After a cracking first week, it’s time for round 2 of the first leg in the Champions League first knockout stage. Tonight, we’ll see German champions, Bayern Munich, taking on Turkish giants Besiktas on the Allianz Arena. In the second game of the evening, reigning Premier League champions, Chelsea, host Barcelona in what’s expected to be close-fought battle.
Bayern Munich – Besiktas
26 times Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are deemed heavy favorites in this first game. Since the return of the legendary coach Jupp Heynckes, Bayern have recorded 13 victories in succession and they are now one of the main favorites to win the Champions League title this year. Bayern have come a long way since suffering a crushing 3-0 defeat against PSG in the group stage. The tide turned too late, however, as Bayern ended “only” second in their group, on the same amount of points as group winners PSG. As a result of this, Bayern will now face the winners of Group G, Besiktas.
The reigning Turkish league champions won their group ahead of Porto, Leipzig and last year’s semifinalists, Monaco. They may count themselves a tad bit unlucky to face such a difficult opponent after winning their group.
In addition to Turkish stars like Gökhan Gönul and Cenk Tosun, Besiktas have an exciting mix of foreign and domestic players, both young and old. Take for example Portuguese legends such as Ricardo Quaresma and former Real Madrid player Pepe – players with bundles of experience from the big stage!
Bayern, of course, have a team that possess quality and experience in abundance and we believe that this will simply be too much for Besiktas to handle. Even though we’ve seen bigger upsets throughout the Champions League history, we believe that Besiktas will need a big portion of luck to make it in to the quarter finals.
Chelsea – Barcelona
This is the big one this week – two top teams, from two of the top leagues go head to head. Reigning league champions Chelsea has had a somewhat shaky season so far, finding themselves in 4th position in the league table. After a couple of shocking defeats, Chelsea are coming in to this game with two convincing victories behind them.
Barcelona find themselves comfortably at the top of La Liga, 7 points clear of second placed Athletico Madrid. After losing Neymar to PSG before the season and with a couple of key players getting in to the latter stages of their careers, there was some doubts casted on Barcelona’s future as one of the absolute top teams in Europe. However, new coach Ernesto Valverde has done an amazing job this season. Instead of the usual tactic, going all out on attack, we’ve seen Barcelona playing a tad bit more tactical. This new mindset, paired with players like Messi and Suarez up front, has proved very successful. Subsequently then, Barcelona are undefeated this season, racking up 19 wins and 5 draws in 24 games.
With Chelsea starting at home, we expect Barcelona to fall back just a tiny bit and allow Chelsea to come at them. Surely, Chelsea will feel the pressure to get a good result from tonight’s game, before the return at Camp Nou just over 3 weeks from now.
With players like Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata, Chelsea have the ability to hurt any defense in the world. But when facing players like Leonel Messi and Luiz Suarez on the other end, a fine balance must be in place, perfectly combining attacking moves whilst not being too exposed at the back.
I’m going to be a bit boring and predict a draw in tonight’s game. Barcelona’s potency up front will see them likely to score at least once and I don’t think that Chelsea has what it takes to score more than once.
All in all, I expect a very interesting game tactically, with both teams being fully aware of each other’s quality. But with a handful of world class players, we can be sure to see some truly unforgettable technical moves too.
Another evening of spectacular football is upon us and we can’t wait!