Champions League again looks to impress

Jacob Clary and Jacob Clary

The Champions League is returning next week, and that is good news for any soccer fans waiting for the best teams in the world to face off against one another. We are in a round of eight right now after a wild round of 16. The four matchups are Barcelona against Manchester United, Liverpool against FC Porto, Tottenham against Manchester City and Ajax Amsterdam against Juventus. These matchups are all interesting, and I will look into each one and preview them.

Barcelona against Manchester United are one of the more interesting draws in this round. Barcelona has a real possibility of getting the treble, which is winning three trophies in the same season. They have one of the best teams in the world, with one of the best offensive fronts. Lionel Messi is still playing like the best player in the world. He has scored over 40 goals for the 10th straight season and over 20 assists as well. Unlike previous Champions League campaign, the team doesn’t need to completely rely on him. They also have one of the best goalkeepers in the world with Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

However, Manchester United are not the team they were at the beginning of the Premier League season. Jose Mourinho is gone and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now the permanent manager for United. They look much better, especially talking about Paul Pogba. Solskjaer’s appointment has allowed Pogba to finally become the player he could have been at Manchester United. They also still have one of the best goalkeepers in the world, David de Gea. When he is in the net, Manchester United will always have a chance. Manchester United has become a team to fear in the tournament, and because of that, this draw will not be as easy for Barcelona as it could have been.

I think this draw will be interesting and fun, but Barcelona’s overwhelming attacking power, with Messi’s skill, will help them pull away. I think the aggregate will end up being 4-1 in favor of Barcelona.

The next draw is Liverpool going up against FC Porto. Liverpool is in the lead in the Premier League and also making their Champions League return after losing in the finals last year. They have a complete team, with a great offensive attack, and one of the best, if not the best, defenders in the world, Virgil van Dijk. Van Dijk has changed the team from one that was a score or lose team to one that can defend as well. Last season, if Liverpool didn’t score, they were screwed. They are different this year. Van Dijk is one of those reasons, but also acquiring Allison Becker, a former goalkeeper at Roma, has allowed them to rely on the back line much more than they used to. However, one cannot mention Liverpool without talking about one of the best front threes in the world, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Mane is the player in form this year though, so look for him to make a name for himself again in this draw.

However, Porto will not simply give them the win. They have a strong team and a great backline. That is their biggest strength, but not their only one. They have a very experienced goalkeeper in Iker Casillas. He has won multiple Champions League trophies and a World Cup with Spain. They have good attacking power as well. Tiquinho Soares is the team’s leading scorer in league play with 19 goals.

Porto has a chance to win, but don’t seem to have as much offensive firepower as Liverpool. Because of this, I’m picking Liverpool to win this draw 3-2.

The next draw is Premier League against Premier League, Tottenham against Manchester City. Tottenham has one of the best strikers in the Premier League in Harry Kane, who also got the Golden Boot in the last World Cup. They also have a few great attackers in Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen. They have the ability to score easily and often, always giving them a chance. Their defense, however, isn’t as good. Their back line is only satisfactory and isn’t a strength. Sometimes they have trouble defending, and this has led them to lose games they shouldn’t have, case in point, the Liverpool match over the weekend. Hugo Lloris is a good goalkeeper and won the World Cup as the starting goalie for France last summer, but he wasn’t the strength of that team. Tottenham has the chance to win any match, but also the chance to lose any match, and that isn’t good for them going up against Premier League title contender Manchester City.

Manchester City seems like the front-runner for the Premier League title, with a game-in-hand on Liverpool. They also have one of the best strikers in the Premier League in Sergio Aguero, as well as many other attackers who can score, such as Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane. However, they do not have one of the best players on their team right now, as Kevin De Bruyne has been out with an injury since March. He has been recently featured so he might not be too far away from the lineup, however. De Bruyne makes the City team much better, but even without him, they are still spectacular. The team’s back line is also great, with Kyle Walker, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany all appearing. Their goalkeeper, Ederson, also plays very well, and also is a great passer from the back, helping the attack a lot as a goalkeeper. Manchester City is one of the most complete teams in the world.

This is a draw that I feel might go either way, but I think Manchester City won’t lose this draw. I’ll pick Manchester City to win 4-2.

The last Champions League draw is Ajax Amsterdam against Juventus. Ajax is what I would call a “team.” They know how to work together and win. We saw that when they decimated Real Madrid. There is talent across the whole roster and will get picked apart after this season. Now, though, they have the chance to win something big. The midfield is what I would say is their biggest strength, as they’re able to pass the ball around the whole pitch and get it to anyone at any time. Frenkie de Jong, who will join Barcelona after the season, is a big part of that. De Jong is only 21 and already looks like one of the best midfielders in the world. Dusan Tadic, who just transferred from Southampton in the offseason, scored 30 goals for Ajax this season, which is tremendous. The defense of Ajax is also outstanding. Matthijs de Ligt, who is rumored to be on the move to Barcelona after this season, is the heart of that defense. De Ligt is only 19, which is ridiculous because of how good he already is. Daley Blind is the other main center-back for Ajax and is also great at what he does. Ajax embodies teamwork.

It’s funny that the team that embodies teamwork is going up against a team that I feel like depends on one player, and that’s Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, one of the best soccer players in the world, is still playing at a high level and is still the best Champions League player of all time. Ronaldo carried his team to the next round of the tournament after it looked like Atletico Madrid would eliminate them. If Ronaldo has a bad stretch of matches against Ajax, I don’t think Juventus can win. They rely on him too much in these big matches, but that’s why they went out to get him I guess. They do have other players who contribute a lot, like Miralem Pjanic and Mario Mandzukic, but Ronaldo is the player they need to win the matches for them.

I think Juventus will end up winning this draw, thanks to more Ronaldo fireworks. I think the final aggregate will be 3-2, with all three Juventus goals coming from Ronaldo.