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TWSN Champions League Preview: Week Two

Chelsea FC (ENG) vs Bayern Munich (GER):

This will be a rematch of the 2012 Champions League Final, but will it result in another Chelsea victory? Chelsea, who were not in the competition last year, will be looking to pull off an upset over two legs to beat the favored Bayern Munich.

Even though Munich have a squad that is getting up there in age, they still have enough talent over the field to cause problems for Chelsea in this tie. The raw and young talent of Chelsea will be put to the test against a experienced Bayern squad making for an interesting two-legged tie.

Going into this season, everyone said that Chelsea was not going to make it to the Round of 16. With the loss of star player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, as well as a transfer ban, it all seemed like the London club were going to have a down year.

The success of Chelsea so far this year has been due to younger players contributing collectively along with more experienced players like defender César Azpilicueta, midfielder N’Golo Kanté, and winger Willian giving them a solid squad.

Similar to Tottenham, Chelsea has had consistency issues, but can play well on any given day. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, and Fikayo Tomori have been a few of the young talented players that have made a huge impact on performances for Chelsea. Christian Pulisic, who they signed from Dortmund before the transfer ban, will look to contribute for Chelsea against a team he faced more than a few times with his former club.

Chelsea currently sit in fourth in the league with their form dipping of late causing for some concern going into the UCL tie. Chelsea have the ability to pull off the upset against Munich, but it will come down to the younger players performing on the biggest stage.

Bayern Munich will look to improve this season after dropping out of the competition at this stage to Liverpool due to an older squad not being able to keep up with the champions. With the likes of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben departing the club, younger guys have gotten their opportunity to shine for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

This is highlighted by Alphonso Davies, who came from the MLS club Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as he’s been in the lineup consistently playing left-back. A traditional winger, Davies has moved farther back as a result of injuries, which forced David Alaba to move into a role as a center back.

Philippe Coutinho, who struggled to show his talent at Barcelona, has made a big impact for Munich both from the wing and attacking midfield. Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has 22 goals in 21 Bundesliga games, as he continues to play like one of the best goal scorers in the world.

Bayern Munich should be favored going into this Round of 16 tie, as they have plenty of experience and a ton of talent all over the field. 

Looking at this matchup, it is clear to see that Bayern Munich are the favorites going into this two-legged tie. Although Bayern have a lot of older players playing key minutes, they have some younger talented sprinkled across the field to give the squad good balance.

For Chelsea, they will need to play well at home in the first leg to beat the German powerhouse. Abraham, Pulisic, and other Chelsea attackers will need to be clinical in front of goal to make this tie much more interesting. Overall, it would be a great storyline for the young Chelsea squad to advance, but I see them coming up short this year.

Prediction: Bayern Munich over Chelsea: (4-3)

Napoli (ITA) vs FC Barcelona (SPA):

For me, I believe this tie can only go one way, and that is with Barcelona going through to the quarterfinal. Napoli have enough talent to do some dangerous things on the attack, but their form this season, especially in the Serie A, has been poor.

The firing of Carlo Ancelloti was surprising considering he got the Italian side to the final 16 of the competition. Napoli were in poor form before going into that match, but it was very shocking to see him let go after a 4-0 win over Genk to advance. If Napoli find a way to advance in this competition, it will definitely be one of the biggest upsets in the knockouts rounds in recent years.

Trying to understand why Napoli are struggling so much in the league is very difficult, as they were able to take four points against Liverpool in UCL. The club is currently 11th in the Serie A, which shows that even if you have talent all over the field, you cannot just expect things to go your way.

Napoli has plenty of options going forward. With the talent of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Arkadiusz Milik, and Hirving Lozano, this team has the ability to score goals. Kalidou Koulibaly is one of the best center backs in the world, as various teams looking for defensive help have had him on their wishlist.

For Napoli to pull off a major upset against Messi and Barcelona, they will need to play well at home in the first leg, and get away from their awful form in the league. 

Barcelona are looking to respond after departing the competition in dramatic fashion against Liverpool in the semis. Sitting three points behind Real Madrid in the league, Barcelona will look to stay in good form and have an opportunity for two major trophies late in the season.

Unfortunately, the Spanish powerhouse will be without Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembélé as a result of major injuries. This will give an opportunity for summer signing Antoine Griezmann to prove his worth and make a substantial impact on this Round of 16 tie.

Lionel Messi will always be the danger man for Barcelona, and Napoli will absolutely have a tough time shutting him down. Even with Barcelona having some injury concerns going forward, the likes of Messi and Griezmann will look to make their presence known.

Of all the round of 16 match-ups I have looked at so far, this is 100% the easiest one to predict. Even with all the talent Napoli has, they still cannot find a way to pick up points in the league on a regular basis. Their lack of consistency will transfer over to the Champions League, as facing one of the best teams in the world will really test that Napoli squad.

For the Italian to have any chance of pulling off the upset, they will need to win their first leg at home, and put pressure on Barcelona to expose themselves defensively at the Camp Nou. I believe that will be too much of a task for Napoli at the moment given their form domestically. Barcelona will prove to be the much better side of this two-legged tie. 

