I made my Round of 16 Predictions nearly six months ago due to the global COVID-19 pandemic suspending play in the middle of the return legs. To say a lot has changed since then is an understatement. However, this stage of the UEFA Champions League has finally concluded, and not only do we have the quarterfinal matchups, but the rest of the tournament is also set in a bracket.
My predictions for the Round of 16 yielded 5 correct winners (Atalanta, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, and RB Leipzig) and 3 incorrect winners (Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, and Olympique Lyon advancing ahead of Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Juventus respectively). Let’s see how things could go with the field that remains.
Atalanta vs Paris Saint-Germain
Despite PSG having the more expensive squad than Atalanta, neither of them have won a Champions League before. You can’t really fault the Nerazzurri for that as this is their first-ever season in this European competition. PSG on the other hand has no excuse. This club spends money left and right backed by Qatari investors, and with two top 10 players in the world in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, you would expect them to accomplish more in Europe. Thomas Tuchel says that Mbappe could play in this quarterfinal, but one forward who is likely to miss out is Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic. Atalanta have played incredible football for most of this season, but without one of their best players, this could be the end of the road. With all due respect to them, if PSG does not win this game, they should just forfeit the Champions League next season and beyond. Even though the Ligue 1 season was canceled, PSG should have enough in the tank to see Atalanta off.
Prediction: PSG wins 2–1
Atletico Madrid vs RB Leipzig
Atletico Madrid has carved out a significant European history, particularly in the last decade or so. They are bigger than other challenging Spanish clubs such as Valencia and Sevilla but not quite at Real Madrid and Barcelona’s level, seeing significantly more roster turnover as shown by Antoine Griezmann complete his move to Barcelona last summer. However, Diego Simeone’s side have eliminated the reigning European champions Liverpool against all odds and have a point to prove. RB Leipzig is used to that feeling as they also defied expectations by getting this far. This is uncharted territory for the German club for many reasons, the biggest being they will be without Timo Werner who has moved to Chelsea. Leipzig have the depth with Yussuf Poulsen and Patrik Schick, but Atletico Madrid are organized enough defensively to be able to handle these offensive weapons. Atletico can weather the storm and then strike back with their own offensive talents.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid wins 1–0
Barcelona vs Bayern Munich
The two biggest clubs left in the Champions League will go head to head in this encounter, and if you look through the players each side has, you’ll see a lot of recognizable and talented stars. However, while Bayern Munich enjoyed a successful domestic campaign winning the Bundesliga (again) and the DFB Pokal, Barcelona came up empty-handed in La Liga and Copa Del Rey. Barcelona’s chances in this game and this competition ride on Lionel Messi, and although Messi is possibly the best ever player in this sport, they usually aren’t reliant on the Argentine. While Bayern Munich can rely on the prolific Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, the supporting cast has been in better form this season getting contributions from players like Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, and Leon Goretzka. The Bundesliga ended weeks before the other major European leagues so fitness will be on the Catalan club’s side, but Bayern has a more balanced team and it takes all 11 players on the field to win this trophy.
Prediction: Bayern Munich wins 2–1
Manchester City vs Olympique Lyon
David vs Goliath is the best way to describe this matchup, but Olympique Lyonnais is used to that tag as recently as the Round of 16. Not a lot of people though they could topple the Italian champions Juventus yet they proved those doubters (including myself wrong). That being said, I do have to doubt them again. Lyon benefited from the stoppage in play as they got Memphis Depay and other key players back from injury, but they are coming against a motivated and deep Manchester City club. Manchester City have probably the deepest side in the Champions League, being able to bring on the likes Riyad Mahrez, David Silva, and Ilkay Gundogan off the bench. They want to end David Silva’s last season with the blue half of Manchester winning the trophy that has eluded them and they have the firepower to do it.
Prediction: Manchester City wins 3–1
Semifinal and Final Predictions
Atletico Madrid 2–1 Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich 2–2 Manchester City (Bayern Munich win on penalties)
Atletico Madrid 1–3 Bayern Munich
We’ve seen strong Bayern Munich teams in the past falter in the latter stages of the Champions League, but with their inform, versatile, and deep collection of players and Robert Lewandowski in the form of his life, I think this is when it all comes together for the Bavarian club and they end up lifting the Champions League trophy.
Let me know your thoughts below or on Twitter @IvanOrnelas2.