Why each team will, won’t win

The break between the Champions League group stage and knockout rounds all the time feels a bit unusual. The competitors drives and dictates the European soccer season to the purpose the place we comply with the top-four races within the high leagues as intently as we do the title races — or extra so, as a result of competitiveness of such races — however we usually take an roughly two-month break from the competitors within the winter months. This yr, mentioned break was 3½ months.

Quite a bit’s gone on within the soccer world since Nov. 2, when RB Leipzig and AC Milan stomped Shakhtar Donetsk and Salzburg, respectively, to say the ultimate spots within the spherical of 16. Barcelona established full management of LaLiga’s title race … after getting eradicated from the Champions League. Arsenal maintained its edge on the sector within the Premier League. Bayern Munich pulled away from the Bundesliga subject, solely to get reeled again in a bit. Chelsea and Liverpool went from wobbly to worse. Manchester United launched its most well-known participant and instantly surged. Oh yeah, and the complete membership soccer world paused for weeks whereas Lionel Messi and Argentina gained the World Cup.

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But now the competitors’s again, and rattling if the pecking order does not appear a little bit blurry. From each betting and odds views, Manchester City and Bayern are the clear favorites, however the former has gained simply three of its final six matches in all competitions, the latter one in all 4. PSG has misplaced Kylian Mbappe to damage within the quick time period and has proven spotty highway kind since returning to motion.

Real Madrid is banged up. Liverpool and Chelsea are taking part in like mid-table Premier League groups, which they’re. Benfica, ok to high PSG in Group H final fall, misplaced its most fun younger participant (midfielder Enzo Fernandez) to a big-money switch in late January.

It’s all a little bit of a large number. Of the highest seven or eight favorites heading into the spherical of 16, just one, Napoli, is taking part in all that nicely. Will that result in some surprising outcomes over the subsequent couple of weeks? Will the game’s sleepwalking large names use the Champions League as a shot within the arm and discover fifth gear once more? We’re about to seek out out.

To brace ourselves for the midweek matches forward, let’s stroll by way of the remaining subject. Who’s favored? Why would possibly each team win the competitors? What’s each team’s most deadly flaw?

The motion begins on Tuesday in Milan (Tottenham Hotspur at AC Milan) and Paris (Bayern at PSG).

The favorites

Manchester City

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +170 (equal to 37%) and 19%, respectively
Round of 16 opponent: RB Leipzig (Feb. 22 and March 14)

Why they are going to win: They would possibly nonetheless be the very best team in Europe. Erling Haaland has produced as anticipated (31 objectives in 28 matches) since arriving final summer time. But putting in him on the high of City’s assault has in some methods stifled its movement and creativity.

There have been simply sufficient iffy outcomes of late — a 2-0 loss to Southampton within the League Cup, latest one-goal defeats to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur — to maintain the Sky Blues 5 factors again within the Premier League title race and immediate a sequence of “Is City worse off with Haaland?” takes. In this identical iffy time interval, nevertheless, they’ve scored wins over Arsenal and Chelsea (twice), and so they’ve nonetheless averaged practically two objectives per match in all competitions because the restart.

Caesars nonetheless lists them as overwhelming Champions League favorites. For all of their wonky kind, they nonetheless have Haaland, World Cup hero Julian Alvarez, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and among the finest and most artistic attacking expertise in Europe.

Why they won’t: Pep’s in Tinker Mode. Pep Guardiola is looking for options to City’s stolidness in the intervening time and with the items at hand, he’ll in all probability discover them. He hasn’t but, although, and his tinkering is taking City to bizarre locations. Joao Cancelo discovered himself out of favor and took a shock mortgage to Bayern. De Bruyne, City’s engine, began the Spurs loss on the bench for “tactical reasons.”

City’s formation towards Spurs was relatively indecipherable — it was sort of a 4-2-3-1, sort of a 4-4-2, sort of a 4-1-2-1-2, sort of a 3-2-3-2 — and produced a passing map that might finest be described as “What the hell is this?”

