By Alex Al-Kazzaz
With the group stage of the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League complete, the tournament is ready to commence its knockout phase. The Champions League round of 16 is set to begin on the 14th of February. The draw to set up the round of 16 was done yesterday.
The round of 16 features a fascinating line-up; Real Madrid vs Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain vs Bayern Munich, Manchester City vs RB Leipzig, AC Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur, Eintracht Frankfurt vs Napoli, Inter Milan vs Porto, Club Brugge vs Benfica, and Borussia Dortmund vs Chelsea.
The Round of 16's most exciting matchups
Real Madrid vs Liverpool: A rematch of last season's final! Liverpool dominated in the final last year, but their downfall was the result of not being able to put the ball into the back of the net. Real Madrid's Thibault Courtois made a total of NINE saves. In addition, Real Madrid only registered one shot-on-target in the game and they were able to convert and score the game's only goal.
Last season's Champions League final meeting was a rematch of the 2018 Champions League final. Furthermore, Real Madrid and Liverpool both squared off in the quarterfinals of the 2020-21 tournament where Real Madrid prevailed.
Both clubs know each other very well, indeed. In Champions League play, Real Madrid holds a record of five wins, one draw, and three losses against Liverpool. Liverpool's last Champions League triumph against Real Madrid was in the 2008-09 tournament where Liverpool eliminated the Spanish club in the Round of 16 with a final 5-0 score on aggregate. In addition, Liverpool beat Real Madrid in the 1981 Champions League final. Liverpool has had its glorious moments and the Spanish giants, but Real Madrid holds bragging rights considering that they've beaten Liverpool twice in the past four years to claim the title.
The story of the rivalry will have a new chapter in 2023.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Bayern Munich: PSG is still bitter about their loss to Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League final. Les Parisiens did gain a little revenge by eliminating Bayern Munich in the following tournament's quarterfinals. But in PSG's case, redemption won't be achieved until they win the Champions League title.
Bayern Munich is very tough. They won all their group games and they're ready to avenge their shocking and humiliating elimination last season. In addition, they're determined to win it all again. With Sadio Mane part of the attack, Bayern Munich does have a legitimate chance.
PSG has talent, but their mentality is what's been the problem for a very long time. Many argue that PSG's limited midfield form has been a problem along with constant defensive mishaps. Quite frankly, many just simply insist that PSG is merely just unlucky. But when PSG deploys Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe as the front three attack, PSG is depicted as being in a position where they have no excuse for not winning. However, there's no denying that PSG has developed a reputation for being able to easily defeat smaller clubs in Ligue 1 play only to disappoint in a heavier competition like the Champions League. That being said, it's understandable if PSG is not considered a serious title contender. As far as not being a serious contender goes, only PSG can prove otherwise.
Out of the many problems with PSG, their inability to prosper when under pressure leads to their constant downfalls. Bayern Munich will absolutely do everything it can to inflict pressure and keep PSG out of its comfort zone.
From this point on, it's safe to say that Manchester City is the club with the most to lose. So far their investment with Erling Haaland has worked tremendously well and they're hoping to finally capture the Champions League after chasing it for over half a decade now. PSG is in the same boat, but Manchester City has proved to be able to defy the odds under pressure.
Real Madrid as the defending champions is in a position where they want to go on a streak of successfully defending the title as they did from 2016-2018. The likes of AC Milan, Eintracht Frankfurt, Napoli, and Tottenham are hoping to miraculously shock the world and become the champions of Europe.
At this point, while several clubs are solidified favorites, anything can happen. Serious competition will take place moving forward in the tournament.