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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain
Two emotional nights ahead for Thomas Tuchel, the manager of Paris Saint-Germain. Tuchel spent two seasons at Dortmund, made a good enough impression there to be entrusted with the vaulting ambitions of Paris Saint-Germain’s owners and is entitled to think that the French champions are in as good a shape as at any time to push through PSG's stubborn ceiling of a Champions League semi-final.
Endure the noise and fervour of their first leg in Dortmund, and PSG ought to have sufficient firepower. They are a more balanced team, thanks in part to the addition of Idrissa Gana Gueye to their midfield, than the version narrowly beaten, with some bad luck, by Manchester United at the first knockout stage last season. And Dortmund, though capable of rattling the best - they troubled Barcelona and came back from two goals against Inter Milan in the group phase - can be brittle, as their third place in a wide-open Bundesliga shows.
Prediction: PSG to progress
Real Madrid v Manchester City
No visit to the Bernabeu can ever be "just another match" for Pep Guardiola, a man raised on the rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona, the club he supported, captained and then coached with extraordinary success - a success which, since he guided Barcelona to the second of his two European Cups as a manager, is envied by the clubs he has coached since. His Manchester City, brilliant Premier League champions for two years running, are impatient for the bigger prize.
Madrid-City looks the tie of the round, a meeting of two managers whose career paths mirror one another. Zinedine Zidane, like Guardiola, won a European Cup in his first season as a senior coach. He then added two more. Madrid have an uncanny, Midas touch in this tournament. But City are mature and strong enough to defy that.
Prediction: City to find out Madrid’s flaws.
Chelsea v Bayern Munich
How’s this for a perfect script? A hero of Chelsea’s finest hour, the night they became European champions for the first and only time, guides them back to the scene of that triumph, against the team they defeated, on his first attempt at managing in European knockout football? Frank Lampard will want to play down the nostalgia, the omens, but he’ll have to hear plenty about them between now and February.
Lampard captained Chelsea when they beat Bayern, in Munich, on penalties in the 2012 Champions League final. He now manages a young, sometimes dashing, but inconsistent side. They may just feel emboldened by Bayern’s skittish form. The German champions are only fifth in the Bundesliga. But they do have Robert Lewandowski, and he has 10 goals already in Europe this season.
Prediction: Bayern to impose their experience, and go through.
Atalanta v Valencia
In one corner, a 61-year-old veteran of Serie A, a coach for 25 years; in the other, a man thrust into a senior managerial role only in September, a novice to sort out a crisis at Valencia. And between them, Atalanta’s boss Gian Piero Gasperini and Valencia’s Albert Celades, 44, have only ever managed a single knockout match in the Champions League, when Gasperini was briefly in charge of Internazionale eight years ago.
Their players have shown gumption to get this far. Atalanta, debutants in the competition, lost their first fixture and came back to seal a place in the last 16 with a stirring win in Ukraine against Shakhtar. Valencia came through thanks to admirably organised victory on Matchday 6 at Ajax, last season’s semi-finalists.
Prediction: Valencia to edge it.
More to follow ...
Updated: December 16, 2019 04:53 PM
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