First-year City additions have usually taken some time to gel and regardless of his productiveness (which forces Guardiola to maintain him within the lineup always), Haaland isn’t any totally different. Guardiola will inevitably discover the solutions he is searching for, however Leipzig is catching the Sky Blues at a reasonably weak time.

Bayern Munich

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +600 (equal to 14%) and 22%
Round of 16 opponent: PSG (Feb. 14 and March 8)

Why they are going to win: They nonetheless have essentially the most attacking upside on the planet. When Bayern started its restart with a trio of 1-1 attracts and plenty of contenders inched nearer to the 10-time defending Bundesliga champions on the high of the desk, we overreacted as we all the time do to temporary runs of mortal kind. They miss Robert Lewandowski an excessive amount of! The team chemistry is terrible! Julian Nagelsmann goes to get canned in the event that they lose to PSG!

Granted, that final half would possibly nonetheless be on the desk, however Bayern responded to this full and utter collapse by torching Mainz and Wolfsburg by a mixed 8-2. Their consideration span waned towards Wolfsburg and so they nearly let their opponents again within the match, however Jamal Musiala put issues away with an otherworldly one-man present.

For all of Bayern’s supposed struggles, Musiala nonetheless has 14 objectives and 9 assists in all competitions, whereas Serge Gnabry has 10 and 10 and three different gamers have mixed double-digit objectives with not less than 4 assists. (None of them are Thomas Muller or Kingsley Coman, who mixed for 3 of the objectives towards Wolfsburg.)

This may not be 2020-level Bayern, however in a sea of contenders performing beneath their full capabilities, the German champs stay absurdly harmful. (They have Cancelo now, too, who already has two assists in simply 149 minutes.) And they need to get the injured Sadio Mane again by the point the second leg towards PSG rolls round.

Why they won’t: Opponents take higher pictures. This team boasts among the most spectacular ending talent on the planet, however with out Lewandowski as a middle of gravity up entrance, Bayern’s uncooked shot high quality has suffered a bit. While they nonetheless try way more pictures than anybody within the Bundesliga (0.20 per possession), their 0.11 xG per shot ranks solely Tenth within the Bundesliga; league opponents, in the meantime, are averaging 0.12 xG per shot (14th).

Is that an enormous distinction? No, however with Leo Messi, Neymar and (for the second leg, not less than) Kylian Mbappe on deck, shot high quality may shortly turn into a large difficulty in Bayern’s quest for a seventh European crown.

The hopefuls

Paris Saint-Germain

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +700 (equal to 13%) and 5%
Round of 16 opponent: Bayern Munich (February 14 and March 8)

Why they are going to win: The sum of the components continues to be overwhelming. Messi. Neymar. Mbappe (finally). Achraf Hakimi. Gianluigi Donnarumma. Marco Verratti. You get the purpose. When PSG ignite, it is fairly jaw-dropping.

They started the season outscoring their first six league opponents by a mixed 24-4. Despite lengthy battles with an iffy consideration span — plus accidents and an extended easing-in course of for stars following the World Cup — they’ve nonetheless scored 85 objectives and allowed simply 27 in 32 matches. The three stars up entrance have 57 objectives and 35 assists between them. The complete by no means appears to match the sum of the components, however that does not imply the sum is not immense.

Why they won’t: We’ve been down this highway earlier than. There’s a reasonably dependable script for the way a team with this many stars falls aside on the incorrect time. First, due to accidents and cargo administration (amongst different issues) the three scorers aren’t all on the sector collectively a lot: Mbappe, Messi and Neymar have all performed in simply 17 of 32 matches. Second, the midfield’s duties turn into overwhelming with the absence of any urgent presence up entrance. Third, the depth of expertise nonetheless is not what different golf equipment can boast, and ageing veterans like Sergio Ramos (36), Verratti (30) and Juan Bernat (29) are being requested to play heavy minutes.



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PSG introduced in no new blood within the winter switch window, whereas Marquinhos, Ramos and defender Presnel Kimpembe have all been in iffy type of late. They have solely the third-best xG differential in Ligue 1 because the restart, they’ve misplaced to Lens, Rennes and Marseille on the highway since Jan. 1, and whereas Mbappe will return for the second leg towards Bayern, his absence within the dwelling leg may put them in a foul place heading to Munich.

