The Champions League is back and the knockout stage is upon us. The remaining 16 teams will battle it out over two legs to secure a spot in the quarter-finals. Among the frontrunners are defending champions Manchester City, 14-time winners Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, and Arsenal.
There are some mouthwatering last-16 ties to look forward to, including Inter Milan vs Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad, and Napoli vs Barcelona. Fans can catch all the action live on TNT Sports and discovery+.
As we approach these crucial fixtures, it’s worth highlighting the key players who could make a difference.
In the match between Copenhagen and Manchester City, all eyes will be on Kevin de Bruyne. The Danish side surprised everyone by qualifying from their group and will likely adopt a defensive approach against City. De Bruyne, who has been in fine form since returning from injury, will be instrumental in dictating the game over two legs.
RB Leipzig will face Real Madrid, and one player to watch out for is Lois Openda. Openda has thrived on the big stage this season, scoring against top teams like Manchester City and Bayern Munich. His recent excellent form, with goals in his last three games, makes him a key figure for Leipzig. They will enter the tie with confidence, having beaten Madrid in the group stage last year.
The clash between PSG and Real Sociedad promises to be an intriguing one. PSG, on course to win the Ligue 1 title, had a tough time in the group stage. Real Sociedad, currently sixth in La Liga, topped their group ahead of Inter Milan. The star player in this tie is Kylian Mbappe, who will be looking to let his football do the talking amidst ongoing speculation about his future.
In the Lazio vs Bayern Munich match, all eyes will be on Harry Kane. Bayern signed Kane last summer with the hope that he would lead them to glory. While Kane has been delivering with goals in both the Bundesliga and Champions League, Bayern as a team have not been at their best this season. Lazio, who have been impressive under Peter Bosz, could pose a challenge. Bayern will rely on Kane to deliver if they want to progress.
PSV will face Dortmund, and the player to watch out for is Luuk de Jong. PSV, who haven’t reached the quarter-finals since 2007, have been in excellent form this season. De Jong has been leading the line with impressive goal-scoring and assist contributions. In what could be a high-scoring tie, De Jong could make a significant impact.
The clash between Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid is a tough one to call. Inter have been in top form in Serie A, with only one loss so far. Atletico, under the guidance of Diego Simeone, have proven to be a tough team to beat. Antoine Griezmann, enjoying a stellar season, will be the danger man for Atletico as they aim to reach the quarter-finals.
Arsenal will face Porto, and one player who could be crucial for the Gunners is Bukayo Saka. Arsenal’s recent history in the last-16 stage of the Champions League is not impressive, but they will enter this tie with confidence against a Porto side struggling in the Primeira Liga. However, Arsenal’s finishing has been a concern this season, and they may rely on Saka’s form to secure their passage to the next round.
The tie between Napoli and Barcelona is expected to be a thrilling encounter. Both teams have fallen from their domestic heights and will be looking to lift their spirits with a successful Champions League run. For Napoli, this is their only chance at silverware, and the scheduling of the ties has worked in their favor, allowing Victor Osimhen to return from the Africa Cup of Nations. Osimhen’s presence will be crucial as Napoli aim to progress.
With these exciting last-16 fixtures on the horizon, football fans are in for a treat as the Champions League knockout stage kicks into high gear.