2014-2015 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg Preview
Paolo Buendia on Feb 16, 2015 07:08 PM
European football is back with eight exciting matchups to satisfy that two-month break. Four favorites emerge from the pack of sixteen teams. Reigning champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea have a psychological edge over the rest but games still need to be won before a champion is proclaimed. This week is the start of the knockout stages, where the best teams over two-legs make it to the next round. Here are the eight matchups coming our way.
February 18, 2015 early morning matches
Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea FC
No strangers to each other, PSG repeat the quarterfinal matchup with Chelsea from last season. Similar to those matches, Chelsea will still find it difficult to defeat PSG because of the thirty-two match unbeaten run in European matches by the home side. A major difference from last season is the presence of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa in the English club’s roster. This may prove valuable in another closely fought affair. I predict a draw for this match in Paris.
FC Shakhtar Donetsk v FC Bayern Munich
Shakhtar put on a goal-scoring show in the group stage with Luiz Adriano tying the nine-goal record that Cristiano Ronaldo racked up last season. The Ukrainian home side, however, has not faced Bayern Munich before and has fared poorly against German opposition. Bayern stumbled in the Bundesliga this past January but still have a commanding eight-point cushion at the top. The 2013 Champions will be the favorite to emerge as the winner in this matchup. I believe the visitors can secure a draw.
February 19, 2015 early morning matches
FC Basel 1893 v FC Porto
There is no clear favorite in this matchup but Basel is fortunate not to be drawn with the other European powers. Porto won Group H with ease, winning four times and drawing twice but Swiss side Basel will be confident of two competitive fixtures with the Portuguese side. Two home victories over Liverpool and Ludogorets in the group stage show the strength of Basel at home. The visitors won two matches away in the group stage as well but the slight advantage goes with the home side. I see a Basel with the win.
FC Schalke 04 v Real Madrid CF
The defending champions are on a nine-match winning streak in this competition. A few bumps in La Liga and the Copa Del Rey recently have given most doubt on the ability of this squad to repeat as champions. Saddled with injuries to key players in Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Sergio Ramos will be a factor but the nine-two aggregate result against Schalke in this same stage last season will be a more telling statistic. I predict a tenth victory for Los Blancos.
February 25, 2015 early morning matches
Manchester City FC v FC Barcelona
Manchester City and Barcelona meet again in this stage for the second year in a row. The English champions pulled off the surprise 3-2 victory over Bayern Munich in the last match of the group stage to leap frog over Roma for second. The reward for that is another date with a Barcelona squad that beat City 4-1 over two legs. I believe another victory by Barca but it will be more difficult than before.
Juventus v Borussia Dortmund
One of the more exciting matchups in this stage, Juventus will look to add to the misery of Borussia Dortmund this season and progress to the quarterfinals. The German side is languishing in the bottom of the Bundesliga, which is a stark contrast to the back-to-back titles won in 2010 – 2012 and the runner-up finishes in the last two seasons. Thankfully this has not affected the club’s Champion League form but Juventus will be pouncing on any weakness presented to them. I see a home victory by Juventus.
February 26, 2015 early morning matches
Arsenal FC v AS Monaco FC
Arsenal has been eliminated in this stage for the last four seasons but will be up against a Monaco squad that is here for the first time in a decade. The return of Mezut Ozil from injury sparked a resurgence of form for the London side in the English Premier League recently. Carrying this over to the Champions League will be the challenge for Arsene Wenger’s side. Monaco won only one away match in the group stage and will be the losing side of this match in London.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Club Atletico de Madrid
Leverkusen lost all three of the previous time’s the club reached this far of the Champions League. Faced with last season’s runner-up, that record can get even worse. Atletico is in fine form entering into this match, beating Real Madrid convincingly in both the Copa Del Rey and La Liga. The confidence of the La Liga champions are running high and it will take a lot from Leverkusen to hold them back. I predict an away victory for the Spanish side.
The three matches to watch will be the PSG v Chelsea, Manchester city v Barcelona and the Juventus v Borussia Dortmund ones. These will be matches between the best teams of the region with all eight having top quality competition.
Catch the UEFA Champions League only on BALLS Skycable Channel 34/Destiny Cable Channel 36 and ABS-CBN Sports+Action Channel 23.
Here is the schedule for the first leg of the Round of Sixteen matches:
February 18, Wednesday
3:30 am - PSG v Chelsea on BALLS
3:30 am - Shakhtar Donetsk v Bayern Munich on ABS-CBN Sports+Action (5:30 am on BALLS)
February 19, Thursday
3:30 am - Schalke v Real Madrid on BALLS
3:30 am - Basel v Porto on ABS-CBN Sports+Action (5:30 am on BALLS)
February 25, Wednesday
3:30 am - Manchester City v Barcelona on BALLS
3:30 am Juventus v Borussia Dortmund on ABS-CBN Sports+Action (5:30 am on BALLS)
February 26, Thursday
3:30 am - Arsenal v Monaco on BALLS
3:30 am - Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid on ABS-CBN Sports+Action (5:30 am on BALLS)
“The smell of freshly-cut grass and the whiff of the chalk before a big game…and then it starts to rain. You. Are. Home.”