Over the UCL Round of 16, Eshan Gupta analyses all the different matchups; looking at the potential most impactful players, the tie deciders, and predicts the final score. This is Match Day 2.
Disclaimer: The preview was written before news of Son’s injury ruling him out of the match.
Tottenham Hotspurs vs RB Leipzig
This is a good tie for both sides, they could have been facing tougher opponents but would be rather happy with this draw. It’s a teasing fixture for football fans because it’s two contradictory styles of football meeting.
Players to watch out for:
At Tottenham, Harry Kane is set to miss both legs against Leipzig but there will be some key players to look out for. Dele Alli has thrived under Jose. With Eriksen gone the creativity would most likely come from Lamela if he starts both the matches. But the most important player will be Son Hueng Min. In my opinion, he is the player with by far the most character in the squad. He always tends to show up in the critical moments and that too against the big guns. He has the capability to decide the game on his own. Lucas Moura, might not be in great form this season but after last year’s heroics against Ajax, fans surely expect a lot from him.
For Leipzig there are several players that will be on the radar. Sabitzer and Forsberg will be in charge of the creation of chances against a typical Jose side. They have linked up very well this season. The most crucial ones to watch out for will be Poulsen and Werner. They both have been a great duo up front for Leipzig for the past few years. Timo Werner is in red hot form with 20 goals in 19 league matches and 3 goals in UCL this season. He would be a sure shot favourite to score in the tie.
There is one man who could go on to decide this tie with his individual performance and that is Jose Mourinho. Jose has a good record in the UEFA Champions League and especially in knock out ties. He is no doubt a tactical mastermind and can also lift the performance of his side against whichever team he is going to face. Leipzig might have a hard time breaking down Tottenham if Jose can lift the spirits of his players. Spurs have not been convincing defensively but it is typical Jose to get performances out of his players on big days. There is a reason why he led two underdogs in Porto and Inter to a Champions League triumph.
Predictions: Tot 2-3 RB Lepizig (Agg)
Atalanta vs Valencia
A very enticing fixture to look forward to as a neutral with both teams playing soom sensational football at the moment. Good draw for both sides as they seem to have avoided the big guns and would look at this fixture as a good possibility to go deeper into the competition.
Players to watch out for:
At Atalanta there are few names that stand out week in week out. For them their success has been down to squad rotation and working as a unit. Still some of their stand out players have been Illicic, and Muriel who will be a threat. Freuler has had a great season alongside Martin De Roon and they both if have a good couple of games they could really decide the tie.
At Valencia the main man to look out for is surely Rodrigo. Arguably the most talented player in the squad, he always has an impact on the game. Maxi Gomez will also be a threat for Atalanta. Daniel Wass will be another great player to look out for. Dani Parejo on his day can turn the game on its head and would definitely be the centre of the game for Valencia.
This is one tie that is extremely difficult to gauge and predict. Both teams have their problems with inconsistency but can beat even the best teams in Europe on their day. I think the tie could be decided in the second leg after a stale first leg with both sides cutting off each other on the wings. The Mestalla is a fortress for Valencia and if they get a favourable result in the first leg they could kill the tie in the second leg.
Predictions: Ata 3-4 Val (Agg)