Real Madrid

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +1100 (equal to eight%) and 9%
Round of 16 opponent: Liverpool (Feb. 21 and March 15)

Why they are going to win: Come on, they’re Real Madrid. If any team on this competitors will get the good thing about the doubt, it is the defending (and 14-time) champions. The Blancos have been waylaid by damage of late; defenders Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Lucas Vazquez and (in fact) midfielder Eden Hazard are out, whereas each ahead (and reigning Ballon d’Or winner) Karim Benzema and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois have missed vital time. They needed to jet to Morocco for the Club World Cup — they beat Al Ahly on Wednesday and can face shock finalist Al-Hilal on Saturday — and their go to to Liverpool on Feb. 21 will likely be their thirty seventh match of the season already. (Real Madrid gamers additionally topped 3,500 mixed minutes on the World Cup.)

But … they’re Real Madrid! When they’ve to indicate up, they nonetheless present up in power. Benzema is rounding into kind — he has two objectives and two assists in his previous 4 matches — and whereas they have been solely the third- or fourth-best team on paper in final yr’s Champions League, they beat PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool in succession, all the time placing collectively a cost when a cost was required. Until they do not, let’s assume they nonetheless will.



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Why they won’t: There is a wear-and-tear restrict right here. Read that first paragraph once more. This team is getting pushed round by age, damage and quantity. They’re scoring lower than they did final season, and their close-game magic has dissipated. Before leaving for Morocco, that they had gained simply three of their final 9 matches in Spain. Vinicius Junior is the one regular presence within the lineup, and he is getting fouled and abused greater than anybody within the sport. This is so much, even for Real Madrid.


Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +1100 (equal to eight%) and eight%
Round of 16 opponent: Eintracht Frankfurt (Feb. 21 and March 15)

Why they are going to win: Who’s taking part in higher proper now? They lead Serie A by 13 factors, having scored 10 extra objectives than anybody else whereas permitting the fewest. They outscored their first 5 Champions League opponents, together with Liverpool and Ajax (twice), by a mixed 20-4. Victor Osimhen has 20 objectives and 17 assists in 21 matches, and revelatory 21-year outdated winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has 10 and 12 in 22.

Luciano Spalletti’s squad tilts the sector and dominates possession like a Champions League contender is meant to do, however they have been practically invulnerable to counter-attacks. They dominate set items, too.

Looking solely at manufacturing ranges and never Transfermarkt participant values, you possibly can fairly simply conclude that that is, at worst, one of many two or three finest groups in Europe. And whereas they’ve confronted little or no adversity this season, they’ve responded nicely to what they’ve confronted: Their purpose differential when trailing in league play is +4.2 per 90 possessions, pretty much as good as you will ever see, and after dropping to Inter of their first sport after the World Cup break, they proceeded to destroy Juventus 5-1 and win 5 straight league matches.

This team is a wrecking ball, and whereas it is all the time truthful to surprise if Cinderella’s carriage will flip right into a pumpkin sooner or later, they’ve given us no purpose to doubt them but.

Why they won’t: Schedule power. With AC Milan’s latest collapse, Napoli have performed solely 5 matches this season towards groups within the present high 20 of FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ratings. They gained their first three in resounding style — 4-1 over No. 8 Liverpool, then 6-1 and 4-2 over No. 15 Ajax — however Liverpool bought revenge with a 2-0 win within the group stage finale, and No. 18 Inter certainly beat them 1-0 on Jan. 4. Their assault is drastically reliant on two gamers, and because the schedule power will increase, they may discover their alternatives to attain dwindling shortly.


Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +900 (equal to 10%) and 5%
Round of 16 opponent: Real Madrid (Feb. 21 and March 15)

Why they are going to win: They nonetheless try way more pictures than you (and regression to the imply is actual). Jurgen Klopp’s Reds are struggling some severe points proper now, points that transcend struggling some dangerous breaks right here and there.

