After what seems like ages, the UEFA Champions League returns from its hiatus – and this time, it’s for knockout action! It’s serious business from this stage onward for the remaining 16 teams, as all will battle hard for the prestigious Champions League trophy. I have previewed both of tonight’s fixtures, giving insight into each team’s prospects of advancing, and reminding you they have fared so far this season. Is there any better Valentines Day treat than the return of the toughest club competition in the world?
Milan v Tottenham
Milan have been in awful form, winning only 1 of their first 7 games since the return of Italian football – slumping from 2nd down to 5th place in the Serie A table, and suffering heavy defeats to Lazio (4-0) and Sassuolo (5-2)- not to mention a derby defeat to rivals Inter. Spurs have been inconsistent at best in domestic competition this season, and much like their last 16 opponents, Tottenham have fallen away from Champions League qualifying spots themselves in recent months. A victory against Manchester City may have given Spurs fans a glimmer of hope, but a resounding 4-1 defeat to Leicester on the weekend means Conte’s side will need to kick it up a gear if they stand any chance of progressing.
Tottenham struggled to 1st place in a tight group D; whilst AC Milan were unconvincing in their progression from group B – losing 2 matches without scoring to a Chelsea side struggling in mid table in the Premier League.
Milan must find form quickly if they look to progress. Olivier Giroud will lead the line against his former rivals – the 36-year-old is ageing like a fine wine in Italy with 11 goals and 6 assists this season. Spurs’ own goalscoring genius Harry Kane has 17 goals this season already, and has just broken the 200 Premier League goals barrier – he will be Spurs’ main man once again.
This matchup looks fairly even with both teams performing similarly this season. Advancing to the quarter finals of the Champions League will be a flattering scenario for both as they continue to battle in their respective domestic competitions.
PSG v Bayern
Champions by name, champions by nature. PSG v Bayern is a match-up totally worthy of the competition’s eponymous name. The two sides meet again in a repeat of the 2019/20 final – a fixture that saw Bayern Munich lift the elusive trophy.
The leaders of Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga – although in a much less convincing fashion when compared to previous seasons – are stacked full of talent. PSG benefit from the surprise inclusion of starboy Kylian Mbappé who had been a doubt for the first leg – and his return to the squad will bolster an impressive frontline that also features Argentina’s World Cup winning Lionel Messi.
With Bayern all-time leading goalscorer in the UCL, Robert Lewandowski, leaving last summer, questions were asked of where the goals would come from for the Bavarians. Bayern have answered their critics in emphatic fashion, and they sit as the top scorers in the Bundesliga – averaging 3 goals a game in the groupstages. Former PSG – and Stoke City – forward Choupo-Moting has admirably tried to fill the centre-forward role with a respectable 13 goals this season, but the burden of goals has been shared on the whole team – with 5 Bayern players entering double figures for goals this term.
PSG are still searching for that elusive Champions League trophy, whilst Bayern have lifted it a whopping 6 times. I expect the Parisians to repeat one of their famous bottles, and leave their free spending owners with egg on their face once again – even with the greatest ever footballer on their payroll!
The Bavarians simply look too strong this season, after demolishing their group with 6 straight wins- the only team to do this in 2022-23. The addition of the excellent João Cancelo adds further depth to an already frightening roster – and surely, they are favourites for the title.