The 2016-17 UEFA Champions League resumes this week with the last four second-leg matches from the Round of 16.
Sportsnet’s soccer panel of broadcasters, writers and pundits offer their picks and predictions below…
LEICESTER CITY vs. SEVILLA
James Sharman, Sportsnet: The King Power Stadium welcomes knockout Champions League football for the first time in its history on Tuesday. The fans, although still living the dream, are reeling from the emotions of last month when their beloved Claudio Ranieri was fired after a narrow 2-1 loss to Sevilla in the first leg. The uproar that followed Ranieri’s departure has become slightly muted following a sudden bump in form under the leadership of Craig Shakespeare.
Confirmed this weekend as the manager for the remainder of the season, Shakespeare has seen his side beat both Liverpool and Hull in the same style as Leicester showed last season. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have finally shown up and suddenly there is a buzz around the club again, especially as Vardy’s away goal in Spain stands the side in good stead.
The reality of that first leg, however, was that the Foxes were extremely fortunate to lose by just the one goal. Sevilla bossed them and is a far superior team. Despite unexpected back to back draws in La Liga, and continued speculation as to where coach Jorge Sampaoli may or may not end next season, Sevilla are a legitimate outsider to win this whole thing.
Prediction: Sevilla wins 2-1.
JUVENTUS vs. FC PORTO
Dan Riccio, Sportsnet 59 The FAN: Porto’s chances in this Round of 16 series faded away when Alex Telles was given his marching orders in the first leg. The Portuguese outfit badly needed a positive result at home, but instead they suffered a 2-0 defeat against the Italian champions, in large part due to the expulsion of Telles.
Juventus are near unbreakable in Turin, having won a 31st consecutive Serie A home match last week. The Bianconeri will not let this one slip away, and should progress through to quarterfinals.
Prediction: Juventus wins 2-0.
AS MONACO vs. MANCHESTER CITY
John Molinaro, Sportsnet.ca: What can these two teams do for an encore? Their fantastic first leg has been somewhat forgotten in the aftermath of Barcelona’s recent comeback against Paris Saint-Germain. But make no mistake about it: City’s come-from-behind 5-3 win over Monaco was a thriller that allowed the Blues to demonstrate they have a fair bit of character, and can dig deep when the occasion calls for it.
Under normal circumstances three road goals would give the home side in the second leg the upper hand. In this case, though, it’s City who has the edge. Monaco has to score at least twice, and seeing how the English side is riding a streak of three consecutive clean sheets in all competitions, the French outfit will surely have its hands full.
What’s more, Radamel Falcao is questionable for Wednesday’s tilt. The Colombian scored twice in the first leg, but he’s been bothered by a problem hip. If he can’t play, or if he isn’t fully fit, that’s a big blow for Monaco.
Prediction: Manchester City wins 1-0.
ATLETICO MADRID vs. BAYER LEVERKUSEN
Peter Galindo, Sportsnet.ca: The high-scoring first leg between Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen was a surprise given both sides’ defensive records in the Champions League.
However, a 4-2 victory gives Atletico a comfortable advantage as the series now moves to Madrid. Los Colchoneros earned a narrow 1-0 win over relegation-threatened Granada in La Liga over the weekend, but Gabi and Kevin Gameiro were unavailable.
As inconsistent as their domestic form has been this season, Atletico has been outstanding in the Champions League, as they conceded just once at home in the group stage. What’s more, Leverkusen is still adjusting to new manager Tayfun Korkut. The Spaniards seldom slip up twice in a row during a two-legged tie, which is why it is difficult to foresee any other result than a win for Atleti.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid wins 1-0.