They have suffered a few dangerous breaks, although. They’re sixth within the Premier League in xG differential (solely decimal factors out of fourth), and so they nonetheless have the third-best assault within the league. They’ll probably end the season larger within the desk than they at the moment are.

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Since the season started, Liverpool has crushed Manchester City (twice), Napoli, Newcastle, Spurs and Ajax (twice). The upside is there, even when they are not displaying it as a lot, and regardless of their stress numbers struggling as they battle damage and midfield age and break in key new items up entrance, they nonetheless overwhelm you from a quantity perspective: In Premier League play, they’ve tried 0.17 pictures per possession (third within the league) and allowed solely 0.10 (third). That’s six to seven extra pictures per match.

They do not create sufficient high-quality seems to be and so they offer you too many, however should you do not convert these probabilities, they will nonetheless take you down. That turns into doubly true if or when key attackers snap out of ending slumps — Mo Salah, Darwin Nunez and newcomer Cody Gakpo have mixed to attain simply 4 objectives from pictures value 8.3 xG because the restart. That won’t final.



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Why they won’t: No good team has worse transition protection in the intervening time. Okay, they do not simply offer you too many attractiveness, they provide you too many nice seems to be. Of the groups within the present SPI high 20, nobody comes near the 0.14 xG per shot that Liverpool permits in league play, and nobody permits as many objectives in what I name “transition possessions” — possessions that begin outdoors the attacking third and final fewer than 20 seconds.

As was the case two seasons in the past throughout a run of center-back accidents, Liverpool is simply getting shredded in transition. Not even shot amount benefits can overcome that.


Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +1400 (equal to 7%) and 5%
Round of 16 opponent: Borussia Dortmund (Feb. 15 and March 7)

Why they are going to win: They’re unscoutable? In their first match after the winter switch window closed, a 0-0 draw with Fulham, Graham Potter deployed 16 gamers, together with substitutes. Five of them had been added to the roster in January (Enzo Fernandez, Benoit Badiashile, Mykhaylo Mudryk, Noni Madueke, David Datro Fofana), two extra have been added in the summertime (Marc Cucurella, Raheem Sterling) and one returned from mortgage over the summer time (Conor Gallagher). Two extra newcomers (Kalidou Koulibaly, Carney Chukwuemeka) sat on the bench, and 4 others have recorded not less than 300 minutes this season.

This is as new a team as you will ever see within the Champions League knockout phases. That they made it right here with ease — after an preliminary upset loss to Dinamo Zagreb (which led to Thomas Tuchel’s firing), they did not lose once more within the group stage — is a reminder of their upside, as is the truth that they nonetheless have most of the gamers from 2021’s Champions League title run.

Things clearly have not clicked for Potter, and this overwhelming newness hasn’t helped in that regard, however it is going to be awfully onerous to scout and predict what Chelsea will do transferring ahead, and in the event that they ever discover a rhythm, they might make an sudden run.



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Why they won’t: They’re the Tenth-best team in England. Chelsea is ninth within the EPL desk and Tenth in each purpose differential and xG differential. They’ve crushed solely Bournemouth and Crystal Palace because the restart, and wins by 2-1 over Salzburg and 2-1 over West Ham are their solely victories towards groups ranked in even the SPI high 35 this season. They’ve performed six matches towards the present Premier League high 4, and so they’ve taken a single level whereas getting outscored 10-1.

This is not an out-of-rhythm team that is hinted at huge upside this season; it is only a plain outdated midtable Premier League team. Why would that instantly change subsequent week?


Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +1800 (equal to five%) and seven%
Round of 16 opponent: Club Brugge (Feb. 15 and March 7)

Why they are going to win: Roger Schmidt has what he wants. We’re used to the very best groups in Portugal faring fairly nicely within the Champions League. At least one Portuguese team has reached the spherical of 16 in seven of the previous eight seasons (two did in 2021-22), and not less than one has reached the quarterfinals in three of the previous 4. Porto got here achingly near the semis in 2021, and now Benfica is favored to advance over Club Brugge.

