Champions League last 16: Liverpool boost, PSG revenge?

The Champions League is back but who’s in shape for the last 16 as a host of star names go head-to-head?

The first legs of four knockout ties will take place across Tuesday and Wednesday – with some games taking place at unfamiliar venues due to the coronavirus pandemic – before the remaining four ties kick off the following week.

From the form and team news to the themes that could emerge, get the lowdown with our tie-by-tie analysis.

RB Leipzig vs Liverpool

Liverpool are 30 points worse off than they were at this stage last term
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Liverpool turn their attentions to the Champions League after a third straight Premier League defeat
  • First leg: February 16, Puskas Arena, Budapest (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 10, Anfield (8pm)

The team news

Liverpool look set to be without Fabinho again after the player missed training on Monday. Naby Keita was involved in Monday’s session but Tuesday’s game will come too soon for the midfielder.

RB Leipzig will be without Konrad Laimer, Dominik Szoboszlai and Emil Forsberg.

The form

Liverpool slipped to an unthinkable third straight defeat as they imploded at Leicester, prompting Jurgen Klopp to concede the Premier League title. RB Leipzig, meanwhile, are flying; they made it four wins in a row with a 2-1 victory at home to Augsburg to keep the heat on Bayern Munich.

What to look out for

A tie that pits the 2020 semi-finalists with the 2019 winners also sees Jurgen Klopp go head-to-head with young compatriot Julian Nagelsmann, the rising coaching star within the German school of pressing. “He is a big, big coaching talent,” Klopp said three years ago when Liverpool took on Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim in the competition. The tactical battle is set to be a fascinating one but Liverpool need a result, whatever the method, to arrest their slump.

View from the camps



Jurgen Klopp




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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he is ‘full of energy’ amid speculation he could leave his role and backs the Premier League champions to overcome their indifferent form

RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann: “We are in a good flow. They are the slight favourites based on their international experience but we have shown that we can hold our own against such teams, both last year and this season with a very tough group stage. We have clearly developed as a team.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “It’s a mix of different things that have happened, we have to keep going. We cannot sit back, we have to be dominant. It’s a massive challenge but I’m ready, the boys are ready and we’ll give our everything to sort it.”

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold: “It’s a different competition, which always freshens it up. Different mentality going into it… it’s exciting.”

Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain

Mauricio Pochettino suffered his first defeat as PSG manager at Lorient
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Mauricio Pochettino is ready for his Champions League bow with PSG
  • First leg: February 16, Nou Camp (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 10, Parc des Princes (8pm)

The team news

Barcelona could welcome back Gerard Pique but Ronald Araujo, Sergi Roberto, Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho are sidelined.

PSG’s Neymar hurt his thigh in a cup match against Caen and misses out, as does Angel Di Maria with his own muscle problem, but midfielder Marco Verratti has recovered from a hip injury.

The form

Barcelona have climbed to third in La Liga after winning four in a row and Lionel Messi is on song. He scored twice in a rout of Alaves to reach 15 goals in a Liga season for the 13th year running. PSG have bounced back from a defeat to lowly Lorient with four straight wins but Pochettino is still tweaking his system.

What to look out for

Can PSG avenge La Remontada? Barcelona have knocked out PSG in each of their last three Champions League knockout ties but the memory of ‘The Comeback’ – an incredible 6-1 win as Barcelona overturned a 4-0 first leg in 2016/17 – still especially stings. Neymar, who scored twice for the Spaniards that night, has been ruled out of a reunion with a groin injury so Mauricio Pochettino, leading PSG for the first time in this competition, will hope Kylian Mbappe can inspire his side instead and this time over two legs.

French eyes will be firmly fixed on Messi too; PSG’s pursuit of a player out of contract in the summer adds further intrigue to a rivalry laced with recent history. “Messi belongs to Barca and I have a lot of hope he will stay here,” fired Ronald Koeman ahead of the clash.

View from the camps

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman: “We’ll go into the match with great enthusiasm. We have known for a long time that it is a very tough tie because Paris have a strong team. It is a very interesting tie because Barça have improved in recent months and Paris have quality. They are going to be two interesting and beautiful games. Messi is the best player in the world and we need him in his best form. Kylian Mbappé is very fast and can complicate things a lot, but these games are to be enjoyed.”

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino: “Winning the UEFA Champions League is the main goal for the club. Important players will be missing, indeed, but the team cannot wait to play this match and will give it their all to win. These players want to build something for the club and its history. We want to shape a real identity for Paris.”

Porto vs Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after putting Juventus 1-0 up against Roma (AP)
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Cristiano Ronaldo heads back to Portugal with Juventus
  • First leg: February 17, Estadio do Dragao (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 9, Juventus Stadium (8pm)

The team news

TBC.

The form

Juventus missed the chance to close the gap at the top of Serie A after a 1-0 defeat to Napoli, while Porto have been held to four successive draws in all competitions.

