Champions League First Knock-up Round Preview
Champions League entered knock-up phase, and the first legs will be played in the forthcoming ten days.
Here is the list of all first round matches: Borussia Dortmund versus Benfica, Barcelona versus PSG, Napoli versus Real Madrid, Arsenal versus Bayern Munich, Monaco versus Manchester City, Atletico Madrid versus Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus versus Porto and Leicester City versus Sevilla.
On paper, we have a clear favorite in every match. On the other hand, the top contenders for the title, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich had a tough draw.
Barcelona will face PSG for the third time in the last four years in Champions League. French champions had one victory and two draws in six matches they played in that period, and it is evident that Barcelona will have showcase all their talent to eliminate PSG.
Real Madrid will face Napoli, the team which is currently in a series of 18 matches without defeat in all competitions! Real Madrid had even longer series of 40 competitive matches without defeat, but they recorded two consecutive losses in January, and they are not playing in the best form at the moment. On the other hand, the reigning European champions are certainly a favorite to advance further in the competition.
At the time of writing, Bookmakers are pricing Real at 13/8 to finish as the champions – something that many pundits, journalists and fans don’t believe they will achieve.
Bayern Munich will face Arsenal, that is having a trademark season so far – fantastic matches against strong opponents, lots of injuries, dramatic loss of form and despair because it seems they will fail to win any trophy this season, again. Bayern Munich doesn’t look sharp like they looked two or three seasons ago and Arsenal might have a chance here, but surely, Bayern Munich is the better team at the moment.
Monaco had several spectacular performances this season. Radamel Falcao returned to the club, and he is producing the goods again. Manchester City had a terrible start of the year, but it seems they are playing much better at the moment. The English team is the favorite here, but it won’t be as easy as their fans expect, that’s for sure!
Atletico Madrid will face Bayer Leverkusen, and everybody expects they will eliminate the German club with ease. However, Simeone’s side is struggling in Primera this season, after several fantastic seasons. On the other hand, Bayer Leverkusen is not performing spectacularly well either, so Spanish club is the favorite here after all.
Borussia Dortmund is the favorite against Benfica if they avoid making disastrous defensive mistakes, as they did in several games this season. Benfica is a solid team, and they can take advantage of that.
Juventus will be the favorite to eliminate Porto, but like Benfica, they may be a tough opponent for the Italian champions. Out of all eight matches, they should be the game with the least goals scored.
In the end, Sevilla is the favorite against Leicester City. Leicester is in a terrible form at the moment; they didn’t score a Premier League goal in 2017! On the other hand, Sevilla is currently third in Primera, and they are expecting to advance further in the competition. Leicester City will rely on counter attacks and their ability to execute them properly will decide the winner of the match.