The 2022-2023 Champions League Group Stage saw a number of big upsets and surprising storylines. The knockout stage will surely bring the same excitement and it is difficult to decide who will end up on top.
Heading into the round of 16 of the Champions League Knockout Stage, there is still much to be decided. There are a number of marquee matchups in the round of 16 that will give a better picture of which teams have the form to win the competition.
PSG and Bayern Munich face each other in their first leg match on Tuesday February 14. With both sides considered as favorites, the victorious squad will certainly solidify themselves as a team to beat.
However, PSG have a mountain to climb against a strong Bayern side as their star striker ,Kylian Mbappe, will miss the fixture due to injury. A Bayern victory would leave them a relatively easy road to the final and, in my eyes, would make them the sole favorite.
Another notable fixture is a replay of the 2022 Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool. Neither squad are considered as favorites, however, as they’ve both struggled to find good form in the past few months. However, Real Madrid has not suffered a quite as significant dropoff.
Two other fixtures to be taken note of in the round of 16 are Chelsea versus Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan versus Tottenham Hotspur. Both of these matchups are seemingly even matched, however both Dortmund and Tottenham have enjoyed strong recent form, while Chelsea and Milan have struggled.
One of the Most Dominant Sides in the World This Season
There are few clubs that have been able to match Napoli’s level of play this season. Winning five of their six matchups in the Champions League Group Stage and sitting atop the Serie A table by thirteen points with only seventeen matches remaining, Napoli’s squad has been nearly unbeatable this year.
Napoli’s 14 goal difference in the Champions League Group Stage was second only to Bayern Munich. Their stout defense has also conceded the third least amount of goals (15), behind Barcelona (7) and Newcastle United (12), out of any club in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Newcomers, Victor Osmineh and Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, have guided Napoli to their spectacular form and will surely turn some heads in the Champions League Knockout Stage. Although not considered by many to be a contender for the trophy, Napoli will be a tough challenge for whoever they face.
I think Napoli is the outside favorite to win the Champions League and will be the team that will surprise everyone in the Knockout Stage. Napoli begin the Knockout Stage campaign on February 21 against German club Eintracht Frankfurt.
Powerhouse Struggling for Form
A team who will look to redeem themselves after another failure to win the Champions League in 2022 is Manchester City. Considered by many to be the best squad in the world, they’ve been unable to capture the elusive Champions League trophy. They currently stand as favorites to win the Champions League (+170), however, there are still many questions to be answered.
Manchester City have lost 3 out of their 6 matches and have looked overall shaky in the new year. I am not necessarily saying that they won’t return to form and find a way back to the final, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it.
City have a very deep squad loaded with talent, but haven’t displayed the performances that they are normally attuned too. In light of this and the tumultuous environment currently surrounding the club, due to the investigations surrounding the club’s violation of the Premier Leagues financial fair play, I think that Manchester City will suffer another shock upset and will not advance to the Semifinals.
Manchester City opens up their Champions League Knockout Stage campaign with a matchup against German Club RB Leipzig on Wednesday February 22. This will not be the toughest test for the English club, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the squad struggled or were bounced out of the competition early.