• Alexander Poletaev

2020/21 Champions League Round of 16 Preview

Updated: Feb 9





RB Leipzig vs Liverpool


Three Key Stats for Liverpool

  • 12. That’s how many different centre back pairings Liverpool have played this season at the time of writing. This defensive crisis was furthered by Joel Matip’s season ending injury against Tottenham. Liverpool brought in Ben Davies from Preston and Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke on deadline day, but whether or not the two can adapt to a higher level of opposition is yet to be seen.

  • 75. That’s how many passes Thiago completed in his second half debut vs Chelsea in September 2020. Thiago is excellent in possession, something Liverpool will need against Leipzig’s high press. After an injury and a rocky adaptation period that culminated in a 2-3 loss to Manchester United that knocked them out of the FA Cup, Thiago helped Liverpool to key victories against Tottenham and West Ham. With Thiago in form and Fabinho scheduled to return from injury for the tie, we could see the strongest Liverpool midfield yet.

  • 4. That’s how many seasons Mohammed Salah has scored 20+ goals for Liverpool in all competitions. He has already met the mark this season and currently leads the Premier League with 16. When Salah gets hot, he’s one of the world’s best. Keeping him quiet should be high on RB Leipzig’s list of priorities.


Three Key Stats for RB Leipzig

  • 10. That’s how many clean sheets RB Leipzig have kept in the Bundesliga at the time of writing, good for first. Given that they kept last season’s defensive line intact, most importantly keeping hold of Dayot Upamecano, Leipzig will be confident against a Liverpool side that currently lead the Premier League in goals with 43.

  • 1. That’s how many goals Leipzig have conceded from counter-attacks in both the Bundesliga and the Champion’s League. Liverpool are a team known for being devastating on the counter, and rank joint second in the Premier League for counter-attack goals. Being able to take this away from Liverpool will be essential for Leipzig.

  • 4. That’s the most any RB Leipzig player scored in the Bundesliga at the time of writing (four-way tie between Emil Forsberg, Yussuf Poulsen, Marcel Sabitzer, and Angelino). Furthermore, no one has scored more than 3 in the Champions League (Angelino). Leipzig have adapted well to the departure of leading goalscorer Timo Werner, but need someone to step up if they are to beat this Liverpool side.


First Leg Prediction: Liverpool 0 - 0 RB Leipzig


Second Leg Prediction: Liverpool 1 - 2 RB Leipzig

Barcelona vs PSG


Three Key Stats for Barcelona

  • 11. That’s how many games Barcelona have gone unbeaten in La Liga since their last defeat at the time of writing. Of those games, only two were draws. Despite an embarrassing end to last season and a summer mired in controversy, this Barcelona side has found some form. After an early season panic that put European qualification for next season in question, they sit in second, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference.

  • 3. That’s how many goals Lionel Messi scored in the UCL group stage. Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele scored 3 each, and Barcelona ended the group stage with 16 goals, tied for second with Borussia Monchengladbach. Although Barcelona are still dependent on Messi, this dependence isn’t as significant as expected after the departure of Luis Suarez last summer. PSG’s defence will have to focus on more than just marking Messi out of the game if they want to stop this Barcelona team.

  • 24.3 years. That’s the average age of this Barcelona squad. There are 6 players aged 30+: Neto (31), Gerard Pique (33), Jordi Alba (31), Miralem Pjanic (30), Sergio Busquets (32), and Lionel Messi (33). Young prospects Oscar Mingueza (21), Ronald Araujo (21), Sergino Dest (20), Frenkie De Jong (23), Riqui Puig (21), Ansu Fati (18), Pedri (18), and Trincao (21) are the core of a much needed rebuild. If in years past the success of Barcelona’s season hinged entirely on winning the Champions League, this season should be judged differently.


3 Key Stats for PSG

  • 10. That’s how many games that Mauricio Pochettino has in all competitions before the first leg of this tie after taking the PSG job over the winter break. In his first 6 games, he has already dropped points in a draw with 16th placed Saint Etienne and loss to 18th placed Lorient. It takes time for a team to adjust to a new manager, but a team with the financial power and squad quality of PSG has different standards. The league is not a cakewalk this year: after 22 games, both Lille and Lyon are ahead of them, and Monaco only 3 points behind. This will take some of PSG’s focus away.

  • 6. That’s how many goals Neymar scored in the group stage, good for joint first with Erling Haaland, Marcus Rashford, and Alvaro Morata. After a lackluster display in last year’s final, the Brazilian is motivated and playing some of his best football. With a strong supporting cast of Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi, and an in-form Moise Kean, the Parisians’ attack can take them far.

