UEFA Champions League: Top three matches to watch out for in round of 16
The UEFA Champions League 2020-21 round of 16 matches are all set to get underway next week. The first leg of the UCL round of 16 fixtures will take place on February 17, 18, 24 and 25 with the second leg scheduled for March 10,11, 17 and 18.
While the 2019-20 UCL finalist Paris Saint-Germain will lock horns with FC Barcelona, six-time winners Liverpool will try to avoid another round of 16 exit when they face RB Leipzig. Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus will face FC Porto while Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will take on Chelsea in a mouth-watering fixture.
UEFA Champions League round of 16 ties
17 February & 11 March
Leipzig (GER) vs Liverpool (ENG)
Barcelona (ESP) vs Paris (FRA)
18 February & 10 March
Porto (POR) vs Juventus (ITA)
Sevilla (ESP) vs Borussia Dortmund (GER)
24 February & 18 March
Lazio (ITA) vs Bayern (GER)
Atlético (ESP) vs Chelsea (ENG)
25 February & 17 March
Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER) vs Manchester City (ENG)
Atalanta (ITA) vs Real Madrid (ESP)
All dates are according to Indian Standard Time (IST) and Kick-offs are at 1:30 AM IST.
Here are the top three matches to watch out for in the UEFA Champions League round of 16:
FC Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
PSG suffered a massive blow as their talisman Neymar was ruled out ahead of their round of 16 UCL clash against Barcelona to be played at the Camp Nou. Neymar’s injury means that the football fanatics will not get to witness the much-anticipated showdown between former teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar.
This will be the first time that the two teams will clash in Europe's elite club competition since their epic match in the 2016-17 season. Under the tutelage of Luis Enrique, Barcelona had overturned a three-goal deficit from the first leg to produce one of the most memorable comebacks in football history as the Catalans won 6-1 in the second leg in front of their home crowd.
Interestingly, Neymar was one of Barcelona’s heroes that night as he had scored two crucial goals to help his side qualify for the UCL quarter-finals. The Brazilian forward later joined PSG in 2017 in a world record transfer fee that made him the most expensive signing in football history.
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will take on Chelsea in a much-awaited round of 16 CL clash on Wednesday (IST).
Atletico are top of La Liga, ahead of giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, and are favourites to win the title for the first time since 2014. They qualified for the Champions League round of 16 after finishing second behind Bayern Munich in group A.
On the other hand, Chelsea are currently fifth in the Premier League points table and the Blues have remained undefeated since appointing Thomas Tuchel as their coach in place of Frank Lampard. Under their former coach Lampard, Chelsea had topped Group E winning four and drawing the other two matches to book their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Atletico’s CL last 16 home leg clash with Chelsea will be played in Bucharest as a result of pandemic restrictions. Interestingly, the Spanish government extended a ban on flights from Britain, Brazil and South Africa from February 16 to March 2.
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
2018-19 CL winners Liverpool will lock horns with the 2019-20 semi-finalists RB Leipzig in a mouth-watering round of 16 clash.
Klopp’s Liverpool had topped Group D, winning four of their six matches to seal their spot in the knockout phase of the Champions League. On the other hand, Julian Nagelsmann Leipzig finished second behind PSG in Group H to book their round of 16 spot.
Interestingly, Klopp has never faced Leipzig – they did not feature in the Bundesliga until after his departure for England in 2015 – but needs no introduction to a side that ended Manchester United's UEFA Champions League hopes.
Meanwhile, Liverpool's first leg away to RB Leipzig has been moved to Budapest as a result of travel restrictions in Germany.
There is also a possibility that the return leg won’t happen at the Anfield as Liverpool may be forced to play the 'home' leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with the German side at a neutral venue.
Feature image courtesy: Josep Lago / AFP