Liverpool hope for consecutive UCL triumphs, arduous task for the Special one against a special side: UCL Round of 16 Preview Part 1

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ATLÉTICO MADRID VS LIVERPOOL

Liverpool return to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid. A ground and a city where they won the Champions league in June last year. Eight months later, they are back to the ground hoping they can replicate last season’s heroics, they’ll be facing Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid.

Atletico Madrid’s squad has changed alongside their home, with Diego Simeone overseeing a new era of Atlético. However, that hasn’t been a smooth transition, with Atletico struggling to keep up with Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga.

Diego Simeone’s side has had a complete overhaul, the club in the summer lost long serving servants Diego Godin and Juanfran, they also lost Star man Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez and Rodri. Atlético Madrid have replaced all these players with equally good players, the likes of Joao Felix, Hector Herrera, Marcus Llorente, Yannick Carrasco etc. but Simeone will need time to integrate them into the team and restore his grit. However, that presents a gargantuan problem against this Liverpool team that is nearly perfect.

Atlético Madrid have really struggled this season, they are already 13 points behind arch rivals Real Madrid who sit top of the La liga log. Atlético sit in 4th position behind Getafe.

Simeone’s side have won just 1 of their last 7 games in all competitions, which was a narrow win at home against mid-table side Granada.

Liverpool have been impressive in all competitions this season, their one nil defeat in Naples against Napoli and 5-0 Carabao thrashing against Aston Villa, a game where they fielded their academy stars are their only loss this season.

They are unbeaten in the league, won 25 of the 26 games played so far. They’ve in the process scored 65 times and conceded just 15 times. Liverpool have kept 9 clean sheets in their last 10 league games. The Reds have also secured five wins in their last seven Champions league away days.

The return of Sadio Mane will be a morale boost to the team, he came from the bench to score the only of the game against Norwich on Saturday. The African best player has scored 10 times in his last 14 Champions League knockout games. A record Atlético won’t be happy seeing.

Atlético are well known for their defensive stability, one which took them to the final of this competition in 2014 and 2016. But they’ll have to double their efforts against Liverpool, a team that has failed to score just 2 times in the Champions league and in the league this season.

Can the Shaky Atlético punish the phenomenal Liverpool?

Prediction: 0-1

BORUSSIA DORTMUND VS PSG

Thomas Tuchel heads back to his former club hoping to avoid the familiar PSG mistakes of the past. He managed Dortmund from 2015 to 2017, before being sacked shortly after winning the German Cup.

Despite the astronomical fees PSG have spent on transfers in recent years, they’ve failed to advance to the round of 16 of the Champions league in the last 3 seasons. 2 of the exits 3 are infamous. Against Barcelona and Manchester United.

Borussia Dortmund have also made it past the Champions League round of 16 only once in the last five seasons. It was in 2016-17 under current PSG manager Tuchel, eventually knocked out by Monaco in the quarter-finals.

Both teams score for fun. PSG’s last five games have contained 29 goals, while Dortmund’s have witnessed 27 goals. Scoring goals might not be strenuous for these two sides as they have abundant quality in attack, but keeping the opponents at bay remains an herculean task, both sides have kept a combine 3 clean sheets in a total of 10 games, with PSG keeping 1 and Dortmund keeping 3. Wednesday’s fixture indeed promises goals.

Dortmund will be without skipper Marco Reus who’s sidelined for a month, but they’ll have the incredible Haaland, the youngster has so far scored 8 Champions league goals, just as many as his Dortmund teams mates.

PSG will have Neymar and Mbappe available for this fixture, Neymar missed PSG’s last 4 games with a broken rib. Kylian Mbappe was also given a rest against Amiens on Sunday, he will be back fresh for this game.

Prediction: 2-2

ATALANTA VS VALENCIA

Atalanta are one of the 9 sides to qualify to the Champions League knockout round in their debut season. They did it in what is possibly one of the hardest way. After the first 4 Champions league group games, Atalanta were sitting bottom of Group C with just 1 point. They won their last 2 games impressively and needed favor elsewhere to advance.

Atalanta will on Wednesday welcome Valencia to their adopted home ground San Siro. A ground where Valencia have night mares about, a ground where they lost the 2001 Champions league final.

Valencia’s Champions league run hasn’t been any different from that of Atalanta. They needed a 1-0 victory against last season’s Semi finalists Ajax to advance to the knockout round. The Spanish side topped Group H and are the weakest of all the group winners, making Wednesday’s encounter an even encounter.

Atalanta have scored 63 Serie A goals this season, they’ve failed to score just twice in the 33 games they’ve played in all competitions this season. Valencia on the other hand have conceded over 2 goals per away game in the league this season, but they’ve conceded just one away from home in the Champions league.

Atalanta will have everyone available for this fixture. Valencia will be without Gabriel Paulista and Ezequiel Garay, the duo will be missing through suspension and injury respectively. There are also injury doubts over Francis Coquelin and Rodrigo Moreno.

Prediction: 3-1

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR VS RB LEIPZIG

Jose Mourinho has had an eventful start as new Tottenham boss, but Wednesday could be a decisive night for his future at the club. Jose Mourinho and his side will welcome Bundesliga high flyers Leipzig to London.

Mourinho will need to earn his keep in big games like this. The Portuguese manager loves the big games and it’s exactly what he built his reputation on, but he has over the years being considered by many as “sapped”, and that makes this encounter more intriguing, he faces the 32 year old Nagelsmann. A manager who was only 16 when Mourinho won his first European trophy in 2004 with Porto.

Tottenham have had a turn of form since the arrival of the “Special One”. When Mourinho joined in November, the gap between his side and 4th placed team in the league Chelsea was 12 points, but that has been slashed down to just 1.

Leipzig on the other hand sit second on the Bundeslisga table, just a point behind leaders Bayern Munich. Their 3-0 win against Bremen on Saturday brought an end to a four match winless run in all competitions, a bad form that had threatened to derail their campaign.

Tottenham conceded 14 goals in this season’s Champions League group phase, the highest tally among the remaining teams in the competition. Unsurprisingly, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has seen more goals than any other venue in this season’s Champions League (20 goals; 11 for Tottenham, 9 against), more than 2 goals were also recorded in all 6 Champions league games Spurs have played in.

This will be Leipzig’s first time playing in the Champions League knockout round. The Bundesliga side are a young, talented and energetic side. They’ve scored 10 goals in their 6 group games, scoring in 5 games and failing to do so in just 1. Leipzig have also struggled to keep the opposition at bay this season, they’ve conceded 8 goals in the UCL. This game promises to be a game of goals.

Son has scored 9 times in his last 10 Champions league starts, but Spurs will be without him for this encounter. The South Korean will be on the sidelines for weeks after a arm fracture against Aston Villa over the weekend. Tottenham will also be without Harry Kane and Moussa Sissoko. Juan Foyth and Erik Lamela’s fate to play a part in this game is ambiguous.

Leipzig will come into this game without Willi Orban and Ibrahima Konate, the duo are injured. Dayot Upamecano will also miss out through suspension. Tyler Adams and Kevin Kampl are other absentees.

Prediction: 2-2

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