Champions League Return A 'Dream' For Football Fans

The Champions League makes its long-awaited return soon and with the new eight-team mini-tournament set up in Lisbon, it really will be a dream for the football fans among us.

However, before the quarter-finals begin on 12th August, four last-16 games still need to be played over the weekend of 7-8th August.

Manchester City have a slender 2-1 lead going into their home tie versus La Liga champions Real Madrid, with the winner facing the winner of Lyon or Juventus. The Italian side must overturn a 1-0 deficit in Turin but Cristiano Ronaldo and co will be confident that they can progress against the French underdogs.

Barcelona and Napoli do battle at the Nou Camp with the score being 1-1 from the first leg. The winner will play Bayern Munich providing Chelsea don’t perform a miraculous comeback from three goals down at the Allianz Arena.

Quarter-final draw (12-15 August)

Manchester City/ Real Madrid v Lyon/Juventus

RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid

Napoli/Barcelona v Chelsea/Bayern Munich

Atalanta v Paris Saint-Germain

Semi-Finals (18-19 August)

Winner QF1 v Winner QF3

Winner QF2 v Winner QF4

Final (23 August)

My game to watch - Atalanta v PSG

This game is sure to bring goals, goals and more goals, with the winner facing either RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta sit second place in the league and have scored a remarkable 95 league goals in 36 games, meaning they’re on course to be the first Serie A side to score 100 goals since AC Milan back in 1949-50.

Their free-flowing attacking football was on show in their last Champions League tie when they beat Valencia 8-4 on aggregate. Defenders Rafael Toloi, Berat Djimist and Jose Palomino will be trusted by Gasperini to play 1v1 against the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

Atalanta will be wary of the Parisians’ attacking depth but will be looking to exploit the ageing Thiago Silva and with Josip Ilicic (21 goals), Luis Muriel (19 goals) and Duvan Zapata (18 goals) sharing 58 goals between them this season, they have one of the most devastating frontlines in Europe.

The Italian side are well-known for their comebacks and many wouldn’t have picked them to reach the last eight after they lost their first group game 4-0 away to Dinamo Zagreb but their never-say-die attitude enabled them to progress through their group and past Valencia in the last 16.

PSG may benefit from the one-leg format this year as they have been on the receiving end of some spectacular comebacks in the Champions League including a Neymar inspired fightback from Barcelona three years ago.

However, with the Brazilian star now wearing the Parisian colours, he could produce another match-winning performance as he did when they beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate in the last 16.

Thomas Tuchel’s team were awarded the Ligue 1 trophy when their season prematurely ended in early March. PSG continue to dominate France but their yearly failure in the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition has become a major concern for the owners and fans.

Much like their counterparts, the French side score goals for fun and this comes as no surprise when they have Mbappe, Neymar, Edison Cavani, Muaro Icardi and Angel Di Maria at their disposal.

Their campaign started with a spectacular 3-0 victory over Real Madrid and they continued to impress during the group stage, having scored 20 goals in the Champions League already.

The main concern for PSG fans will be the lack of any competitive football played since March but they do have the Coupe De France final on 24th July and then the French League Cup final against Lyon on 31st July before they face Atalanta.

This game is set to be a glorious display of attacking football where both teams will believe they can progress and reach the last four.

Who could win the Champions League?

Bayern Munich have all but secured a place in the quarter-finals as they have a 3-0 advantage over Chelsea and they’ll be looking to win the treble having already won the Bundesliga and German Cup.

Since the restart, Hansi Flick’s side have won all ten remaining games and have been producing machine-like performances, like the ones we became accustomed to a couple of seasons ago.

Robert Lewandowski is the competition’s top goalscorer (11 goals) and with Thomas Muller in behind him and Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman on the wings, Bayern will be expecting to win their sixth European Cup.

‘Die Bayern’ are on the tougher side of the draw which will probably see them face Barcelona in the next round and then either Manchester City/Real Madrid or Juventus in the semi-final.

Real Madrid’s biggest obstacle to their quest to win the Champions League for the 14th time - yes 14th time - will be against Manchester City as they need to overturn the 2-1 deficit from the first leg.

Going into this encounter, Zinedine Zidane has guided Madrid to another La Liga title which has seen them string together ten wins and one draw since the restart.

‘Los Blancos’ are inundated with European winners which could help them triumph over Pep Guardiola’s side and maybe lock horns with rivals Barcelona in the semi-final and potentially set up a repeat of the 2016 final against Atletico Madrid.

Despite Madrid’s recent upturn in form, Manchester City still go into this last-16 clash as favourites thanks to their first leg victory.

Guardiola will be hoping to bring the European trophy back to the Etihad for the first ever time in the club’s history and will be quietly confident of their chances ahead of the tie against Real Madrid.

This season’s competition has been memorable for numerous reasons and it really is anyone’s guess as to who will be crowned European Champions but I will go out on a limb and predict Bayern Munich to lift the trophy in Lisbon on 23rd August.

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