Prediction: FC Barcelona over Napoli: (5-1)

Lyon (FRA) vs Juventus (ITA):

Similarly to Napoli and Barcelona, I only see scenarios in which Juventus find themselves in the quarterfinal. Juventus will be heavily favored in this Round of 16 tie, as Lyon are currently struggling in Ligue 1, and their star forward Memphis Depay will not feature for the rest of the season due to injury.

A combination of those two factors will make this tie very difficult for the French side making the first leg at home even more important for Lyon. This two-legged tie should be won by Juventus, but they will need to play well in order to defeat the French side. 

Just like Napoli, Lyon are having their own struggles in Ligue 1 currently sitting in ninth, which is 27 points behind league leaders PSG. Last year, Lyon were led by Depay and Nabil Fekir, who departed to Real Betis in the summer.

The lack of quality going forward has been evident throughout this season, as the French club is far less successful with Depay being unavailable. Houssem Aouar is one of the best young midfielders in the world, and the Frenchman will have to play well in order to give Lyon any chance in this Round of 16 tie.

Moussa Dembélé will be counted on to put chances away for Lyon, as he will be their best available striker going into this tie. The injury to Memphis Depay and their poor form in Ligue 1 will make things extremely hard against Juventus, and they will need to win the first leg at home to give themselves a chance going into Italy.

Coming off their disappointing exit against Ajax in the quarterfinal last year, the Italian powerhouse will look to win the entire competition. This year has been slightly different for the Italian side, as Inter Milan and Lazio are pushing Juventus for the league title this year.

Juventus are so used to winning the league by a far margin that they can focus more on the Champions League, but not this year. Their recent form has not been great including two losses in their last three games against Verona and struggling Napoli.

That is a cause for concern giving Lyon a big opportunity to take advantage of a struggling Juventus team in the first leg. Juve will rely on star forward Cristiano Ronaldo to lead the line with multiple goals.

Ronaldo and others such as Gonzalo Higuaín and Paulo Dybala will need to attack a weaker defense and take their chances. Even though the race in Serie A will force Juve to focus less on the Champions League, the Italian club should still be favored heavily in this tie.

Just like the Napoli and Barcelona match, I believe this will be a very lopsided Round of 16 tie. The lack of quality and injury to Memphis Depay will give Lyon a lot of problems against the Italian powerhouse.

Lyon will need to play well in the first leg at home to give themselves any chance to put pressure on Juventus. I predict that Ronaldo and the rest of the Juventus squad will put some chances away and this will get out of hand very quickly.

Prediction: Juventus over Lyon: (5-1)

Real Madrid (SPA) vs Manchester City (ENG):

Of the eight Round of 16 ties, this is by far the most even one and very difficult to predict a winner. Real Madrid have had a lot of success in this competition in recent years, and are looking to bounce back from a disappointing campaign last year.

Manchester City have one of the most lethal attacks in the world, but poor defending has cost them in a ton of league games. City are currently behind Liverpool by 22 points, which hints at the idea that they will focus more on the Champions League the rest of the year. This is going to be a thrilling two-legged tie and either team will have chances to advance.

When you think of the best teams in the Champions League in recent years, one of the first tends to be Real Madrid. In the last six years, Madrid have won four of them, which is absolutely ridiculous. Last year was very disappointing for the Spanish side, as a poor second leg at home against Ajax departed Real Madrid from the competition.

Going into this season, the team got a lot of talent during the transfer window with Eden Hazard, Éder Militão, Luka Jović, and Ferland Mendy joining the squad. Madrid have improved from their sluggish form last year, but the age of the squad is still a concern for me.

Karim Benzema, Luka Modrić, Sergio Ramos, and Toni Kroos are all 30 or older and playing major minutes so far this season. If Real Madrid are going to advance they will need a majority of their older players to perform at a high level against Manchester City.

One of the biggest disappointments domestically so far this season is Manchester City. After winning the Premier League title last season by one point over Liverpool, the Citizens have not been at the same level this season. Finding themselves 22 points behind Liverpool, injuries and poor performances have caused the English side to drop points in too many games.

Defense is where the team has struggled the most with their best center back Aymeric Laporte just coming back from a long term injury. City have a ton of options going forward with Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero, Riyad Mahrez, and Kevin De Bruyne upon others.

With Laporte being back, I expect the Manchester City defense to be much improved for the rest of the season. With the title race pretty much over in England, I believe City will prioritize the Champions League the rest of the season. 

In the past week, Manchester City were banned from the Champions League for the next two seasons. They were also fined €30m by UEFA for this violation of financial fair play rules.

These investigations will be going on for the immediate future, but Manchester City will need to go for the Champions League even more especially if they are not in the competition for the next two seasons. I predict this will make the City players even more motivated to go deep into the competition, which will play a part in this tie with Real Madrid.

City has a ton of pace and quality up front, which can cause many different problems for the Real Madrid defense. If Manchester City are able to hold up defensively, I believe that their attacking depth will give them a great chance to advance.

For me, this was by far the hardest Round of 16 tie to pick a winner for. Both teams have quality all over the field, which makes me believe this should be a very close match up. Real Madrid have a lot of pedigree in this competition with most of their squad playing in UCL finals in recent years.

On the other hand, Manchester City have a lot of attacking depth with a shaky defense. If the return of Laporte can improve the City defense, I believe the likes of Sterling, Agüero, and De Bruyne will cause too many problems for Madrid to deal with.

Prediction: Manchester City over Real Madrid: (6-5)

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