However, that offers quick shrift to how good Benfica has been this season. They rolled unbeaten by way of Group H, drawing twice with PSG and beating Juventus twice within the course of. (Their superior highway purpose whole gave them first place over PSG.) In the Primeira Liga, they misplaced to Braga of their first post-World Cup match, however have in any other case dropped simply 4 whole factors. Porto has achieved little or no incorrect this season, however trails Benfica by eight factors all the identical.

First-year supervisor Roger Schmidt has been in a position to set up his ball-dominant philosophy with none bumps, and even after dropping Darwin Nunez to Liverpool over the summer time, they’ve boasted simply essentially the most potent assault within the league. Three gamers have scored double-digit objectives in all competitions (led by 21-year outdated Goncalo Ramos‘ 17), and three have not less than eight assists. This is a good looking team to look at, and the battles with PSG proved they’ve the upside to commerce blows with the massive boys on this competitors.

Why they won’t: Schmidt does not have Enzo anymore. Chelsea finally made a suggestion that Benfica could not refuse, and Fernandez moved to the Premier League on a €121 million switch on Jan. 31. While he contributed a modest 4 objectives and 6 assists in all competitions, he was the table-setter, offering regular deep progressions whereas fulfilling all the key transition roles a defensive midfielder should fulfill.

Benfica beat Casa Pia 3-0 in its first post-Enzo match, however this nonetheless is not the Benfica team we noticed within the fall. That’s a rattling disgrace.


Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +1600 (equal to six%) and 5%
Round of 16 opponent: AC Milan (Feb. 14 and March 8)

Why they are going to win: They take up stress. The eight groups talked about above Spurs right here common a possession fee of 62% in league play, occupy 65% of the attacking-third touches of their matches and common 6.9 passes per possession between them. They aren’t equivalent, however there are extra similarities than variations among the many group; the richest and finest European membership groups all play the possession sport.

If you are searching for a team from the backside half of this checklist that’s notably well-suited to make a Champions League run, would you search for others that play that fashion (however may not be pretty much as good at it)? Or would you search for somebody who absorbs opponents’ possession and appears for counter-attacking alternatives?

Antonio Conte’s Spurs get pleasure from only a 50.1% possession fee in league play, and opponents occupy 56% of the whole touches within the attacking third, usually towards a packed-in Tottenham protection. Of the groups remaining on this subject, nobody is extra devoted to successful with out the ball, and nearly nobody permits fewer high-quality scoring probabilities. They have been inconsistent this season, however they’ve proven sufficient upside to rank fifth within the Premier League (one level outdoors the highest 4), win their Champions League group and rating a latest win over Manchester City.

Harry Kane has been wonderful as all the time (19 objectives, plus a team-leading 49 probabilities created in 30 matches), Son Heung-Min appears to be rounding into kind, and should you’re searching for a curveball team on this checklist, then Glory, Glory, Tottenham Hotspur.

Why they won’t: Shouldn’t they be higher in transition? For a pressure-absorbing team, Spurs actually do not dominate within the counter-attacking division. In the transition possessions outlined above, they’re averaging simply 0.3 objectives per sport (thirteenth within the Premier League) and permitting 0.4 (Tenth). Is this a robust anti-possession team, or a team battling identification points?

The longshots

Inter Milan

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +2500 (equal to 4%) and three%
Round of 16 opponent: Porto (Feb. 22 and March 14)

Why they are going to win: They haven’t got a transparent, damning weak spot. Inter is piecing collectively the last word Deceptively Awesome Year in the intervening time. They’re second in Serie A, forward of Jose Mourinho’s Roma and derby rival AC Milan amongst others. They completed second of their Champions League group, ushering Barcelona from the competitors with a 1-0 dwelling win and a wild 3-3 highway draw. They’re into the semifinals of the Coppa Italia, and so they crushed AC Milan to win the Supercoppa Italiana.

