The 2023/22 Champions League knock-out stage is around the corner as we take a look at all eight last-16 ties scheduled to take place in mid-February.
Courtesy of the football news site FootballToday, we have previews and predictions for all eight playoffs below. There are a few mouthwatering ties that could serve as worth Champions League finals themselves – we look at who’s most likely to win.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid
The juggernauts of European football are set to trade tackles in a mouth-watering Champions League last-16 tie as Paris Saint-Germain take on Real Madrid.
Both sides are leading title races in their respective national championships, with PSG already waltzing away with the Ligue 1 title and Madrid setting the pace in La Liga.
However, following a dream transfer window in the summer, the wealthy Paris chiefs are unlikely to settle for only regaining domestic supremacy at the expense of reigning champions Lille.
After the arrivals of Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma, head coach Mauricio Pochettino has no margin for error as Les Parisiens seek their first-ever Champions League crown.
Unfortunately for Paris, the first roadblock on their path to European glory will be the record-time Champions League winners Madrid.
Los Merengues have undergone a renaissance under Carlo Ancelotti this season and will be looking to better last season’s semi-final exit on the back of a stellar domestic campaign.
Prediction: Real Madrid to reach quarter-finals
Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City
Led by one of the most highly-rated up-and-coming managers in European football, Ruben Amorim, Sporting Lisbon have qualified for the Champions League knock-outs for the first time in the 21st century.
After leaving the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Besiktas in their wake in a highly-competitive Group C, the defending Primeira Liga champions will fancy their chances against one of Europe’s most in-form sides Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s men succumbed to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in an all-English Champions League showpiece last season.
But they look unfazed by last season’s heartbreak, as they look to be on course of winning their fifth Premier League title in six years and are doing equally well in Europe.
Guardiola will be particularly keen to lead his Man City side to their first-ever Champions League title to silence his critics and lift his first trophy in the competition away from Barcelona.
Given the Cityzens’ ongoing run of domestic form and an intimidating roster on the Spaniard’s disposal, it is hard to make a case for Sporting to stage an upset here.
Prediction: Manchester City to reach quarter-finals
Inter Milan vs Liverpool
After three consecutive failed attempts to make it out of the Champions League group stage, reigning Serie A champions Inter Milan have defied the hoodoo to set up a handsomely-looking last-16 tie with Liverpool.
Simone Inzaghi’s men are leading the way in Italy’s top-flight and are odds-on favourites to land their second successive Scudetto for the first time in over a decade.
In Europe, though, the Nerazzurri have blown hot and cold this season, and summer departures of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi may have taken off their cutting edge.
Meanwhile, the Reds have already laid the foundations for another top-four finish in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp still harbours faint hopes of overthrowing pacesetters Man City come May, though it feels like Liverpool’s best shot at a major trophy is in Europe’s elite competition.
The Merseysiders made light work of Inter’s arch-rivals AC Milan in the Champions League group stage, winning both legs by an aggregate score of 5-3.
Prediction: Liverpool to reach quarter-finals
Red Bull Salzburg vs Bayern Munich
Years of investing in the youth sector and producing some of Europe’s finest young prospects have finally paid off this term as Red Bull Salzburg are set to make their inaugural Champions League knock-outs appearance.
But in a bizarre twist of fate, the perennial Austrian Bundesliga champions will lock horns with one of the leading candidates to conquer the competition, Bayern Munich.
It is safe to say that Salzburg will need nothing short of a miracle to fight their way past the Bavarians, who have been a force to be reckoned with in Europe over the past decade.
The 2019/20 Champions League winners found their group Group E journey a stroll, winning all six group fixtures by an aggregate score of 22-3, including a brace of 3-0 victories over Barcelona.
Widely regarded as top favourites to win the tournament, Bayern should face no problems advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals for the third season running.
Prediction: Bayern Munich to reach quarter-finals
Chelsea vs Lille
Defending champions Chelsea look to be running out of steam following an utterly outstanding second half of last season under title-winning manager Thomas Tuchel.
The Blues are already well off the pace in the Premier League, albeit they should be cruising to another top-four finish on the back of a solid start to the season.
Despite their domestic wobble, forcing their way past Lille in this seemingly manageable last-16 tie would be the bare minimum expected out of Tuchel’s men.
Yet, several shocking results in the Premier League and Europe this season is proof the Stamford Bridge outfit cannot take anything for granted regardless of the competition.
In the meantime, Lille’s downfall in the wake of manager Christophe Galtier’s summer switch to Nice has seen them fall out of contention for the Ligue 1 crown already in December.
Stuck in mid-table lethargy in their domestic championship, Les Dogues will try to make their first Champions League knock-out stage appearance since 2006/07 count.
Prediction: Chelsea to reach quarter-finals
Villarreal vs Juventus
Villarreal and Juventus have experienced similar fortunes in La Liga and Serie A, respectively, this season as they have both had to battle their way up the ladders following abysmal starts.
While Unai Emery’s men are currently only four points adrift of the top-four race in Spain’s elite competition, the record-time Italian champions are on the cusp of breaking into Serie A’s top four.
But in Europe, Villarreal could be finding themselves in a bit unfamiliar territory, considering they last competed in the Champions League knock-outs in 2008/09.
Emery has made a name for himself in the Europa League, where he has a record-breaking four titles to his name, but the task of going the distance in Europe’s top-tier competition is a different kind of challenge.
As for his Juventus counterpart Massimiliano Allegri, winning the Champions League trophy at long odds could be the only saving grace given his side’s underwhelming domestic season.
The Italian manager lost two grand finals during his first tenure at the Allianz Stadium, though it is fair to say he had far better conditions back then.
Prediction: Juventus to reach quarter-finals
Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United
Atletico Madrid and Manchester United have failed to live up to expectations this season, with both sides already losing realistic chances of picking up domestic crowns.
In addition to a thoroughly disappointing La Liga campaign, where they languish a staggering 14 points behind leaders Real, Los Rojiblancos barely squeezed past their Champions League group this term.
Maybe taking their faithful through an emotional rollercoaster in Group B is what Diego Simeone’s team needed to take things more seriously in the remainder of the competition.
Though their last-16 tie against Man United may appear like an uphill task at first glance, the Red Devils’ domestic showings this season suggest otherwise.
They may have started reeling off positive results under new interim boss Ralf Rangnick, but their performances in both England and Europe have flattered to deceive.
But having the all-time Champions League highest scorer Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks has its benefits, as witnessed by the Portuguese superstar’s exploits in the group stages.
Prediction: Manchester United to reach quarter-finals
Benfica vs Ajax
Benfica will be looking to pick up where they left off in the Champions League group stages, where they made sure to drop Barcelona down to the Europa League knock-outs.
Jorge Jesus’ formula of mixing a core of prodigious youngsters with experienced senior stars has been a resounding success so far as the Eagles seek their first Champions League quarter-finals since 2015/16.
Standing in their way will be a rampant Ajax side that have taken no prisoners en route to reaching their first Champions League knock-out in three years.
Ajax emerged as the competition’s surprise package 2018/19, where they went all the way to the semi-finals only to bow out to Tottenham in the most shocking turn of events.
However, the Lancers’ performances in both Europe and the Eredivisie over the past couple of years demonstrated their stunning success four years ago was no fluke.
Guided by the coveted manager Erik Ten Hag, the Dutch heavyweights have qualified for the Champions League knock-outs as one of just three sides to win all six group matches, alongside Bayern and Liverpool.
Prediction: Ajax to reach quarter-finals