By Parth Parikh
Sports Business Writer
As the 2017 year starts off and different sports leagues like the NBA, NFL and NHL head towards the postseason, another sports competition has already begun their postseason, and it has the world watching every moment. The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 starts Tuesday, February 14 and the eight matchups could not be better for one of the world’s most famous and popular sporting tournament. With a perfect mix of super teams like Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona, along with young, up-and-coming teams like Leicester City, FC Porto and Sevilla, the next two months of world soccer will be analyzed and critiqued until June 3, the date of the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff, Wales.
Some of the bigger and more sought-after matchups will be Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) vs. Barcelona, Real Madrid vs. Napoli, and Machester City vs. Monaco. Between Bayern and Arsenal, they will meet for the third time in four years in the Champions League knockout stages, with Bayern eliminating Arsenal in 2013 and 2014. Bayern’s superstars like Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Thomas Mueller will lead the German side against the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil representing the North London squad who are coming off much success in the Premier League. The two teams met on Wednesday, and despite the game being tied 1-1 at halftime, Bayern finished the match with a 5-1 victory. The Bavarians’ offense was clicking on all cylinders in the second half, as the team controlled possession for just under 75% of the game. The chances of Arsenal to the next round are slim to none.
In the PSG-Barcelona matchup, there will be stars galore from either side as this appears to be the marquee battle of the tournament. Barcelona’s MSN trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar will bring the powerhouse Spanish side against the French unit comprising of Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani. Both crushed the competition during the round-robin group stages and experts hope to see a lot of goals scored in this pairing. The first match played between the two sides was shocking to many, as PSG stunned Barcelona with four goals on the road in a shutout win.
Another giant clash will see the defending UEFA Champions League champions Real Madrid face off against Napoli, an underrated and hungry club from Italy. Real Madrid, with their own trio, BBC consisting of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo, will face off against Euro 2016 star Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne. Napoli’s Dries Mertens is also one of world’s most in-form players at the moment. Manager Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid will get a second chance to win the Champions League title after winning it last year. The two teams met on Wednesday with Real Madrid overcoming an early goal to win the first leg 3-1.
In the Manchester City-Monaco match, we will see a star-studded City team led by manager Pep Guardiola go up against a French squad determined to win. City will be led by Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne against the Monaco team guided by journeyman Radamel Falcao and Fabinho.
Other big-name bouts we will see include Germans Marco Reus and Mario Gotze representing Borussia Dortmund against SL Benefica, Mexican star Chicharito leading Bayer Leverkusen against Athletico Madrid, and defending UEFA Europa League champions Sevilla and reigning Premier League champions Leicester City in a huge contest. In the eighth and final duo, FC Porto from Portugal will play the dominant Juventus team from Italy. The games are drawn up to be massive, and each game will have serious world soccer implications.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 print edition.
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