Barcelona to carry group stage form all the way? Predictions for the CL knockout stages

Barcelona to carry group stage form all the way? Predictions for the CL knockout stages

- in Football

After months of gripping group stage action the Champions League has once again reached those unforgiving knockout rounds.  

On Monday morning in Nyon, Switzerland, the draw for the last 16-took place, with clubs progressing through the group stages collectively learning their fates.

Last season’s finalists Liverpool were drawn against Bayern Munich, while Manchester United will face Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City will lock horns with Schalke and Tottenham will pit their wits against Borussia Dortmund.

Elsewhere, current champions Real Madrid take on Ajax, Cristiano Ronaldo will return to the Spanish capital as Juventus clash with Atletico Madrid, while Barcelona contest against Lyon.

Finally, Roma will collide with Porto, concluding an interesting, yet intense set of fixtures. But who stands the greatest chance of winning Europe’s premier knockout tournament this season, and which Premier League team will go the furthest?

Well, we asked six of our writers to have their say.

Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt)

Winner: Barcelona

Furthest PL team: Liverpool

Before this season started, Lionel Messi said: “It’s time. This year we have the Champions League again.” And, well, the Blaugrana have played up to that lofty bar set by their talisman since. Barca strolled through the Group of Death with insulting ease, Messi scored six goals in under 300 minutes of play, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho add bite, Arthur helps Sergio Busquets control things and Ousmane Dembele is an X-factor only PSG can match. They will win.

As for the furthest progression from a Premier League side, it’s hard to look past Liverpool. The Reds reached the final last year and they’ve only gotten better as a team since then. Sure, their away form is dicey (they’ve lost their last five away from Anfield) but they are so strong at home and possess so much match-winning potential that another trip to May’s showpiece isn’t out of the question. They’ll be too good for Bayern and there’s only a couple of sides who could stop them.

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Harry Edwards (@harryedwards16)

Winner: Barcelona

Furthest PL team: Man City

I predicted Barcelona would win at the start of the season and I’m sticking with my guns, as no side really look spectacular in the Champions League so far. The last-16 draw was favourable to them and they should go through to the next round, barring a Roma-esque collapse. Plus, they have Lionel Messi, the (fifth) best player in the world who has been turning on the style this season and should lead them to glory once more.

Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur both look a bit poor in the Champions League this season with Spurs lucky to be in the last 16. Liverpool weren’t much better, losing all three away games and this could come to trip them up in the knockout stages. City have been the best in Europe out of the English sides and stand in good stead to advance the furthest.

Sam Long (@samuelplong)

Winner: Man City

Furthest PL team: Man City

Manchester City are yet to hit top gear in the Champions League during Pep Guardiola’s reign – but I do not see such a trend repeating itself this season. The Spaniard will have learned his lessons from past failures at the hands of Monaco and Liverpool and his team will now be more adept at tackling two-legged ties.

I backed City to go all the way at the start of the season and still believe they will do so, despite chinks in their armour being revealed during a group stage defeat to Lyon. The Citizens should stroll past Schalke and, with Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero set to return to full fitness in the New Year, will be primed to finally claim the prize Sheikh Mansour covets above all others.

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As for the rest of the Premier League contingent, Manchester United may as well go home now, Spurs will fall short in the quarter-finals while Liverpool’s squad depth will be exposed at the business end of the season with the whiff of a maiden Premier League title set to be too difficult not to prioritise.

Chris Smith (@CJSmith91)

Winner: Man City

Furthest PL team: Man City

At the start of the season, I tipped Manchester City to win the Champions League and nothing has happened to change my view.

Yes, they suffered a home defeat to Lyon earlier in the group stage campaign, but that and their Chelsea loss have been the only blotches on an otherwise flawless copybook this season. Guardiola’s side have been mesmerising to watch and it’s terrifying to think that they’re only just getting Kevin De Bruyne back.

On that basis, along with the almost unfairly good form of Raheem Sterling and David Silva, I can only see them going from strength to strength. It’s about time Pep had a reunion with the Champions League trophy

James Richards (@d3d4football)

Winner: Liverpool

Furthest PL team: Liverpool

Looking at the last-16 draw for the Champions League two sides stick out for me, Barcelona and Liverpool. I can’t see any Premier League side getting further than Jurgen Klopp’s well-oiled machine. They are unbeaten in the English top flight this season having taken three points off Tottenham and Manchester United while drawing with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. They do not lose the big games and although getting past Bayern Munich will not be easy I can’t see the German side handling the pace of Liverpool’s front line.

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Barcelona are going well in La Liga and have Lionel Messi to call upon. They should make light work of Lyon and will be Liverpool’s biggest threat in the competition. If I had to hang my hat on a team to win it I would plum with Liverpool as I just think they are a complete side with ultimate balance this season but it should be an enthralling knockout stage once again.

Ben Green

Winner: Barcelona

Furthest PL team: Man City

Ernesto Valverde was dealt a humiliating blow during his maiden campaign in Catalonia; the 3-0 second-leg humbling inflicted by Roma was uncharacteristic but will serve as a cautionary tale this time around. And with that harsh lesson, Barcelona will be well-prepped and mentally disciplined to ensure that same outcome does not repeat itself. They have looked scintillating and devastating in equal measure during the group stages, and I expect them to carry that right through to the very end.

As for those in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola was appointed to take Man City to the European summit, and the Spaniard is very much on course. Defeat against Lyon on matchday one does tell us that his side still have some vulnerabilities, which can be exposed by the more habitual Champions League clubs, but they have a knack of coming back stronger and will be a force down the line, though I do believe this will be one season too soon for Guardiola.

The post We asked six writers: who will win the UCL, and which PL team will go furthest? appeared first on Squawka News.

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