Two of domestic defending champions will meet again in a short while at this year’s Champions League Round-of-16.
The draws for the 2016/17 Champions League knock-out stages were held and the first legs will be played on 14-15 and 21-22 February. The second legs will be played on 7-18 and 14-15 March.
Here’s a brief look at some of the encounters that will make this year’s Champions League Round-of-16 worth the wait.
PSG V FC BARCELONA
Old foes FC Barcelona and PSG will be meeting for the third time in 3-years, having last met in 2014/15 in two dwells, FC Barcelona emerging superior on average.
2014/15: Group Stages PSG 3-2 FC Barcelona/FC Barcelona 3-1 PSG.
2014/15: Quarter Finals: PSG 1-3 FC Barcelona/FC Barcelona 2-0 PSG.
The two sides are meeting for the first time at this stage, but have met at the quarter finals 3-times (1994/5, 2012/13, 2014/15) with the French side only managing to knock-out the Catalans once (1994/5) season.
Drawing Barca can never be good news for any team looking to progress to the next level of the competition, and so it wasn’t for the French side as drawn from their Director of Football, Patrick Kluivert (a former Barca and Champions League winner with Ajax) in his reaction to the draw:
“In this group, you knew the possibility was there to draw one of the biggest clubs in the world. We have played Barcelona two times, we know it is going to be a big match. We know everything about Barcelona, everybody does, but we have to face it”
Despite the fact that the Blaugrana are still struggling to find rhythm, PSG too are yet to come convincingly good. The arrival of Unai Emery seems not to be patching up the gap that could not be under Laurent Blanc. The departure of Ibrahimovic seems to be taking a bigger toll at the Perc des Princes too. It has been a surprisingly difficult start to the season for PSG, as they are currently struggling to dethrone leaders Nice and had to draw three of their European group (A) games to progress only as runners-up behind Arsenal.
However, FC Barcelona have been a little off-steam so far this season, blowing hot and cold, much as hard to rule out the fact that they remain a team to beat in Europe. No team in today’s game can boast a better attack than Barcelona’s. True, But i think it remains the same team that lost 3-1 to Man. City in Group C, Depotivo Alaves and Celta Vigo in la liga.
Luis Enrique’s side has not been convincing enough as they have failed to hit the level of consistency needed to be invincible, currently lying second behind arch rivals Real Madrid in the la liga with a more inferior Goal difference than before (22v26) at this stage. This can only be attributed to the fact that Suarez is struggling for form and Neymar seems to be finding solace in assisting than scoring like it was the last season they progressed beyond the round-of-16.
Barca will have to contend with the challenges at Right Back, deal with Rakitic’s inconsistency and Mascherano’s awful defending this season if they are to go past PSG.
PSG are a side that’s too unpredictable and is capable of presenting a tough encounter for the Spanish side.
The French side have been struggling to find fit in the Ligue 1 from the start of the season save for the level of competition presented by the League.
Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti have been the patching bits for Unai Emery’s team but Thiago Motta is far from what he was last season and Grzegorz Krychowiak looks worse than his early days at Sevilla.
If PSG are to improve their chances against Barca, then something will have to change between now and the next Champions League fixture.
How they got here:
PSG: Having drawn their last Group Match (2-2) against lowly-ranked side Ludogorets, to cede top spot to Arsenal, they remain among the few unbeaten in European competition this season.
FC BARCELONA: With 5-wins and only a surprising loss to Man City, their 7-0 shattering of Celtic in the opening match remains the highest score without response stands out as the their biggest highlight. Despite failing to beat ronaldo’s group stage tally, Messi remains the highest scorer at this stage with 10.
A lot will have changed between these two European football Elite sides by the time of the fixture and i believe it will be towards the positive. Unai Emery will have a lot to work on given the fact that it’s his first season and lacks experience in the Champions League. You won’t have to remind him this time that he won’t be competing in his usual scapegoat (Europa league). Need there’s still for him to realize the aspirations of the Arab Money at the French Side.
Luis Enrique will have to earn more trust from his team for us not to think he’s made a few mistakes with the way he’s set his team this time round. The release of Bravo for Cillissen, is one swaitch that still baffles me knowing Stegen has failed to prove doubter wrong. He will need to have his backup team performing at their best knowing Messi, Suarez and Iniesta could be way past their best fitness levels. Nonetheless, they head into this tie as favorites to progress.
Here’s the full draw:
Sevilla (Spain) v Leicester (England)
PSG (France) v Barcelona (Spain)
Bayer Leverkusen (German) v Atletico Madrid (Spain)
Porto (Portugal) v Juventus (Italy)
Bayern Munich (German) v Arsenal (England)
Benfica (Portugal) v Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Real Madrid (Spain) v Napoli (Italy)
Manchester City (England) v Monaco (France)