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Champions League Last 16: Tie-by-Tie Analysis | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane will take the European champions to Naples for the first leg of their last-16 tie on 15 February. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

1) Manchester City v Monaco

First leg 21 Feb Second leg 15 Mar

Pep Guardiola will be content with this draw, but Monaco are among the most exciting sides in Europe and perhaps the most underrated team in the competition.

Leonardo Jardim has created an exciting side who have scored an incredible 53 goals in 17 Ligue 1 matches. Although Monaco share the goals around impressively, it is notable that Radamel Falcao has found his shooting boots again, scoring five goals in Monaco’s past two games. They are also tactically flexible, able to play both 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 effectively, as they demonstrated with 2-1 victories home and away against Tottenham Hotspur in the group stage.

City will start as strong favourites, although Monaco is a tough place to go – despite, or maybe because of, the famous lack of atmosphere.

2) Real Madrid v Napoli

First leg 15 Feb Second leg 7 Mar

These sides have not met since the days of Diego Maradona. The European champions Real Madrid are likely to keep up their impressive recent record in the competition: after six years of being eliminated at this stage between 2005 and 2010, they have reached at least the semi-finals for the past six seasons, triumphing twice.

Napoli’s main goalscoring threat will come from the former Real winger José Callejón, their top goalscorer – he cuts in dangerously from wide positions and is a clinical finisher. Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne also offer unpredictable movement, while the centre-forward Arkadiusz Milik should return from injury in time for this tie.

Real are a strong side, however – better than last season in terms of organisation, and still brilliant on the counter-attack.

3) Benfica v Borussia Dortmund

First leg 14 Feb Second leg 8 Mar

Two European champions meet for the first time in more than half a century. Benfica are a decent side, and while the coach Rui Vitoria is yet to fully demonstrate his tactical acumen in continental competition, Benfica caused Bayern Munich a fright in the competition last season, narrowly defeated 3-2 on aggregate at this stage. The Argentinian attacking midfielder Eduardo Salvio has been their stand‑out performer in the competition this season, managing three goals and two assists, and rounded off a brilliant passing move to open the scoring in the 2-1 derby victory against Sporting Sunday.

Dortmund are a thrilling side, though – Thomas Tuchel has created a flexible, fast-paced team, and the talents of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Osumane Dembélé and the returning Marco Reus could overwhelm Benfica.

4) Bayern v Arsenal

First leg 15 Feb Second leg 7 Mar

These two clubs will face one another for the seventh and eighth times in the past five seasons. Bayern eliminated Arsenal at this stage in both 2012-13 and 2013-14.

However, the German club are probably weaker now. Although they top the Bundesliga, they are still a work in progress under their new manager, Carlo Ancelotti, and lost against both Atlético Madrid and FC Rostov in the group stage, also falling to a 1-0 defeat at Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

Arsenal appear more organised and tactically intelligent this season, while the use of Alexis Sánchez up front provides more dynamism. Their task for the first leg in Munich is ensuring they remain in the tie, and the second leg is not simply a familiar exercise in saving face.

5) Porto v Juventus

First leg 22 Feb Second leg 14 Mar

Juventus are probably being underrated – they are only seventh favourite for the competition – and this is a favourable draw for Max Allegri’s side. Capable of playing with a three-man defence, a four-man defence and a hybrid system that can catch out opponents, they have more goal threat after the summer arrival of Gonzalo Higuaín, who is still seeking to prove he can deliver in big games.

Porto are, as ever, a slick passing team offering plenty of width, and they have added another dimension to their play with André Silva, a rare prolific Portuguese centre-forward, managing nine goals in 13 league games this season, and another two in Europe. It remains to be seen whether Porto can frustrate superior opponents, though.

6) Bayer Leverkusen v Atlético

First leg 21 Feb Second leg 15 Mar

These sides met at this stage two years ago, both winning 1-0 at home before Atlético triumphed on penalties. Tactically, this might be one of the most fascinating ties, with both sides extremely well organised and particularly clever in their pressing. Atlético’s style is suited to European competition and Diego Simeone might prioritise the Champions League with his side seemingly out of the Liga title race. The goalkeeper Jan Oblak and the centre‑back Diego Godín are among the best in Europe, while Yannick Carrasco, Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann provide tremendous pace up front.

Leverkusen are based around the goal‑poaching of Javier Hernández, but with Hakan Calhanoglu’s creativity and dead‑ball expertise, and a combative, mobile midfield, this could be a great contest.

7) PSG v Barcelona

First leg 14 Feb Second leg 8 Mar

Another repeat – these sides played twice in 2012-13 and four times in 2014‑15, with Barcelona rampant in the quarter-final two years ago, winning 5-1 on aggregate.

Barcelona have not been at their best this season, and their midfield passing has been uncharacteristically poor. They are more dependent than ever upon Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez for moments of magic – but they rarely have quiet games.

PSG are struggling in Ligue 1, four points off the pace – which might not sound disastrous, but it is a significant decline considering they won the title last season by a ludicrous 31 points. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure means the inconsistent Edinson Cavani leads the line. Marco Verratti, meanwhile, is the type of midfielder Barcelona should be looking to sign.

8) Sevilla v Leicester City

First leg 22 Feb Second leg 14 Mar

This could be brilliant – heavy pressing against counter-attack. The Sevilla manager, Jorge Sampaoli has taken his side to third in La Liga with a young, dynamic and cohesive side capable of truly wonderful football. The Italian midfielder Franco Vazquez has been particularly exciting, while Samir Nasri has also thrived and the former Blackburn and Stoke midfielder Steven N’Zonzi plays a solid midfield role for the club who have won three consecutive Europa League titles.

Leicester’s league form has been patchy, but their Champions League performances have largely been excellent, while the weekend thrashing of Manchester City showed Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have not lost their touch. Sevilla will have most of the ball, but Leicester can cause an upset.

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