  • 204. That’s how many games Thiago Silva played for PSG in all competitions, becoming the Parisians’ captain and leader on and off the pitch. Last summer, he left on a free transfer to Chelsea. Given PSG’s patchy form in Ligue 1 and how they barely qualified for the UCL knockout stage, his absence is clearly felt, and PSG’s defense will need to bring their A game.


First Leg Prediction: Barcelona 2 - 1 PSG


Second Leg Prediction: Barcelona 0 - 2 PSG


Borussia Dortmund vs Sevilla


3 Key Stats for Borussia Dortmund

  • 6. That’s how many of Dortmund's 12 group stage goals were scored by Erling Haaland. Haaland also has as many Bundesliga goals as the next 5 Dortmund players combined at the time of writing (14). Haaland’s goalscoring is undoubtedly one of Dortmund’s strengths, but their dependence on him is one of their main weaknesses.

  • 12. That’s how many points Dortmund have dropped against top half Bundesliga sides since sacking Lucien Favre at the time of writing. Despite beating Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig, they lost to Union Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Freiburg. This lack of consistency could hurt Dortmund if they don’t find a good run of form coming into this tie.

  • 9. That’s how many goals Dortmud have conceded from set pieces in the Bundesliga, good for second most. Only bottom of the table Schalke have conceded more (11). While Sevilla is by no means exceptional in scoring from set pieces, it is something they could exploit and something Dortmund should focus on defending.


3 Key Stats for Sevilla

  • 2. That’s how many times Sevilla have made it past the round of 16 in the Champions League over the course of their history (2017-18 against Manchester United and 1957-1958 against Danish side AGF). Despite having won a record 6 Europa League titles, their performances in the Champion’s League has been unexceptional to say the least.

  • €5 million. That’s how much Sevilla paid in euros for Alejandro “Papu” Gomez. Yes, he’s 32, but he has only improved with age. Gomez helped Atalanta to the Champions League quarter finals in their maiden campaign last year, and Sevilla will be hoping that he’ll do the same for them.

  • 13. That’s how many goals Youssef En-Nesyri has scored in La Liga at the time of writing, good for joint second with Lionel Messi. En-Nesyri also has 4 of his team’s 9 group stage goals. Sevilla will need En-Nesyri to continue this hot run of form if they are to break their Champions League hoodoo.


First Leg Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2 - 2 Sevilla


Second Leg Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 1 - 3 Sevilla


Juventus vs FC Porto


3 Key Stats for Juventus

  • 7. That’s how many points Juventus are off the top of the table in Serie A. Last season Juve won the league by just a point, and this year they may not win it at all. In seasons past, particularly in 2015 and 2017 when Juve reached the Champions League final, they could focus on Europe with the league a foregone conclusion. This year, however, Serie A is more competitive than ever, and Juve has to fight a battle on two fronts.

  • 25. That’s how many years have passed since Juventus last won the Champions League in 1995-96. Ever since then, particularly in their recent years of Serie A dominance, the Champion’s League has been this club’s main objective. Juve exited last season’s competition in a round of 16 upset to Lyon. Given their performances in Serie A, a similar embarrassment could cost club legend Andrea Pirlo his job as manager.

  • 132. That’s how many Champions League goals Christiano Ronaldo has scored. No one has more, and Leo Messi is 14 behind with 118. Ronaldo is arguably the competition’s greatest player, capable of single-handedly deciding games. As long as Juve have Ronaldo, they have a chance against anyone, and he is sure to be amongst the goals in this tie.


3 Key Stats for FC Porto

  • €116.1 million. That’s how much revenue FC Porto lost in 2019/20 due to absence from the Champion’s League and the COVID-19 pandemic. These are record losses for the club. Porto are currently 4 points off the top of the table in Liga NOS, and their prospects against a European giant like Juventus are bleak. But a desperate team is a dangerous one, so don’t expect Porto to give up easily.

  • 6.8. That’s how many shots per game Porto had in the Champions League group stage, tied for last in the competition. Even though the Juventus defense is not what it was even a couple seasons ago, Porto will need to make the most of the chances they get, because it does not look like they will have many.

  • 1. That’s how many times Manchester City dropped points in this year’s Champions League group stage. That one game? A 0-0 draw with this Porto team. Yes, Porto “parked the bus” that game, but any hope of an upset against Juventus rests on them doing just that.


