In the upcoming UEFA Champions League knockout stages starting this Tuesday, Manchester City and Real Madrid are taking centre stage. These teams, the most recent victors of Europe’s premier football competition, are viewed as the prime candidates for the title this season.
Despite Manchester City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, downplaying the team’s chances of replicating last year’s treble win – securing the English Premier League, the FA Cup, and their first Champions League title – the team is hitting peak form at the right moment. Manchester City is set to face FC Copenhagen in Denmark for the first leg of the last 16, riding a wave of 10 consecutive victories across all competitions.
FC Copenhagen, marking their second appearance in the knockout phase since 2011, previously managed a draw against City in last season’s group stage and secured a 4-3 win over Manchester United earlier this season. Despite the potential challenge, Manchester City is anticipated to dominate over the two legs.
Real Madrid, facing RB Leipzig in Germany, enters the match in excellent form, with standout players Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior leading the charge, despite defensive injuries. The draw for the last 16 has been somewhat lacklustre, except for the promising clash between last season’s runner-up, Inter Milan, and Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.
The match-up between Barcelona and Napoli is also garnering interest, with Barcelona aiming to reach their first Champions League quarter-final since 2020 under soon-to-depart coach Xavi Hernandez. Napoli, struggling to match last season’s performance, will be a test for Barcelona, who are looking to overcome past setbacks.
Bayern Munich is set to face Lazio amid challenges in the Bundesliga, hoping for a resurgence in the Champions League, while PSG, known for their past failures in Europe, sees this season as possibly their last chance to win with Kylian Mbappe. With Mbappe’s future uncertain, PSG faces Real Sociedad under the leadership of Luis Enrique, aiming to overcome their reputation for underperformance in the Champions League.
As the knockout stages begin, the Champions League is poised for thrilling matches, with fans eagerly anticipating whether the favourites will advance or if underdogs will cause major upsets.