It has been a long wait, but the Champions League makes its grand return on Tuesday 16th February, as four of the most exciting sides remaining in the competition clash in two pulsating fixtures. But, which sides will get the upper hand in their respective first legs?
Barcelona vs PSG
When the draw was made for the round of 16 in late 2020, all eyes were immediately hooked on the fixture between Barcelona and PSG. If their meeting from the 2016-17 season is anything to go by, then it could be one of the all-time best knockout fixtures that we have ever seen.
PSG are still plagued by that famous defeat that they suffered in the Nou Camp, as they surrendered a 4-0 first leg lead to lose 6-1 in the return game back in Spain, and this will be the ultimate opportunity to banish the ghosts from that night for good. The big difference between the sides this time around is the fact that the catalyst for Barcelona’s recovery that night is now on the books of PSG. Neymar will be coming against his old side for the first time, and there will be extra eyes to see how the Brazilian fares.
Barcelona may be warier of the threat posed by Kylian Mbappe, but they have a magician of their own to call upon, and the Champions League has often been the occasions when Lionel Messi has brought his A-game. This could be the Argentinean’s last chance to win a final European honour with the Catalonian side, as he looks set to leave the Nou Camp in the summer after hostilities between the player and the board don’t look to be thawing.
Despite the constant questions being asked about the long-term future of Ronald Koeman, the club have been in great form over recent weeks, and have won their last six La Liga games coming into this fixture. The first leg will be crucial, and it could end in a score draw meaning everything is still to play for back in Paris.
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
Also on the same evening, RB Leipzig and Liverpool will meet in the first leg of their round of 16 stage clash. The game will now take place in Budapest, after travel restrictions stopped Liverpool from travelling to Germany.
Leipzig eventually managed to make it out of Group H after beating Manchester United on the final matchday, but no other side left remaining in the competition conceded more than the 12 that they did in the group phase. Their league form has been pretty consistent over recent weeks, as they remain second in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich, and have won three of their previous four games.
Liverpool’s only chance of winning a trophy this season now lies with the Champions League, which they last won in 2019 after beating Tottenham Hotspur in the final. Jurgen Klopp’s side have lost their air of invincibility in the league this season, as they have lost their last three at Anfield. However, there could be a big performance from the Reds this coming week.