What to look out for

Porto were Cristiano Ronaldo’s first opponents in the knockout stages of the Champions League, 17 years ago. He last faced them for Manchester United in 2009, scoring the only goal of the game to take his side through to the semi-finals. That in fact has been his only strike in six meetings with Porto; you can bet the evergreen star will be out to end a mini goal drought back in his homeland.

View from the camps

Porto defender Pepe: “Juventus have top-class players. In my opinion, they’ve got the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. We realise it’s going to be very tough but I expect to win.”

Juventus’ Danilo: “Porto is always a difficult side to come up against in these kinds of matches. I expect a huge challenge.”

Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund

Erling Haaland in action for Borussia Dortmund
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Erling Haaland is back on the Champions League goal trail
  • First leg: February 17, Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 9, Signal Iduna Park (8pm)

The team news

TBC.

The form

Sevilla’s relentless run continued with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Huesca – their ninth successive win in all competitions. Borussia Dortmund continue to stutter domestically by contrast. Their title hopes have long been dashed but a 2-2 draw against Hoffenheim last time out means their Champions League qualification chances remain in peril.

What to look out for

Can Erling Haaland keep up his stellar Champions League goalscoring record? The Dortmund hotshot has netted in all of his appearances in the competition so far this season and has bagged 16 goals in 12 games in Europe’s top club competition overall, easily surpassing the 20 games it took Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roberto Soldado to reach that mark.

Haaland was the man who snatched a point against Hoffenheim but he berated himself afterwards for missing several first-half chances and warned of his intent to make amends. Sevilla, beware.

View from the camps

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde: “Whoever we face, we’re going to do our best to go through to the next stage.”

Dortmund coach Edin Terzic: “Our clear goal is to reach the next round, we will do everything we can. When things don’t go well, we have to stick together – like a family.”

Coming up…

B Monchengladbach vs Manchester City



Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan




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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says people laughed when he suggested Ilkay Gundogan could be used as a striker, following his two goals in the 3-0 win over Tottenham
  • First leg: February 24, Puskas Arena, Budapest (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 16, Etihad Stadium (8pm)

What to look out for

Get ready to hear quadruple and Manchester City in the same sentence again. Streaking clear at the top of the Premier League, in the EFL Cup final and FA Cup last eight, it’s time for the spotlight to turn back onto the trophy that has so far eluded City but Pep Guardiola’s side are purring with 16 wins in a row in all competitions.

Kevin De Bruyne could return against a Gladbach side in fine form themselves; how will Guardiola fit the Belgian and in-form Ilkay Gundogan in the same midfield? “It will not be a problem, I promise you!”.

Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea

Luis Suarez
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Luis Suarez scored 16 goals in his first 17 games for Atletico
  • First leg: February 23, National Arena, Bucharest (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 17, Stamford Bridge (8pm)

What to look out for

There will be no Diego Costa – the former Chelsea forward is still seeking a new club after leaving Atletico in January – but Luis Suarez is another familiar face with previous when it comes to the Blues. The ex-Liverpool player, who infamously bit Branislav Ivanovic during a 2013 clash with Chelsea in which he also scored a late equaliser, has been the impetus behind Atletico’s title tilt, scoring a league-high 16 goals.

Chelsea were the last team to beat Atletico on their own turf in European competition – back in September 2017 – but to repeat the trick, they will need to keep Suarez quiet.

Lazio vs Bayern Munich

AP
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Bayern Munich won the Club World Cup
  • First leg: February 23, Olimpico (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 17, Allianz Arena (8pm)

What to look out for

Bayern warmed up for the knockout stage of their Champions League title defence by lifting another trophy at the Club World Cup. The holders have gone almost two years without defeat in the Champions League, have failed to score only once in their last 27 matches and have won 16 of their last 17 games in the competition with an overall goal difference of +48.

That looks ominous, but both sides have forwards in deadly form. Robert Lewandowski has scored 31 goals in 33 Champions League games since the start of the 2017/18 season – more than any other player – but Lazio’s Ciro Immobile has eight in his last nine Champions League starts and outscored Lewandowski across Europe’s top leagues last term.

Atalanta vs Real Madrid

Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard (AP image)
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Eden Hazard is back in training after a muscle problem
  • First leg: February 24, Gewiss Stadium (8pm)
  • Second leg: March 16, Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium (8pm)

What to look out for

Real Madrid are five points behind La Liga leaders Atletico (having played two games more) and are out of the Copa del Rey and Spanish Cup. It’s crunch time now for Zinedine Zidane. Zidane’s side came back from the brink to reach the last 16 as Group B winners but all eyes are now on their European challenge, with reports in Spain claiming the Frenchman’s job is on the line.

Another man under scrutiny, Eden Hazard, could return after his latest injury setback. His boss will hope he can finally find fitness and form.

Champions League key dates

Round of 16 first legs: February 16/17/23/24

Round of 16 second legs: March 9/10/16/17

Quarter-final and semi-final draws: March 19

Quarter-finals first legs: April 6/7

Quarter-finals second legs: April 13/14

Semi-finals first legs: April 27/28

Semi-finals second legs: May 4/5

Final: May 29 (Atatürk Olympic Stadium)

Let’s

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