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As the most memorable aspect of February rolls around (sit down, Valentine’s Day), spotkick’s trusted pick up their crystal balls and cast their predictions on which teams will remain when 16 gets trimmed to eight in the Champions League:

Ola Fadahunsi 

Man City vs Basel

City have been one of the best sides in Europe this season; the tie with Basel should be a banana peel.

City, duh! 

Juventus vs Tottenham

Spurs made a good statement by topping Madrid in the group stage but Juventus' experience in Europe should see them above the North London side.

Juve to knock out Spurs

Porto vs Liverpool

The oddity here is Liverpool qualifying if history is anything to go by. But I will still stick with the Merseyside Red.

Liverpool for me

Real Madrid vs PSG 

Madrid are going into this tie with little or nothing to lose as many have written them off - thus putting enormous pressure on PSG. I doubt PSG's ability to contain this pressure even with their star-studded side led by Neymar: last year's exit to Barcelona at this stage is a perfect example.

I still think Real will qualify.

Chelsea vs Barcelona

The Blues' strength playing Barca over the years has been how solid they've been at the back but this year’s tie will be different - as Barca's strongest household has been their back line and when you sync that with what Messi and Suarez can offer upfront, Chelsea will bow out in style.

Barcelona to progress

Sevilla vs Manchester United

Consistency has been a problem for the two sides but i think United have more than enough to deal with whatever Sevilla would be throwing at them.

United to go through. 

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Roma

An even tie. Against all odds, Roma made it pass group stage - topping both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but if you've been a follower of the UCL for years, you'll know how dangerous Shaktar can be in games like this. As a lover of history, I'll give it to Shakhtar

 

Kunle Ajao

Juventus v Tottenham

Spurs have delivered much better than expected in this season’s competition, after underperforming in the previous campaign. They topped a group that comprised Dortmund and Real Madrid, and their 3-1 win over the latter was mighty impressive. Juve, though, have pedigree in this competition, and have been finalists for two of the last three seasons. They’ve been here and done it before more times than their opponents at this stage. With both sides possessing formidable defences and midfields as well, it might well boil down to which striker, in Harry Kane and Gonzalo Higuain, will have a better day.

Juventus to just about sneak through. 

Basel v Manchester City

There’s no doubt who the overwhelming favourite is for this one, Man City have looked impeccable most times this season. Basel were impressive in qualifying from Group A, beating Manchester United on the way, but have lost Manuel Akanji and Renato Steffen to the Bundesliga. They might spring a surprise, but this looks a hard ask.

Barring a shock, City to go through 

Real Madrid v PSG

The tie of the round, the game that is most likely to determine the future of both managers. For Paris Saint-Germain, it’s finally a chance to prove they can roll with the elite after all the years of spending, especially with last year’s capitulation to Barcelona still in the memory. Real Madrid, meanwhile, have their whole season riding on this.

PSG to make the last eight for me

Porto v Liverpool

This tie seems finely poised, pitting two teams who’ll equally fancy their chances of progress. Liverpool’s front three, despite the departure of Philippe Coutinho, has been one to envy, even if Sadio Mane’s form has dipped recently. Their defence still leaves much to ponder, though, and Porto will look to capitalise on any slackness. But Liverpool’s best form of defending has been attacking, and it has worked so far.

Will be no straightforward task, but Liverpool should progress

Bayern Munich v Besiktas

No prizes for guessing the favourite here, Bayern haven't quite looked the same since Jupp Heynckes took over from Carlo Ancelotti, with only one defeat in all competitions since September. Besiktas do have an experienced, if not ageing, squad which helped finish top of Group G, but that also owed a big part to Cenk Tosun, whose January departure is a big blow.

The odds look overwhelmingly on Bayern Munich

Chelsea v Barcelona

This seems like the most ill-timed meeting of them all, Chelsea’s form having dropped massively, and not helped by Antonio Conte’s constant complaints over transfer dealings. Barcelona have lost just once since that supposedly-crushing Super Cup defeat in August. Philippe Coutinho is cup-tied, but Ernesto Valverde’s side are still favourites in this tie, if not the whole competition.

Barcelona to make progress here.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma

Roma were impressive in finishing top of a group that involved Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. But they haven’t been at their best lately in Serie A, and have slipped well out of the title race. Shakhtar are just as impressive a side, and have previous when it comes to the two teams meeting at this stage, they beat the Giallorossi in the last 16 in 2011.

Roma to qualify, just about. 

Sevilla v Manchester United

Sevilla are still searching for that first Champions League quarter-final appearance. They came close in 2008 (losing to Fenerbahce) and last season (eliminated by Leicester), but this looks like the hardest task of all. Jose Mourinho is a master at negotiating ties like this, and only the most courageous would bet against United going through, particularly with this being perhaps their most likely chance of silverware.