They’ve additionally gotten nearly no assist from new additions — headliner Romelu Lukaku has contributed solely two objectives and 471 injury-plagued minutes, and the one newcomers to have topped 1,000 minutes up to now are 34-year olds (midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan and defender Francesco Acerbi). But they’ve crushed Barca and Napoli, and have a squad with no apparent weakest hyperlinks. In assault, they’re second in pictures per possession, sixth in xG per shot and fourth in common postshot xG for pictures on course; in protection, they’re seventh, second and fifth. They’ve bought a optimistic purpose differential in each set items and transition possessions. They’re simply good.

Are they the very best in Europe? No, however they’re positively ok to win any given tie they face.

Why they won’t: They additionally haven’t got a transparent, elite power. Lautaro Martinez and Milan Skriniar are superior, however there are higher forwards and defenders, respectively, on this event. Their assault is nice, however most on this subject are pretty much as good or higher. Their protection is healthier than Liverpool’s and many of the Bundesliga groups left within the subject, nevertheless it’s not wonderful.

Inter’s good at just about every part and nice at nothing, and I do not know the way you win 4 rounds of this competitors and not using a particular participant or trait to lean on. You have to face out not directly over the course of 180 minutes, proper?

FC Porto

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +6000 (equal to 2%) and 5%
Round of 16 opponent: Inter Milan (Feb. 22 and March 14)

Why they are going to win: They’ve been Benfica’s equal of late. If Benfica has extra upside than the everyday round-of-16 team from Portugal this season, it is simple to view Porto because the extra customary Portuguese team, one which advances to the knockouts solely to bow out quietly. But since a 1-0 loss to Benfica in October, it certain looks like they have been greater than that. Sergio Conceicao’s squad has dropped solely two factors from its final eight league matches, has already gained Portugal’s Taca da Liga and gained its final 4 Champions League group matches by a mixed 11-1. Top xG differentials in Primeira Liga play because the restart: Benfica at +1.76 per match and Porto at an almost equal +1.71.

After stuttering following the summer time departures of Fabio Vieira (to Arsenal) and Vitinha (to PSG), they’ve constructed an impressive rhythm round principally 25-and-older veterans. Forward Mehdi Taremi and left winger/midfielder Galeno have mixed for 26 objectives and 10 assists in all competitions, and the center-back trio of Fabio Cardoso (28), Ivan Marcano (35) and the immortal Pepe (39) nonetheless will get the job achieved.

Why they won’t: We don’t know how they will fare towards high groups as a result of they have not performed any. They gained their Champions League group by topping Atletico Madrid (now twenty first in SPI), Bayer Leverkusen (thirty fourth) and Club Brugge (99th). Their solely match towards a top-20 team was the aforementioned loss to Benfica, by which they have been doubled up by way of each possession (Benfica 69%) and xG worth (Benfica 1.9, Porto 0.9). Now, they have been coping with an early pink card in that match, and it certain looks like they’ve improved since, however till they high a high-level team, we do not know that they’ll. That certain looks like one thing that should have been crossed off the to-do earlier than February.

RB Leipzig

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +6000 (equal to 2%) and 4%
Round of 16 opponent: Manchester City (Feb. 22 and March 14)

Why they are going to win: How many groups are actually taking part in higher proper now? If RB Leipzig is ready to upset Manchester City, eliminating the supposed finest team remaining within the Champions League to advance to the quarterfinals, inform me why they cannot go all the best way?

Since the restart, RBL has gone unbeaten in 5 matches, drawing 1-1 with Bayern (in a match that noticed them generate extra pictures and xG, no much less) and outscoring 4 different opponents by a mixed 11-3. The veteran center-forward duo of Andre Silva and Timo Werner has discovered a stunning rhythm, and the midfield duo of Dominik Szoboszlai and Konrad Laimer has been at its artistic finest. Summer addition Xaver Schlager has been a ball recoveries machine in defensive midfield, and the center-back duo of Willi Orban and Josko Gvardiol has stored stress off of goalkeeper Janis Blaswich.

This team has reached its highest ebb since hiring Marco Rose in September, and it is achieved so regardless of accidents to goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi (out for the season), attacking midfielder Dani Olmo (out for just a few weeks) and, oh yeah, defending Bundesliga participant of the yr Christopher Nkunku.

