s inability to hit the target from sitters!

Champions League
Buy tickets to Champions League matches, home and away

Managerial change improved the performances and results, however, hardly enough to regain the crown. Other team are better equipped for final triumph!

It’s hard to predict what to expect from Manchester City in Champions League! Dominant and ruthless in Premier League, yet somewhat struggling in international competition.

A balanced group started with a shocking home defeat to Lyon and continued with hard-fought victories against Shakhtar and Hoffenheim.

Nevertheless the Citizens managed to win the group. Final standings would suggest with ease but actually it wasn’t easy. At all!

Champions League

Schalke won’t give any indication on City’s real strength, the gulf in class is just to big. However in the quarter finals we should have an answer which is the real City.

The one that gives Lyon the only win in Champions League or the one that blows Liverpool and Chelsea away.

Whatever the draw for next stages will say, if anyone beside the mentioned 4 teams wins, it’ll be a huge surprise!

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Premier League, City closing the gap 5/5 (7)

Premier League offered double match-day last week. Only Tottenham managed to take all 6 points at stake. Everybody else experienced hiccups of various kind.

Liverpool even managed to let Manchester City closer despite the latter lost in Newcastle in midwek.

Premier League title race

When City lost in Newcastle and Liverpool managed to extend the lead even without winning, some might think that the race is decided.

However, Klopp and his team couldn’t do better than taking another draw in London on Monday evening. And even that wasn’t too bad for the way the team performed.

In fact, it’s performing for some time now!

Despite the solitary defeat suffered against title rivals, Liverpool’s game looks like stuck in 2nd gear.

The defence isn’t a watertight as it used to be. And that was foreseeable!

Premier League

The midfield can’t sustain both game phases. Not a surprise either.

Attack can’t hit the target. Or better, the back of the net!

Since trashing Arsenal end of 2018, the Reds scored 9 goals in following 6 games. Including 4-3 thriller against Crystal Palace, won in added time.

Otherwise, it’s 5 goals in 5 games. Which meant losing away to City and being eliminated in the FA Cup at the hands of Watford.

Liverpool’s struggles

Every team goes through a rough patch during the course of a season. Premier League leaders aren’t an exception.

Premier League

City had a rocky December, Manchester United a troublesome Mourinho period, Tottenham and Arsenal have already 6 defeats.

Nothing to worry if the Reds are losing ground?

Well, in their case perhaps it could be more into it.

I already expressed my mind on Liverpool’s title aspirations when they were at the peak, undefeated and impenetrable.

The squad simply doesn’t have top quality available in the starting eleven, much less strength in depth.

Another concerning detail is the timing!

Liverpool is catching a breath at the worst possible moment; Premier League is nearing its business end and the Champions League is about to start!

13 more rounds of domestic competition and elite continental tournament resumes with knock-out phase.

February will give us some feedback on the actual condition of the team with clashes against Bayern in the Champions League and the Premier League classic at Old Trafford.

Premier League

The German giants might be living the worst institutional crisis in the last decade and need an overhaul, however, still posses enough talent to trouble anybody on their day.

Manchester United, besides the miss-step last week, are flying high since Solskjaer’s appointment. The opposition encountered in the process, besides Tottenham, isn’t on Liverpool’s level but confidence is sky-high.

And with the abundance of quality available, especially in the final third, self-believe alone can cause a lot of headaches to Klopp and his lately shaky rear-guard. Or defensive aspect, as you prefer.

City closing the gap

Without the complacency shown midweek in Newcastle, Manchester City would lead the Premier League standings at the moment. Due to better goal difference, but at the top.

Premier League

Guardiola’s team is more competitive and balanced and eventually will leap in front of Liverpool. The difficult period is over and they won’t drop too many points in the remaining games.

The setback endured last week will result in fewer lapses of concentration in the crucial part of the season.

First to succumb to the Blues’ regained determination is ever-underachieving Arsenal in the weekend. Next are Everton and Chelsea at the weekend.

If City maintains the standard this week, who’d bet against them retaining the title?

Chasing pack

Tottenham is firmly in third with eyes on the leading duo. With only 2 points short of City pretty much re-entered the title race.

Premier League

Wouldn’t be surprised if they’d be above Liverpool in the final standings.

However, I’d be absolutely astonished if they’d finish above the Citizens!

With Kane at disposal the whole time, perhaps.
Without him leading the line, I’d be even more shocked if Tottenham would end up in front of Manchester City then Liverpool winning the league!

Chelsea needs to watch out for Manchester United as Solskjear has his eyes set on CL qualification. And like a deadly striker as he used to be, once he sees the goal, he’ll go for it ruthlessly!

After the embarrassment suffered against Bournemouth, Sarri’s team rallied up and dismantled helpless Huddersfield Town in home court. Even Higuain presented himself with a brace!

Such a win was desperately needed anyhow real test awaits them in the blue side of Manchester at the weekend.

Premier League

Arsenal’s drop to sixth can’t stun anyone anymore! Wenger’s gone but his legacy lives on. Considering squad at hand, that’s, objectively, their place.

Lacazette and Aubameyang are great attackers but the rest of the material at disposal can’t support the duo adequately. Ozil included, momentarily!

Relegation battle

Burnley accumulated 12 points in the last 6 games. Half on season total up to now!

Premier League

No matter the mauling at the Ettihad Stadium in the FA Cup, January is a month they’ll have as a reference point in their quest to retain Premier League status!

Out of the relegation zone for the moment and looking to keep the fight alive till the very end.

With Liverpools’ degrade, Manchester United resilience and Burnley’s new-found hope, the best in the Premier League is yet to come.

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