Real Madrid v Liverpool; Bayern v PSG
Two of the favourites to win the 2022-23 Champions League will crash out at the round of 16 in March after a box office draw paired Bayern Munich with Paris Saint-Germain and gave us a re-run of last season’s final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
With the 2022 World Cup due to kick off in less than two weeks, the focus of the game is now beginning to be fixed on international football’s biggest tournament. But there will be no time for a World Cup hangover with the Champions League returning in mid-February with a series of outstanding ties.
While Liverpool-Real and PSG-Bayern are the standout fixtures, there are some finely balanced ties between AC Milan and Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, and Club Brugge and Benfica.
Manchester City and Napoli, two of the strongest teams in the group stage, will also face RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively. So how will it all play out, and which teams will make it to the quarterfinals?
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The tie that neither side would have wanted. Liverpool’s failure to finish top of Group A left them vulnerable to facing a big hitter in the round of 16, and they don’t come any bigger than defending champions Real Madrid, who would also have preferred to avoid Jurgen Klopp’s team at this stage.
Liverpool’s mixed form this season make Real favourites to extend their hold over Klopp’s side, having beaten them in their last three Champions League ties. In fact, aside from winning the Champions League against Tottenham in Madrid in 2019, Liverpool’s hopes in the competition have been extinguished by either Real or Atletico in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022, so the omens are with Carlo Ancelotti’s team.
Liverpool have lost five of their last six encounters with Real, dating back to October 2014, but they are capable of ending that miserable run. Real are unbeaten in LaLiga this season, however, and can go top by winning their game in hand on leaders Barcelona, so they are in impressive form and will be favourites to beat Liverpool.
WINNERS: Real Madrid
A repeat of the 2020 final, when Bayern beat PSG in Lisbon in the French club’s first appearance in the Champions League final. But having been eliminated in the round of 16 by Real Madrid last season, PSG face a daunting challenge if they are to overcome that disappointment against Bayern.
Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi have delivered in the competition this season, with PSG unbeaten after six games, but Bayern qualified with six wins from six in a group containing Inter Milan and Barcelona.
It will be a huge clash over two legs, and the winners could go on to lift the trophy in Istanbul next June. Bayern are as tough an opponent as PSG could have faced.
Gab & Juls look ahead to a mouthwatering Champions League clash between PSG and Bayern Munich.
Pep Guardiola’s City will be strong favourites to win this tie, but Leipzig are a dangerous outsider and their 3-2 win against Real Madrid in Group F proved crucial in their qualification for the round of 16.
If Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne are fit, it is tough to see past a City victory over the two legs, but Marco Rose’s club have quality in their squad, and it all depends on whether they can hold onto the likes of Christopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol — both of whom are Chelsea targets — during the January transfer window.
If Leipzig can keep their best players and if forward Timo Werner can recover from the ankle ligament injury that has forced him out of Germany’s World Cup plans, they could pull off a shock. Make no mistake, City are outstanding favourites to go through; they just need to respect this opponent.
WINNERS: Man City
Chelsea duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Christian Pulisic will get the chance to return to former club Dortmund in this tie, and there will also be a huge focus on Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham against one of the many clubs who want to sign him next summer.
Both teams are struggling for consistency this season, but they are also packed with top-level experience, so it will be a case of which side has enough players who can rise to the occasion. Dortmund have the likes of Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Niklas Sule; Chelsea boast Thiago Silva, Raheem Sterling and N’Golo Kante.
There is also the battle between U.S. teammates Pulisic and Gio Reyna, so there is no shortage of storylines in this tie.
An intriguing tie between two teams that have been inconsistent in the Champions League this season but are both capable of going deep into the competition. It also hands Spurs boss Antonio Conte the chance to return to San Siro, where he guided Milan’s rivals Inter to the Serie A title in 2021, so there will be plenty of noise off the pitch as well as on it.
This one could come down to a battle of the forwards. Will Harry Kane and Son Heung-min blow Milan away with their quality, or will former Chelsea and Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud return to haunt Spurs again? And does 41-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic still have one big goal in him?
A tough tie to call, and it will be a fascinating battle between Conte and Milan coach Stefano Pioli.
WINNERS: AC Milan
Craig Burley doesn’t understand how Tottenham continue to start games so poorly after they came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 vs. Marseille.
Inter made it into the round of 16 by edging out Barcelona, but Simone Inzaghi’s team go into this tie as outsiders.
Domestically, Inter are struggling for form, with Inzaghi’s position under threat due to five defeats in 13 games, leaving the club in seventh spot. Romelu Lukaku’s return on loan from Chelsea has yet to work out, too, with injuries restricting the former Manchester United striker to just five appearances.
Porto qualified as winners of Group B, beating Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen along the way, and Sergio Conceicao’s team have bags of Champions League experience. It will be a closely fought tie, but Porto are the favourites at this stage.
Two of the surprise teams of the Champions League so far this season. Benfica beat Juventus twice in Group H, forcing the Italian giants into the Europa League, while a 6-1 win against Maccabi Haifa on Matchday 6 was enough to snatch top spot, and a place among the seeded teams, from PSG.
Brugge, meanwhile, made a flying start in Group B with three straight wins and only eased off after qualification had been confirmed — a loss of focus which saw them surrender top spot to Porto.
Carl Hoefkens’ squad has a blend of youth and experience, including ex-Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet and former Benfica forward Roman Yaremchuk, along with youngsters such as Abakar Sylla. But Benfica possess the greater Champions League experience, reaching last season’s quarterfinals, so the Portuguese giants will be favourites.
Two of the most exciting teams in this season’s Champions League, but runaway Serie A leaders Napoli look more of the finished article than Eintracht, who qualified for the competition by winning last season’s Europa League.
Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli destroyed Liverpool 4-1 at home in their Group A opener and dominated at Anfield until two late goals consigned them to defeat. But Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Giovanni Simeone give Napoli the attacking threat to make life very tough for Eintracht.
Oliver Glasner’s Eintracht showed incredible spirit to win at Barcelona and West Ham in last season’s Europa League, and they have grown into the Champions League. They have pace in attack and will score goals, but Napoli might just be too strong for them in February.