The UCL matchups for the round of 16.
The UEFA Champions League (UCL) round of 16 draws took place on December 18th, and ever since then, fans have been speculating as to who will come out on top in each one of these matches starting February 13th. This comes with predictions from fans all around the world and causes debate in the football world. Today, I will try to come up with reasonable predictions utilizing current form, history, and other factors.
FC Copenhagen Vs Manchester City
The first match alongside RB Leipzig and Real Madrid will be Copenhagen versus the current champions of the Champions League, Manchester City. This also happens to be one of the easiest predictions to make out of any of the other matches. Manchester City have only gotten better since their treble-winning season just last year, and they are still going strong. Although currently 4th in the Premier League, the current Premier League champions are always a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, Copenhagen sit 3rd in the Danish League and got out of their group with the likes of Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
However, they simply won’t be good enough to overcome the current champions of Manchester City. Manchester City plays a very possession-dominant style of football and will squeeze Copenhagen into their own half for the majority of the game. Copenhagen would have to rely on quick counterattacks if they want a chance, but it is unlikely they will be able to pull this off, as they aren’t necessarily known for their counter-attacking play. They could put up a good fight in the first leg at home, with their vibrant atmosphere lifting up the team, but it most certainly won’t last to the second leg.
1st Leg: Copenhagen 1-2 Manchester City
2nd Leg: Manchester City 3-0 Copenhagen
Aggregate Score: Copenhagen 1-5 Manchester City
RB Leipzig Vs Real Madrid
Alongside Manchester City and Copenhagen, Real Madrid and RB Leipzig will be the first match to kick off the round of 16. However, this tie seems to be a lot closer than what most people think. Real Madrid have been historically excellent in the Champions League, with a record 14 wins in the club’s history, including a win just two years ago. They sit second in La Liga, just a point behind a rising Girona squad. RB Leipzig is also doing decent for themselves, with a 4th-place position in the Bundesliga now.
Real Madrid has many great stars, Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, and many more. They also have a much deeper squad with great players on the bench, as well as an experienced squad in comparison with a young and inexperienced RB Leipzig squad, with an average squad age of 25.5 years. Real Madrid can easily put severe pressure on the wings as they have very pacey players who can outrun their fullbacks (with the exception of David Raum). They also have deadly threats through the middle with Bellingham, so their attacking forces will be too much. It should be cruise control for Real Madrid, but it could come down to the wire.
1st Leg: RB Leipzig 1-2 Real Madrid
2nd Leg: Real Madrid 3-1 RB Leipzig
Aggregate Score: RB Leipzig 2-5 Real Madrid
PSG Vs Real Sociedad
This Valentine’s Day match isn’t as clear-cut as it appears. Real Sociedad has not been doing great in La Liga recently, being in 6th as of January 19, 2024. However, they did top their UCL group, coming out on top against the likes of Inter and Benfica. It is a bit hard to decipher how they will fair now in the knockout stages, because of their inconsistencies in Laliga and, most importantly, this being only their second time making it out of the group stages in their history. Then you have PSG, the most dominant French club in recent history and the most underwhelming club in recent UCL history. PSG has had many failures over the past few years in the UCL, including five rounds of 16 exits in the last seven years.
Both have their faults; it will be a close tie, but PSG should come out on top. They have a significantly better squad with stars like Kylian Mbappe, but Real Sociedad should not be counted out. PSG will have to rely on their stars heavily in this one, as they lack star talent in specific areas like their midfield. PSG will most likely narrowly make it through, but anything can happen in the UCL.
1st Leg: PSG 2-1 Real Sociedad
2nd Leg: Real Sociedad 1-1 PSG
Aggregate Score: PSG 3-2 Real Sociedad
Lazio Vs Bayern Munich
The other match being played on Valentine’s Day will be Lazio versus Bayern Munich. Bayern has been a consistent powerhouse in the Champions League for several years, with them always being title contenders every year. They sit 2nd in the Bundesliga right now and topped their group with Manchester United and Copenhagen. Lazio has been underwhelming this season in the Serie A, sitting in 6th place currently. They came out 2nd in a decent group with Atletico Madrid, Feyenoord, and Celtic.