First Leg Prediction: Juventus 2 - 1 Porto


Second Leg Prediction: Juventus 2 - 0 Porto


Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea


3 Key Stats for Atletico Madrid

  • 8. That’s how many points Atleli are currently clear at the top of the table in La Liga. Oh, and they have a game in hand. Unlike in past years, Atleti can focus on their European campaign and rotate their squad for La Liga games.

  • 16. That’s how many goals Luis Suarez has in La Liga at the time of writing, good for best in the league. After being let go by Barcelona, Suarez has been on fire for Atleti this season. With Joao Felix also starting to live up to his price tag this season and brought in Moussa Dembele on loan, this Atleti attack is deeper and better than it has been in years.

  • 12. That’s how many goals this Atleti defence has conceded in La Liga. Simply put, this is the best defence in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Chelsea have struggled to score many times this season, and new offensive signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner have hardly hit the ground running. Coming up against a dominant defence like this one is surely not something to look forward to for any team, let alone one still looking to establish a rhythm offensively.


3 Key Stats for Chelsea

  • $271.92 million. That’s how much Chelsea have spent on transfers this summer. With this record summer outlay came big expectations: expectations that cost club legend Frank Lampard his job. Club record signing Kai Havertz has failed to establish himself at the club and fellow arrival Timo Werner has also been short of expectations. Chelsea fans will be hoping new manager Thomas Tuchel can get the team back in form and make a deep European run as he did last season with PSG.

  • 7. That’s how many games Thomas Tuchel has in all competitions until the first leg of this tie. So far, he has drawn 0 - 0 against Wolves, and beaten Burnley, Tottenham, and Sheffield United. His remaining games are against Championship side Barnsley in the FA Cup, followed by league fixtures against Newcastle and Southampton. If Tuchel can keep his unbeaten streak alive in these games, then Chelsea have a chance.

  • 35.5. That’s how many minutes on average it took Olivier Giroud to score a goal in the Champions League group stage this season. Furthermore, 4 of his 5 goals came against the other team in Chelsea’s group to progress to the knockout stage: Sevilla. Timo Werner is next best with 3 goals, but they were all from the penalty spot (2 at home against Rennes and 1 away at Krasnodar). Giroud has found some form in the Champion’s League, and Thomas Tuchel should consider starting him ahead of Werner and Tammy Abraham if the latter two don’t find some form.


First Leg Prediction: Atletico Madrid 0 - 0 Chelsea


Second Leg Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2 - 1 Chelsea


Lazio vs FC Bayern Munich


3 Key Stats for Lazio

  • 21. That’s how many years have passed since Lazio last reached the Champions League knockout stage in the 1999-2000 season. This team has been competitive in Serie A for a couple years now, and there was even talk of a title challenge last season. In Europe, however, they are deeply inexperienced. Bayern, on the other hand, have made the Champions League knockout stage every year since the 2007/08 season and are the current champions. This gap in experience is less than encouraging for Lazio.

  • 14. That’s how many of Lazio’s 36 Serie A goals were scored by Ciro Immobile. The Italian also scored 5 of the team’s 10 goals in the group stage. Last season he tied the Serie A record 36, and clearly he’s picked up where he left off. Bayern’s defense will definitely have their hands full with the current Capocannoniere.

  • 6. That’s how many games Lazio have won in a row in Serie A at the time of writing. During this run, they beat Atalanta 3-1 and city rivals Roma 3-0. If Lazio can ride this good run into the first leg of the tie, then their added confidence will give them a mental edge.


3 Key Stats for FC Bayern Munich

  • 24. That’s how many goals Robert Lewandowski has scored in 19 Bundesliga games. He also has 3 in 4 in the Champion’s League. Denied the 2020 Ballon d’Or, Lewandowski has been playing better than ever, and led Bayern to score 18 goals in the group stage, the most in the competition. Bayern put 4 unanswered past a usually dominant Atletico Madrid defense, and will be looking to do the same against Lazio.

  • 13. That’s how many shots per game Bayern conceded in the Champions League group stage, good for 10th worst in the competition. Furthermore, Bayern have kept just 4 clean sheets in 19 Bundesliga games. Bayern have offensive firepower like no other team in the competition, but the amount of chances they give away will give Lazio something to work with.

  • 6. That’s how many key statistical categories Joshua Kimmich led Bayern in in the Champions League group stage this year. Kimmich led Bayern in assists (3), key passes per game (3.3), tackles per game (3), interceptions per game (2.3), long balls per game (7), and through balls per game (0.3). And this is despite only playing 3 out of the 6 group stage games. Robert Lewandowski is Bayern’s main goalscorer, but Kimmich makes things happen both offensively and defensively.


