Champions League: the usual?

Will there be surprises? Of the favourites, only Messi's Barcelona are on the brink of elimination
Los octavos de final de la UEFA Champions League entre el Atalanta y el Real Madrid el 24 de febrero de 2021 en el estadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia en Bérgamo AFP/TIZIANA FABI

AFP/TIZIANA FABI  -   The UEFA Champions League round of 16 between Atalanta and Real Madrid on February 24, 2021 at the Atleti Azzurri d'Italia stadium in Bergamo.

The current edition of the Champions League continues with several of the favourites on a steady pace. Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern and Manchester City are on track. Meanwhile, Real Madrid, Juventus and Chelsea are expected to complete the quarter-finals.

Paris Saint-Germain thrashed FC Barcelona 4-1 at the Nou Camp and, barring catastrophe, will be a quarter-finalists. The superiority was obvious and we can expect an increase in the lead rather than a hypothetical comeback. Messi's team will stay in the last 16 this year.

Jurgen Kloop's Liverpool were also far superior to Germany's Leipzig. Salah and Mané, in two errors by the German defence, settled the match. It doesn't look like Liverpool will be surprised on English soil.

Los octavos de final de la Liga de Campeones de la UEFA entre el FC Barcelona y el París Saint-Germain FC en el estadio Camp Nou en Barcelona el 16 de febrero de 2021 AFP/ LLUIS GENE
AFP/ LLUIS GENE-The UEFA Champions League round of 16 between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 16, 2021.

Borussia Dortmund conceded a late goal to make it 2-3 against Sevilla FC. In Germany, if the German team performs as well as they did in Sevilla, there will be no surprises and they will make it to the quarter-finals. It would be very strange if Halland did not score at home. Dortmund are clear favourites.

Bayern Munich, like PSG and Liverpool, were far superior to their opponents Lazio. The Italian side did not fare too well in the Round of 16 draw and were probably the strongest or one of the three strongest teams in Europe. They conceded four goals and could have scored more. Bayern will be a very formidable opponent for the quarter-finals.

Another very formidable opponent in the quarter-finals will be Guardiola's Manchester City. They beat the other Borussia away to MGladbach by 0-2. Manchester City have a great run of unbeaten matches. They have a very large squad of top players. This year they are again one of the favourites, at the very least, to reach the semi-finals.

Luuk de Jong del Sevilla celebra el segundo gol en el partido de ida de los octavos de final - Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund REUTERS/MARCELOS DEL POZO
REUTERS/MARCELOS DEL POZO-Sevilla's Luuk de Jong celebrates scoring the second goal in the first leg of the last 16 tie - Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund.

Real Madrid also salvaged a positive result on their visit to Bergamo against Atalanta, 0-1. Two years ago Ajax eliminated Real Madrid at the Bernabéu and they cannot be complacent. Logically, Zidane's side will be another team to complete the quarter-final line-up.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus suffered a setback in Porto, 2-1. The Turin side didn't play well, but that doesn't mean that Cristiano won't score at least one goal in Italy. That's what it takes to get through the knockout stages. The logical thing is that, because of the team and Cristiano, Juve will be in the quarter-finals.

The criticism of Atlético de Madrid in their match against Chelsea was atrocious, especially of Simeone. The red and white team did not come out of their own half and limited themselves to defending. On the face of it, the team was not defensive, but in practice, Atletico were impotent when it came to creating the game. I think Tuchel's team cornered them with high pressing and a very high tempo. If you add to this the quality of the London team, it doesn't look like Atlético de Madrid will be able to come back if things go the same way. It's only one goal, but it's difficult for Chelsea not to score with the team they have assembled. Chelsea are clear favourites too.

Los octavos de final de la Liga de Campeones entre el Lazio y el Bayern de Múnich en el estadio Olímpico de Roma, el martes 23 de febrero de 2021 AP/GREGORIO BORGIA
AP/GREGORIO BORGIA-League round of 16 between Lazio and Bayern Munich at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

Our bet is that PSG, Liverpool, Dortmund, Bayern, City, Real Madrid, Juve and Chelsea will qualify.

Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid would be out as negative surprises and Dortmund as positive surprises. In terms of team and history, the German team did not expect to be in the quarter-finals at the beginning of the season.

The truth is that both in the group stage and in the round of 16 they have fulfilled the predictions.

Maybe Inter and United were a surprise and now the two Spaniards, but the rounds progress and someone has to be left out. This is not a year of surprises, perhaps Messi's FC Barcelona. The Barcelona team has to face an intense squad reshuffle and there is a good chance that their star player will leave.

Cristiano Ronaldo, de la Juventus, marca su segundo gol en el partido que enfrentan al Juventus contra el Crotone PHOTO/REUTERS
PHOTO/REUTERS-Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo scores his second goal of the match between Juventus and Crotone.

The second legs will be played on 9, 10, 16 and 17 March. The draw will probably take place on 19 March, with the big transatlantic teams of European football in the draw. There will be no surprises in the quarter-finals, they will all be very difficult to beat, although in my opinion PSG, Bayern, City and Chelsea will be favourites due to their form and their large squads.

Real Madrid are capable of anything, but they have a lot of games under their belts. Borussia Dortmund look like the Cinderella of the quarter-finals, although they have Halland. The same goes for Juve, they have Cristiano despite not having a good season. That leaves Liverpool, who seem to have deflated, but still have a team capable of anything and an outstanding coach.