The Champions League is set to resume on February 17th, and football fans are in store for some superb top level European action. With a total of sixteen sides now left in the competition, there will be eight matches taking place towards the end of February, with the return legs taking place in the middle of March. Two matches really stand out in this round of 16, with Paris St Germain v Chelsea, and Man City v Barcelona likely to be the most popular games with the betting public and football fans around the globe.
Elsewhere in the draw, Bayern Munich travel to Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Basel face FC Porto, Schalke host Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund travel to Juventus, Arsenal host Monaco, and finally Bayer Leverkusen and Atlectico Madrid face off. xNx make Real Madrid and Bayern Munich their 5/2 joint favourites to land the Champions League trophy this season, with Barcelona next best at the 5/1 mark. For those punters who think there is still a chance of a Premier League outfit collecting the biggest prize in European football, Chelsea appear to be the most viable option. Jose Mourinho’s side are a 15/2 chance to hand their charismatic boss what would be his third Champions League success, but his first while in charge of the Blues.
Prior to the last 16 draw taking place, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was apparently keen to be matched against one of the French sides, and his wish was granted when Paris St Germain came out of the hat. Should Chelsea fail to get past this dangerous French side, the Portuguese boss is going to appear somewhat stupid, but on the whole, Mourinho is able to back his confidence up with positive results.
As far as the first leg is concerned, the odds compilers are struggling to split the two teams, with PSG the slight favourites, having been put in at odds of 6/4 with Betfred while Chelsea are a 7/4 chance at the same firm. The draw is on offer at odds of 11/5. During the group stages, Chelsea topped their table with relative ease, securing 14 points, while their nearest rivals Schalke could only manage 8. Paris had arguably the more difficult task in Group F, with Spanish giants Barcelona proving formidable opponents. Barca topped the group the group with 15 points, with PSG collecting a respectable 13 points in second spot.
The reigning French champions have made a number of high profile signings over the last few years, and have quickly become a serious contender as far as the Champions League is concerned. That being said, Chelsea are dominating the Premier League this season with the likes of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas proving their worth week in, week out. The Blues are odds on to qualify for the quarter final stage, and I fancy them to do just that.
The other key match in this round of 16 is undoubtedly the game between Manchester City and Barcelona. There are now two ways about it. City have underperformed in the Champions League in recent seasons. With the money invested by the Abu Dhabi United Group, they would probably have expected some appearances in the latter stages of the competition, but as yet, that has not materialised.
Although Manuel Pellegrini’s side looked to be on their way out at the first hurdle this season following some poor early results, they secured famous victories over both Bayern Munich and Roma in their last two group matches to ensure progression to the knockout stage. The club will have obviously been disappointed to draw a side the stature of Barcelona at this early stage, but the English side should be in confident mood following their last few Champions League results. Although still formidable Barca aren’t quite the side they once were, and Manchester City definitely have a chance of getting the better of their Spanish opponents over the two legs. City look a big price at odds of 12/5 with Betfred to win the first leg at the Etihad.