THE LONG-AWAITED knockout round of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League campaign is in full swing. Each of the sides in the last 16 played out their first-leg fixtures over the last couple of weeks and while some teams are all but through to the quarter-final, there are other ties that still have everything to play for.
Of the five Premier League sides in the competition, two of them, Liverpool and Manchester City, can start to prepare for the next round while Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham all drew their first legs. Spurs managed to rescue a 2-2 draw in Turin against Juventus after conceding twice in the first 10 minutes. They might’ve seen themselves as unlucky not to have a slight lead as they actually went on to dominate the Italian giants.
Taking two away goals, as well as a great performance, to Wembley for the second leg puts Mauricio Pochettino’s side in a much better position than they would have expected, especially after Gonzalo Higuaín’s quick-fire brace. They haven’t necessarily shown their best in the Champions League in the last few years but this one could easily be their strongest run. The Premier League side are certainly the favourites to progress considering their form in London along with the vital away goals.
If they are to advance past Juve then they could be a real force to be reckoned with in Europe’s elite competition, something that their fans have been looking forward to ever since the emergence of Harry Kane and Dele Alli in their starting line-up. They didn’t have the experienced heads of Toby Alderweireld or Danny Rose in the back four in the first leg and both stars will be massive boosts as they are expected to be re-introduced for the second leg.
It goes without saying that Kane’s blistering form is always an ideal get out of jail card and, although he couldn’t beat Gianluigi Buffon from within the six-yard box early on, he made sure he got on the scoresheet after rounding the World Cup-winning veteran. Giorgio Chiellini himself admitted that he wouldn’t be capable of limiting the threat of England’s talisman and, as it turned out, he was correct. It is vital that Spurs don’t let the occasion get the better of them when the Italian champions visit north London; it will prove a huge test of their character and could be a pivotal moment in their European campaign.
One of the sides they are challenging for a top-four spot would need a major collapse in their second leg to avoid progression to the next round. Liverpool were sublime as they demolished Porto 5-0 at Estádio do Dragão. It was undoubtedly the performance of the round as Sadio Mané scored his first Reds hat-trick. As mentioned, they play at Anfield next week with no worries against a side that beat Leicester City by the same scoreline in last year’s competition.
They looked brilliant in the first leg and it certainly didn’t look it was their first taste of Champions League knockout football since 2009. The Reds were right at home on the biggest stage and have staked a huge claim as one of the outsiders vying to win the famous trophy for the sixth time. Despite their blistering display, Liverpool shouldn’t get ahead of themselves as they are almost guaranteed to draw a European heavyweight in the next round and, with respect to Porto, they aren’t one of the bigger sides in the competition.
As Jürgen Klopp’s men get nearer to the final, they will have to beat the best – even more so if they are to win it. They are being considered by bookmakers as one of the outside favourites and if you’re looking to bet on the Premier League side, check out The Bookies Offers for all the best betting sign up offers.
Their German boss will be over the moon with how their first-leg panned out but he will be ensuring his players don’t get carried away as they must remain focused on their end of season goal: to re-qualify for the Champions League. It is looking likely that there could be a couple of English sides in the semi-final for the first time since the 2008/09 season when Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all made it into the last four.
Pep Guardiola’s Man City are undoubtedly the strongest of the five and possibly the strongest in Europe right now after their Carabao Cup success. While they are the ones to beat, Liverpool and Tottenham are the dark horses.