First Leg Prediction: Lazio 1 - 3 Bayern Munich


Second Leg Prediction: Lazio 0 - 2 Bayern Munich


Atalanta vs Real Madrid


3 Key Stats for Atalanta

  • 2.00. That’s how many points Atalanata have taken per game since Papu Gomez last played. With Gomez in the side, they took just 1.67. This Atalanta side have left the dressing room row firmly in the rearview mirror, and Gomez was sold to Sevilla in the January transfer window. And it’s not like the games they played have been easy. Since Gomez last played, La Dea drew with last season’s champion’s Juventus (1-1), beat Roma (4-1), beat Sassuolo (5-1), beat league leaders Milan (3-0), and knocked Lazio out of the Coppa Italia (3-2). This team picked up where they left off last season, and will be looking to make a second straight quarter finals appearance.

  • 5. That’s how many goals Lazio put past Atalanta in their recent back to back meetings. Atalanta won their encounter in the Coppa Italia, but lost 1-3 in the league the same week. Lazio exposed Atalanta on the counter attack, and Real will be looking to do the same through speedy wingers Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo.

  • 21.5. That’s how many aerial duels Atalanta won per game in this year’s Champions League group stage, the best in the competition. Real are in 25th with 10.2. This aerial dominance will be key to stopping Karim Benzema, Real’s main goalscorer, as 2 of his 4 goals in the group stage were headers, and winning the 50/50 physical battles that allow Atalanta to play their attacking brand of football.


3 Key Stats for Real Madrid

  • 35 years. That’s how old Luka Modric is. Despite his age, he played in all 6 group stage games and 19 out of 20 La Liga games. He completed 94% of his passes in the Champion’s League and 92% in La Liga. If Atalanta wants to stop Real Madrid, they need to stop their Croatian midfield engine.

  • 6. That’s how many penalties Real have given away in La Liga this season, most in the league. They have yet to concede a penalty in the Champion’s League, but this is a point of concern nonetheless. Especially against a fast, attacking team like Atalanta.

  • 8. That’s how many points Real dropped in the Champions League group stage this season. Of those eight points, all were dropped after conceding first (home and away to Shakhtar Donetsk and away to Borussia Monchengladbach). In all of their group stage wins (both home and away against Inter Milan and at home against Borussia Monchengladbach) Real scored first. Real cannot let Atalanta get in front first.


First Leg Prediction: Atalanta 2 -2 Real Madrid


Second Leg Prediction: Atalanata 2 -1 Real Madrid


Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City


3 Key Stats for Borussia Monchengladbach

  • 43. That’s how many years have passed since Gladbach last made the Champions League knockout stages in 1977/78. This team is young, exciting, and inexperienced in Europe. While this does take away some of the weight of expectations, it is a disadvantage against European regulars Manchester City.

  • 16. That’s how many goals Gladbach scored in the Champions League group stage, tied for second most with Barcelona. However, 10 of those 16 were against Shakhtar Donetsk. This attack can clearly score, but their true quality in the UCL is uncertain, especially given their shutout in their key sixth round match with Real Madrid.

  • 6. That’s how many points Gladbach picked up in the Bundesliga between Champions League matchday 5 and the winter break. They failed to win a single league game and lost both UCL games (against Inter and Real Madrid) in that period. Balancing domestic and European competition is hard for any team, for a young and relatively inexperienced team like Gladbach even more-so.


3 Key Stats for Manchester City

  • 14. That’s how many goals Manchester City have conceded in the Premier League, the lowest in the league and second best in Europe’s top five leagues behind Atletico Madrid. City allowed 4.3 shots per game in the Champions league group stage, the best in the competition. Yes, they had hands down the easiest group, but the domestic dominance of their defence shows that this is no fluke. Gladbach will need to be absolutely clinical in front of goal if they want any chance of an upset.

  • 9. That’s how many goals Manchester City’s leading goalscorer has in the Premier League. That goalscorer? Ilkay Gundogan. City have been without Sergio Aguero for most of the season, and Raheem Sterling is not scoring at the same rate as in seasons prior. Stopping City’s attack will not be as challenging as before, an encouraging sign for Gladbach.

  • 21. That’s how many games City have gone unbeaten in all competitions since losing to Tottenham on November 21, 2020. The past 14 games have all been wins, including a 4-1 drubbing of Liverpool. City's attack may not be scoring as many goals as before, but this team is a machine when it comes to getting results.


First Leg Prediction: Borussia Monchengladbach 1 - 3 Manchester City


Second Leg Prediction: Borussia Monchengladbach 1 - 2 Manchester City



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