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 1.
Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool
The champions of Europe face Atletico Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano, the exact same place where the Reds won the last UCL final. Since then, Liverpool has been unbeaten in all games in all competitions. Their C team beat Arsenal. Meanwhile Atletico’s defence has not been able to cope with the leaving of Godin. Their main attackers have been out injured. Given the recent performance, it is inevitable that Simeone’ s team face a possible decimation at the hands of Klopp’s side at home.
Players to watch out for:
Both teams bode a star studded line up and there will be several players who could shine but only few could turn the tie by themselves. At Atletico one man will be very crucial, Saul Niguez. Saul, in my opinion, embodies Simeone in numerous ways and one of those attributes is standing up in the face of adversity. Saul is now one of their most important players with many marquee players not around anymore. Thomas Partey has been a brilliant player for Atletico this season. He has anchored the midfield really well.
For Liverpool there are a whole host of players who will be on the radar but for me the most important players will be Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson. The obvious approach Atletico will take when under pressure is flooding the box and the creativity of the above mentioned players will prove to be critical
The tie decider would be the game at Anfield. Liverpool are rampant at home and they look unbeatable there. If Simeone can get a result there they might have a chance of going through but those chances are very slim still considering their home form hasn’t been any grateful to the already under pressure Argentinian.
Liverpool under Klopp have played with a compact midfield which is very crucial to its high pressing game. Under such circumstances, Thomas Partey would be a critical factor for Simeone because he has shown the ability to play against high pressure and play out very comfortably too. A couple of good games for Saul, Partey and Koke if he is available good prove critical for the tie.
Prediction: Atletico 1-5 Liverpool (Agg)
Borussia Dortmund vs Paris Saint Germain
Two teams playing some world-class attacking football this season, going head to head, well at least as long as Neymar can stop himself from rolling on the ground and Mbappe can resist the temptation of handing the ball into the net. A very good draw for the neutral and a challenging one for both sides. It is a difficult fixture to gauge owing to the star power on both sides. Thomas Tuchel goes back to face his former side but should be the bookies favourite to come up with the goods even though he would’ve been hoping for an easier draw.
Players to watch out for:
The most important players for the Parisians would be Mbappe and Neymar. The latter has had his attitude problems at PSG but has shown his full commitment in the last few months but he has not yet delivered what he was brought to Paris for, i.e. The UEFA Champions League. If he is fully committed to the cause, he has the talent to decide the tie. Di Maria is also a key player for PSG. Then there is Mauro Icardi who will try to make an impact in the star-studded and oil-funded PSG. Will be interesting to see whether Edinson Cavani will make it in the squad list given his recent transfer rumours to Atletico at the end of this season.
At Borussia Dortmund the most important players to look out for would be Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho. They both have been at the core of the Dortmund attack and have been in sensational form this season. Another interesting player to look out for would be Achraf Hakimi, who has been a breakthrough player for Dortmund. He also racked up a lot of goals in the Champions League this season and could prove vital in both attack and defence. At last, the new sensation in the football world, Håland who is in absolute beast form scoring 8 goals in just 180 minutes at Dortmund in a span of 4 matches. He would surely look forward to extending his 8 goal tally in UCL which he scored playing for Salzburg.
The match at Signal Iduna Park would be crucial for the tie. No matter how bad Dortmund have been playing, they seem to be a completely different team at their home stadium. In the UEFA Champions League especially this stadium has a reputation, such that any side visiting the stadium would not be comfortable going in. The first leg would be in Dortmund and if the Black and Yellows can get a positive result here it would set up an enticing second leg. If PSG wins the match in Dortmund, that would in my opinion be the tie done and dusted.
Prediction: Dortmund 3-4 PSG (Agg)