by Shubhayan Sengupta
Last week, 14th February was celebrated by many people, not as Valentine’s day but as the day the Champions League finally returned to our beloved TV sets. It was certainly entertaining as Barcelona won against a spirited Bayern Leverkusen and Milan surprisingly defeated Arsenal by four goals. So what can we look forward to this evening’s second batch of the final 16 encounters? Here is a match by match preview of the games ahead.
CSKA Moskva vs Real Madrid CF
This encounter will probably seem one-sided but do not count out CSKA. They have skilful players such as Ahmed Musa, Alan Dzagoev, Keisuke Honda and the tournament’s fourth highest scorer Seydou Doumbia. Yes, he has scored more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo. But their recent form has been worrying. First of all, the Russian side last played on 7th December against Inter which they won. But the long gap will be critical to their chances in this match.
Real Madrid on the other hand have been in blistering form winning their last four matches on the trot and they have all been won in a convincing fashion. Cristiano Ronaldo has been firing on all cylinders this season scoring 28 goals in just 23 games in the La Liga (which is five more than Lionel Messi). The Spanish side come off the back of a 4-0 victory over Racing Santander and Jose Mourinho will be counting on his men to triumph yet again.
One aspect in CSKA’s favour however is the weather could well be on their side.
CSKA MOSCOW (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
D L L L W
REAL MADRID (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
D W W W W
Forecast – CSKA Moscow 1 Real Madrid 2
Chelsea FC vs S.S.C Napoli
This has to be the most mouth-watering encounter of the round from two clubs who were involved in a bidding war for Chilean wizard, Eduardo Vargas who ultimately chose the Italians. Napoli boast of one of the most intimidating strike forces in Europe; a “trequartista” in the form of Marek Hamsik, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi. After overcoming what was the toughest group in the Champions League, they look to defeat a team which has been struggling for quite some time.
Chelsea have been on what has been called their worst season this decade. Fifth in the table, an out of form strike force, an old team….. the problems are endless. After struggling to a 1-1 draw against Birmingham, Chelsea face Napoli at Stamford Bridge which has no longer looked the fortress it did 2 years back.
Well, Napoli have already beaten Chelsea in the transfer market, will they beat them on the field as well? I certainly think so.
NAPOLI (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
D D L W W
CHELSEA (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
W D D L D
Forecast – Chelsea 1 Napoli 2
Talented youngster Xherdan Shaquiri will be playing against the club he will be joining at the end of the season.
Olympique de Marseille vs Inter Milan
This match can certainly spring up a few surprises. Marseille have been in good form of late whereas Inter have lost their previous three matches. Les Phocéens have a very strong strike force with Loic Remy, the Ayew brothers and Mathieu Valbuena and despite drawing against a lowly Valenciennes side they will be looking to win at home against a struggling Inter.
Inter Milan’s story this season has been a sad one really. From winning the UEFA Champions League 2 years back to being 7th in the table, their season has been full of missed opportunities, with the only high note being the win against AC Milan. Claudio Ranieri’s men will certainly have to pick up their game if they want to defeat an in-form Marseille side.
MARSEILLE (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
W W D W D
INTER (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
L D L L L
Forecast – Marseille 2 Inter 1
FC Basel vs FC Bayern Munich
This is one of the most one-sided draws in the round of 16 this year. Talented youngster Xherdan Shaquiri will be playing against the club he will be joining at the end of the season and will look to prove a point or two. They also have a prolific striker in the form of Alexander Frei who has already scored 5 goals in the Champions League. FC Basel, like CSKA, haven’t played a match for two months, (their last match was on 11th December) but will look to pull off a shock win over Bayern, just like they did against Manchester United.
Bayern go into the match as heavy favourites and are also favourites to win the Champions League this season. They are in good form over the last 5-6 matches despite drawing against SC Freiburg over the weekend. They also have goal machine Mario Gomez who has been the competition’s highest scorer so far. Coach Jupp Heynckes will be wanting his boys to get the important away win and not disappoint like they did against Freiburg.
FC Basel (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
W W W W D
BAYERN MUNICH (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
W D W W D
Forecast – FC Basel 0 Bayern Munich 2
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