Bayern Munich should take the win in this tie, and it probably won’t be close. They just have way too much squad depth, benching Kingsley Coman and Leon Goretzka, players who would be starters on the Lazio team. You should expect nothing short of a blowout win for Bayern Munich
1st Leg: Lazio 1-3 Bayern Munich
2nd Leg: Bayern Munich 3-0 Lazio
Aggregate Score: Lazio 1-6 Bayern Munich
PSV Vs Borussia Dortmund
This is one of the toughest matchups for the round of 16, as both teams have been phenomenal this season. Starting, PSV haven’t lost a game in the Dutch League this season… or even drawn a game so far! They have won every single game in the Eredivisie, with 17 matches played and 17 won. They came 2nd in their group, with Arsenal topping the group, but still played very convincingly. Then, when you look at Borussia Dortmund, you understand how tight this fixture will be. Although being underwhelming in the Bundesliga this season, currently in 5th place, they topped their UCL group with probably the most competitive group the Champions League has ever seen. This group saw AC Milan, PSG, and Newcastle go head-to-head, with many predicting Dortmund to finish last (including myself).
This will be a very tight fixture, and it could go either way, but I think PSV will have the edge over Dortmund. If we are talking about recent form, they have drawn four games and won one, which isn’t great, but isn’t horrible either. Dortmund have had their defense struggles in the German league, with 25 goals against them, the most out of the top 6. PSV has been incredible, and I think they will continue their form into the knockout stages, with Xavi Simons leading the way as their star player.
1st Leg: PSV 1-0 Dortmund
2nd Leg: Dortmund 1-1 PSV
Aggregate Score: PSV 2-1 Dortmund
Inter Vs Atletico Madrid
On first look, the match looks like a tight tie between two powerhouses, but upon further inspection, it seems to be very clear-cut. Inter have been very good in Serie A this season, sitting in 1st place, while only losing one game. They came 2nd on goal difference to Real Sociedad and reached the final last year in the UCL. They have a dominant goal-scorer in Lautaro Martinez, and excellent role players to surround him. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid sit 5th in La Liga, and even though they topped their group, they don’t seem like serious contenders for the title. They have an aging squad, and I don’t see them going far.
I think Inter should comfortably beat them and keep their cool throughout. They play a very wide type of football, stretching the field out using their fullbacks and wingers, as well as the main man in the middle, Martinez. Atletico Madrid could have a chance through Antoine Griezmann, but I just don’t see it happening.
1st Leg: Inter 3-1 Atletico Madrid
2nd Leg: Atletico Madrid 0-0 Inter
Aggregate Score: Inter 3-1 Atletico Madrid
Porto Vs Arsenal
This match also seems like a clear-cut match but can easily become an upset. Arsenal are serious title challengers in the Premier League but currently sit in 4th after a very poor run of 4 points in 5 games. They also have an inexperienced and young squad that has not been in this situation before. Meanwhile, Porto was in the UCL round of 16 last season and got knocked out after a very tight match versus Inter. They are currently 3rd in the Portuguese League, with serious title hopes.
I think Arsenal will prevail, even if they don’t have the experience that Porto most certainly has. They have a better squad that is built for this competition, and they should have a comfortable win against them.
1st Leg: Porto 0-0 Arsenal
2nd Leg: Arsenal 2-0 Porto
Aggregate Score: Porto 0-2 Arsenal
Napoli VS Barcelona
I think leaving the best for last has helped me for this one, as this is the hardest match to decide. The current Serie A and La Liga champions will go head-to-head in the best match the round of 16 has to offer. Napoli had a historic season last year, winning the Scudetto for the first time in over 30 years and making it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. However, this year they have been very underwhelming, falling to 9th place in the Serie A. Meanwhile, Barcelona is in 4th place in La Liga and is not in the greatest form. Napoli has stars like Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Oshimen, and Barcelona has stars like Pedri and Ronald Araujo.
In the end, I think Napoli will come on top. They have shown they can play in knockout rounds in the Supercoppa, while Barcelona have failed in their Supercopa final. In addition to all of this, Barcelona has had a very bad injury crisis, with many star players being out and potentially not being able to play in these knockout matches. It really could go either way, but I think Napoli will come out on top because of their goal-scoring ability and great midfield.
1st Leg: Napoli 1-2 Barcelona
2nd Leg: Barcelona 0-2 Napoli
Aggregate Score: Napoli 3-2 Barcelona