Manchester United to progress

 

Shehu Idris

Basel v Manchester City 

Does this actually need a prediction. Better luck next time Basel. A full scale hurricane is coming Basel's way, perhaps they shouldn't even bother showing up for both legs but, in Ed Sheeran's voice, "What do I know?". 

Juventus vs Tottenham

This is like a classic ole battle between an old, experienced and embittered war veteran and a young, greenhorn who's shown that his youthful exuberance can bleed giants to death if allowed. I'm tilting towards the green-necks from North London they should handle the Old Lady pretty easily. 

Porto vs Liverpool

This should be easy for Jürgen Klopp's men, they'll do it on both legs and if by deeds of their typical Liverpool-ism they don't, take this prediction as a tongue-in-cheek bluff. 

Real Madrid vs PSG

We'll plumb this pseudo-big club money sack with over-pampered players who're only there because of the jiggling coins it has in coffer. Real Madrid to progress, yes of course. 

Bayern Munich vs Besiktas

It’s hard for anyone to not see Bayern progressing here 

Chelsea vs Barcelona

Chelsea are but a sorry shadow of their true selves currently, with their coach a 'Noob Saibot' of his usually maniac, football-loving self and against a Barcelona side that haven't lost in the league this season and have Lionel Messi? May God have mercy on them. Barcelona to progress. 

Sevilla vs Manchester United

Sevilla struggled under Eduardo Berrizo, are still struggling under Vincenzo Montella, plus this season has been what they projected it will be. Manchester United will help see to that. United to ease pass them. 

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Roma

Who are these ones? Me, I'm tired ooo. Anyway, Roma to progress.

 

So, according to we at spotkick.com, the potential quarter finalists are:

Barcelona 

Manchester City 

Manchester United 

Roma

Real Madrid 

Juventus 

Bayern Munich 

Liverpool

Keep in mind, keyword, ‘potential’,  there’s not many things as humbling as seeing a seemingly genius and iron-clad prediction go all kinds of wrong.

 

Feel free to disagree with us in the comments section.

Published in International Watch

By now it should be Greenwich Mean Time in a few countries, where the clocks fall back an hour, and shorter days are complimented by longer nights.

For Atletico Madrid, it’s a different time entirely, something of an Eleventh hour, like a last-ditch o’clock, as they bid get back on track- or rather get on track- in Group C of the Champions League group phase. Two goalless draws on Match days one and three, either side of a defeat at home to Chelsea- where they conceded with the last kick of the game- have left the Colcheronos in a state of near-desperation in their quest to make the knockout round.

Their performances and results haven’t been convincing domestically either, as their latest result, a 1-1 draw at home to Villarreal, left them eight points behind the top in La Liga, even if manager Diego Simeone is convinced things will take a positive turn soon. ‘If we keep on this path, things will improve for sure, I always prefer to see the positive side’, said the Argentine gaffer.

The positive for Atleti, in terms of this group, is that the top two in Chelsea and Roma meet in the Italian capital, and whatever the outcome, it’s unlikely to do them much harm should they beat Azeri club Qarabag. Another plus is the fact that Atletico have only failed to win seven of their last 24 home games in this competition, while Qarabag were hit for six in their last away outing, at Chelsea. And after this game lies another straight home game on Matchday five against Roma.

But a win here is absolutely imperative if they’re keep up with the top two, or the start of GMT could begin their departure from the elites.

Elsewhere:

  • It was quite a game of two halves a fortnight ago, when Manchester City triumphed over Napoli at the Etihad. The Citizens bossed proceedings in the opening 45, but couldn’t score more than two (yes, for City that’s a negative), and Napoli grew into the encounter in the second period, but could only halve the deficit. The good news for Maurizio Sarri’s side is that they- to an extent- found a way to limit City’s attacking prowess. The bad news is, they need as much points as they need sturdiness, else they risk falling further behind in Group F.
  • It looks like a case of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts for Manchester United in Group A, as they are a win away from qualification, with Benfica coming to Old Trafford. The Portuguese side have lost every game so far, and require an unlikely win here to have any chance of being in contention to still be in the competition come February.
  • In Group G, it’s top against bottom, but not many would have expected that when the draw was made. Senol Gunes and Besiktas are within touching distance of a place in the knockout round, and will clinch that spot with a win on Wednesday. Should things pan out that way, however, it would leave their opponents Monaco’s own hopes in smithereens, the principality club haven’t quite replicated their European form of last season.

Fixtures

Group A: Manchester United v Benfica; Basel v CSKA Moscow

Group B: Celtic v Bayern Munich; PSG v Anderlecht

Group C: Atletico Madrid v Qarabag; Roma v Chelsea

Group D: Sporting CP v Juventus; Olympiacos v Barcelona

Group E: Liverpool v Maribor; Sevilla v Spartak Moscow

Group F: Napoli v Manchester City; Shakhtar Donetsk v Feyenoord

Group G: Porto v RB Leipzig; Besiktas v Monaco

Group H: Tottenham v Real Madrid; Dortmund v APOEL

 

Published in International Watch

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