What We’re Watching For As The Champions League Returns
Following a mid-season break – we hear Jurgen Klopp refused to even think about the tournament for a few weeks there! – the UEFA Champions League is back. And, what’s more, it’s at the business end; just sixteen teams remain, with the knockout rounds ready to halve that total until just one remains standing in Istanbul in May.
With every game live on Virgin Media Television – Virgin Media One, Virgin TV 103, and Virgin Media Sport, Virgin TV 400 – there’s a lot to stay on top of, so we’re trying to whittle it down. The line-up of ties is below, and underneath that, we’ve selected a handful of the most compelling plotlines for the round of 16.
YOUR ROUND OF 16 MATCHUPS
Atlético Madrid v Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund v PSG
Atalanta v Valencia
Tottenham Hotspur v RB Leipzig
Chelsea v Bayern Munich
Napoli v Barcelona Lyon v Juventus
Real Madrid v Manchester City
THE WEIGHT OF HISTORY
Atletico Madrid and Liverpool are sides who know plenty about making it to the final of the competition; between them, they’ve managed it four times in less than a decade. Only one will go further this time, though – and Liverpool’s scintillating form, combined with a league position that might allow for more multi-tasking than usual, should stand them in good stead. We can’t see Diego Simeone’s men going without an almighty fight, though; that’s just their style!
THE CITY SLICKERS
The Man City powers that be will never admit that their disappointing domestic title challenge is a good thing. What can’t be denied, though, is that the frequently used excuse of juggling priorities simply won’t apply this time; finally, Pep Guardiola’s men can make the continental showpiece – and, perhaps, the most coveted title for their owners – be their No. 1 focus. They don’t half have to begin the hard way though, as the most successful team in Champions League history, Real Madrid, stand in their way!
THE GIANT SLAYERS
Dortmund, complete with new signing Erling Braut Haaland, are hotly fancied to upset the big spending PSG – though, considering the French side’s history in the tournament, maybe that shouldn’t be considered much of a shock. More interesting, perhaps, is the prospect of Napoli knocking off a Barcelona side rocked by in-fighting, or Chelsea reliving their 2012 glory against Bayern. A word, too, for Atalanta and Valencia; not many would have seen it coming at the season’s start, but one is guaranteed a spot in the last eight of the tournament!
THE RECORD BREAKERS
When so much of the narrative already surrounds them, it seems almost too easy to make it all about those twin titans of football, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo…but it’s impossible to avoid them! That’s certainly the case given Messi’s recent political power-struggles at the Nou Camp, but it’s also true at this stage of the competition, where the pair stand alone in terms of appearances and goals in the round of 16; between them, they’ve played 58 games and scored 49 goals! We know they’ll add to their tally in the former – and who’d bet against them doing so in the latter, too?!
You’ll catch every single game of the UEFA Champions League live on Virgin Media Sports – click here to learn more!