The UEFA Champions League round of 16 draw took place on Monday and we have been offered with some mouthwatering ties during February 2023.
Real Madrid and Liverpool are set to reprise last season’s final—hopefully in a more entertaining fashion, while Manchester City have drawn German side, RB Leipzig. The other heavyweight clash will see Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain take on the mighty Bayern Munich.
The Champions League round of 16 ties will see superstars square up against superstars. There will be drama, action, emotions and key battles across the pitch when Europe’s most prestigious competition resumes in February.
That being said, here are the three key matchups to look forward to in the Champions League round of 16.
#Vinicius Jr. vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
A repeat of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League final in the knockout rounds; 14-time winners Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in Paris thanks to a second-half strike from Vinicius Junior.
Apart from probably the most important goal he scored in his career back in May in Paris, Vinicius Jr. proved to be a nightmare for Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Brazilian’s blistering pace, unpredictable movement and exquisite dribbling skills absolutely flummoxed Alexander-Arnold on that night, with the Liverpool full-back rarely getting close to the Real Madrid star.
When Real take on Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16, the nightmares provided by Vinicius Jr. last year will come back to haunt Alexander-Arnold. It remains to be seen whether Alexander-Arnold has learnt his lessons, but if he can somehow neutralise the Brazilian speedster’s impact over both legs, Liverpool’s chances of progressing to the last eight will significantly increase.
#How Bayern copes with PSG’s fiery front three?
The clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich is arguably the best of the knockout round.
Both Bayern and PSG are blessed with match-winners, good players and great squad depth, and remain good enough to win the Champions League this time around; however, as a result of the draw, one of them will bid us adieu before the quarter-final.
In Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, PSG boasts of arguably the best attacking trio in world football. They can run riot on the opposition single-handedly or win games collectively, that is how dangerous Messi, Mbappe and Neymar can be on any given night.
Bayern do face an uphill task of containing PSG’s famed attacking trio, and Julian Nagelsmann will bank on experienced stars such as Joshua Kimmich, Benjamin Pavard, Matthijs de Ligt and Lucas Hernandez to do the needful.
As a result, how the Bavarian giants cope with Messi, Neymar and Mbappe will be intriguing to watch over both legs.
#Stefano Pioli vs Antonio Conte
Tottenham will take on seven-time European champions AC Milan, as Antonio Conte returns to Italy.
Conte, who managed AC Milan’s cross-town rivals Inter between 2019 and 2021, will be keen to give one back to Rossoneri with Tottenham. Stefano Pioli’s Milan are in a good run of form and will hopefully get better come February.
Apart from two teams with a distinctive style of play, it is also the key battle between Pioli and Conte that best represents the respective managers’ tactical styles and the shape that will emerge over both the legs in Milan and London.
Pioli, a smart tactician most skilled at getting the best out of his players, may order his players to go gung-ho against Spurs. Conte’s Spurs team typically will be expected to sit back and soak up pressure for long periods before utilising the experience and pace of their best players to break at just the right moments.
So, perhaps it will be a lot more than just AC Milan taking on Tottenham when the two sides meet in February.