With the kickoff to Leg 2 matches for the Round of 16 starting next Tuesday, March 9th, let's take a look at what each team needs to do going forward to advance to the Quarter-Finals of this years UEFA Champions League tournament. Here's a look at the first set of four matches to come in the Leg 2 match ups of the Round of 16:
Juventus vs Porto (1-2 Agg)
Juventus: First of all, what in the world happened in Leg 1 to Szczesny? He looked horrid, akin to his early Arsenal days where he was never the obvious 1st choice keeper. Secondly, it seemed like the team was tired and flat-footed all game. Letting the Porto press dictate where they played the ball, instead of doing the normal Juve thing and playing quickly around the press. If not for Chiesa scoring in the final 20 minutes this Juve team would be up against it. Granted the task is not easy now, considering this Porto teams tactically sound defense in the first leg, Juve need to break it down to be able to get a goal and take this game on the away goal rule if it were to finish 1-0. Most importantly though, their back line needs to play quicker out of the back and Ronaldo needs to look like the competition's all-time top scorer, and not some 36 year old making his victory tour. To shorten, Juve need to be quick with the ball, dictate the pace, and not let the ball stick on anyone's foot in the final third of the field to leave with a win and advancement in the tournament.
Porto: Well, well, well, what was tabbed by all, including myself, as a done deal, Porto proved to everyone why we play the game on a pitch and not on paper. The press they deployed at home against Juve baffled their Italian opponents, and resulted in both of their goals in the first 5 minutes of each half. An outstanding outcome considering the injuries, and the talent gap between the two squads. What do Porto need to do in the second leg to come out on top? Well more of the same, now that they are away, if they can snag one away goal they would force Juve to have to win 3-1 at least for Juve to advance on aggregate. Don't be surprised if this is a messy game in midfield, and any time Juve start to string together a move, look for Porto to end the move as quickly as possible. The press will obviously have to be tweaked, but only slightly, maybe have a different player press from a different position occasionally to throw off Pirlo's instructions. But most importantly look for them to again keep a high line, and pressure on any loss of possession and force Juve to make the first mistake again.
Result: Juventus 2-0 Porto, Juventus progress 3-2 on Aggregate.
Borussia Dortmund vs Sevilla (3-2 Agg)
BVB: Erling Haaland. Erling Haaland. Erling Haaland. The 20 year old said he was inspired by Mbappe's hat trick against Barcelona, and if that's what an inspired Haaland can do, look out. Now with that said, this BVB back line still has some work to be done. It can't give up goals like they did in Leg 1 at home in Leg 2. However, because of the away goal rule, Sevilla would have to run over this Dortmund defense, and while Dortmund isn't as good defensively as they are offensively, they should be able to do enough to stave off Sevilla's attack. Look for another counter attack goal or 2 from Haaland as he continues his impressive scoring pace of 18 goals in 13 Champions league appearances.
Sevilla: Well Sevilla, I'm sorry to say it but you let the one thing that couldn't happen, happen. Kounde and Carlos couldn't handle Haaland on the counter and it resulted in a quick 2-1 deficit after an early goal by Sevilla, allowing Dahoud to hit the curler to tie it at 1-1 before letting Haaland get involved on the quick counter attacks to beat the two center-backs. Look for a more attacking side to come out against BVB in leg 2, as the Sevilla team has it's work cut out for itself after giving up 3 away goals. Look for Luuk de Jong to make an earlier appearance if this is a 1-0 game at the half, and if Sevilla can gain the advantage needed for advancement, look for them to return to their shell, and see it out until the end of the match so they can ensure their advancement.
Result: BVB 2-2 Sevilla, BVB advance 5-4 on Aggregate.
PSG vs Barcelona (4-1 Agg)
Location: Parc de Princes (Paris)
PSG: Hold your celebrations PSG fans. Yes, Mbappe's hat-trick was incredible, a 4-1 win away was amazing. However this match up has a history of lopsided away victories. Look out for this Barcelona team to be coming out attacking straight from the kickoff, and Messi to be terrorizing the back line all night. PSG will need to rely on a counter-attack or two to settle this game down, and keep the Parisians in the lead throughout. Keep Messi from getting in the flow, and dictating the pace from the center of the park. Also, Neymar potentially returns, and you'll need to use him up front with Mbappe to keep the ball away from Barca for as long as possible, and hopefully nip a goal or two on a counter attack.
Barcelona: Mbappe got loose against this aging back line, and despite Messi's best efforts, he was by himself up front for the most part as Griezmann and Dembele, looked lost against the PSG team. It's kind of a microcosm of their entire season, and all the little imperfections are being amplified against a team with incredible team speed at the top, and a staunch, intelligent defensive unit that have played Messi well so far. If you're Barca, you need more from Griezmann and Dembele in this one, it can't be Messi trying to do it all anymore. And this isn't a done deal, last time there was a 4-1 match in leg 1 the losing team fought back to advance in the 2nd leg.
Result: PSG 2-3 Barcelona, PSG advance 6-4 on aggregate.
Liverpool vs RB Leipzig (2-0 Agg)
Location: Anfield (Likely ending up back in the Puskas Arena in Hungary again)
Liverpool: Another European night at Anfield, the fortress where opposing teams dreams come to die. Or at least that's how it used to be before the injury bug began plaguing this Liverpool defense, and a new strain of COVID began preventing German teams from going to the UK for matches. They managed a 2-0 first leg victory away against Leipzig, who looked befuddled playing a home game in a neutral site. So if you're Klopp you have some wiggle room, and don't have to go for it all. However, knowing the defensive liabilities currently being fielded by Liverpool, look for Klopp to employ the Big 3 up front and go for the jugular early, and try and put this one to bed before half. If the Big 3 can get in sync like they did in leg 1 look for Liverpool to calmly advance to the Quarter finals.
RB Leipzig: Leipzig came out in Leg 1 looking to match Liverpool's attacking side, and that ended up backfiring at the end of the day. But not to be scared, Leipzig will likely come out even more attacking not from a desire to do so, but because that's likely the best chance they have at taking advantage of this makeshift back line for Liverpool, and force them into mistakes early and often enough for Leipzig to overcome the 2-0 deficit. Look for Leipzig to continue to force the issue on the wings with Angelino and Tyler Adams taking the game to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. They will try and keep them pinned, and hopefully squeeze a few mistakes out of this back line for them to capitalize on and dig into this 2-0 deficit.
Result: Liverpool 1-1 RB Leipzig, Liverpool advance 3-1 on aggregate.