The 2016-17 UEFA Champions League continues this week with the Round of 16.
Sportsnet’s soccer panel of broadcasters, writers and pundits offer their picks and predictions below…
MANCHESTER CITY vs. AS MONACO
James Sharman, Sportsnet: Remember last week when our collective jaw hit the ground as Barcelona was humbled by Paris Saint-Germain? Well, PSG isn’t even the best team in France this season; that honour belongs to Monaco, who are three points better than the perennial French league champions.
Remember Radamel Falcao, the guy who failed miserably at both Manchester United and Chelsea? Falcao has 16 goals in Ligue 1 this season. Apparently, he wasn’t washed up after all.
Remember Sergio Aguero, the man who Falcao replaced once upon a time at Atletico Madrid? Aguero finds himself once again the key man at Man City, a week after the new key man, Gabriel Jesus, suffered a long-term injury.
Lots of story lines in this one, in what just might be the most intriguing matchup of the Round of 16.
Prediction: Manchester City wins 2-1.
BAYER LEVERKUSEN vs. ATLETICO MADRID
Peter Galindo, Sportsnet.ca: This series pits two intense coaches against each other in Diego Simeone and Roger Schmidt. That is why this promises to be one of the more intriguing tactical battles of the round.
Atletico enters the match having beaten Sporting Gijon 4-1 in La Liga over the weekend, but Gijon frustrated Simeone’s side throughout the game. Thankfully for Los Colchoneros, they have been virtually unbeatable in the Champions League, having conceded just two goals en route to topping Group D over Bayern Munich.
However, the Germans are heating up at the right time—Javier Hernandez has scored five goals and tallied one assist in his last four games. With all of this in mind, this should be a low-scoring match.
Prediction: A 0-0 draw
FC PORTO vs. JUVENTUS
Dan Riccio, Sportsnet 590 THE FAN: Gonzalo Higuain was brought to Juventus to take them to another level—that would mean winning the Champions League. The Argentine ace has delivered thus far. In 30 appearances across Serie A and the Champions League, Higuain has scored 22 goals. Juventus has been victorious in 21 of their 25 league matches and are once again comfortably ahead of their Italian opposition.
The real test for Higuain and The Old Lady comes now in the Champions League. Porto is no slouch, having won six consecutive matches heading into this tie and outscoring opponents 17-4 during the run. This may wind up being one of the more competitive ties in the Round of 16. It will all hinge on Porto’s ability to get a result at home in the first leg.
Prediction: A 1-1 draw.
SEVILLA vs. LEICESTER CITY
John Molinaro, Sportsnet.ca: It’s hard to envisage Leicester City earning any kind of positive result in Spain on Wednesday. The Foxes are in crisis at the moment, as they sit one spot (and one point) above the relegation zone in the Premier League. They also crashed out on the FA Cup on the weekend, losing their fifth-round match against League One side Millwall.
Sevilla, on the other hand has been in fine form. Buoyed by loanee Stevan Jovetic (who came over from Inter Milan in January, Los Blanquirrojos currently sit third in La Liga, just three points adrift of leaders Real Madrid (who have two games in hand) and two points back of Barcelona. Sevilla is playing inspired soccer under first-year coach Jorge Sampaoli, so much so that they’re rightly being touted as a dark horse candidate to win the Champions League.
Prediction: Sevilla wins 2-0.