The France star scored 17 objectives in 23 matches earlier than the World Cup break, however has missed motion ever since with a knee damage; the newest updates counsel he could possibly be again by the point City visits on February 22.

Why they won’t: They solely surrender good pictures. RBL permits solely 0.10 pictures per possession in league play, solely barely greater than Bayern or Manchester City however lower than many of the groups within the spherical of 16. But 10.1% of these pictures have been value not less than 0.3 xG; solely Liverpool has been worse in that regard. Now, the Red Bulls’ personal shot high quality tends to be fairly excessive, too, however you solely need to ask Liverpool what can occur should you give your opponents one too many high-quality probabilities.

Borussia Dortmund

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +4000 (equal to 2%) and three%
Round of 16 opponent: Chelsea (Feb. 15 and March 7)

Why they are going to win: They’re powerful now! For years, Borussia Dortmund has tried to fill its squad with ridiculously high-upside younger gamers whereas supplementing the lineup with the correct quantity of veteran-osity. For each Erling Haaland or Jude Bellingham, there’s been a Mats Hummels or Emre Can. That stability has been extraordinarily troublesome to realize: BVB is all the time good, however by no means fairly as nice because it hopes.

Since the restart, nevertheless, BVB has gained all 5 of its matches in 2023, outscoring opponents 15-6 and transferring to inside three factors of Bayern within the Bundesliga desk. Bellingham, fellow kids Karim Adeyemi and Gio Reyna and veterans Julian Brandt and Raphael Guerreiro have all been superior, nevertheless it’s troublesome to not discover the toughness infusion they appear to have gotten from the additions of Sebastien Haller up entrance and Julian Ryerson at fullback.

Haller, 29, was supposed to be a ready-made Haaland substitute, however missed the autumn and winter whereas battling testicular most cancers; he is again, and he scored towards Freiburg over the weekend. Ryerson got here to Dortmund from Union Berlin and has added a transparent and apparent shot of Union-ness, chopping off transitions with aplomb and pushing the tempo with progressive carries. Captain Marco Reus has been dialed in since coming back from damage, too.

Bellingham, Adeyemi, Reyna, Youssoufa Moukoko, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and others give BVB all of the youthful upside they might need, and the veteran-osity is off the charts. Is the stability lastly proper?

Why they won’t: Worst transition team within the subject. For all their upside and willingness to push the tempo, BVB has averaged simply 0.26 objectives per match in transition possessions this season; of these within the spherical of 16, solely Chelsea, their round-of-16 opponent, has averaged fewer. Meanwhile, they’ve allowed 0.47 such objectives per match, second-most behind solely Liverpool. That provides them by far the worst purpose differential within the spherical of 16. They push for a reasonably open match, and it very often backfires. Maybe it won’t towards the Blues, nevertheless it in all probability will finally.

AC Milan

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +3500 (equal to three%) and
Round of 16 opponent: Tottenham Hotspur (Feb. 14 and March 8)

Why they are going to win: Nothing like continental play to present you a pleasant shot within the arm. A soccer season is a marathon, and over the course of greater than 9 months, nearly any team must take care of a dip in kind. Stefano Pioli’s Rossoneri have misplaced 4 straight matches by a mixed 13-2, and so they have not gained since their first post-restart match on January 4. The assault has regressed, and the protection has cratered with out injured defender Fikayo Tomori and goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

The defending Scudetto winners are in horrendous kind in the intervening time. But kind modifications! And Milan’s full-season averages nonetheless present us an aggressive team — fourth in pictures per possession in Serie A, second in passes allowed per defensive motion (PPDA, a typical measure of defensive assertiveness) — that generates way more touches within the field than it permits. Maignan is unquestionably out for the primary Spurs match, and that is an apparent hindrance. But fading groups have used the Champions League as a shot within the arm earlier than, and if Milan can get its head proper, the team nonetheless has so much to supply, from Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud up entrance to the active-as-hell duo of Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer (coming back from damage quickly) in midfield.

Why they won’t: Have you seen them play these days? Was that final paragraph convincing? I’m undecided it was. Good groups take care of dips in kind, however that is an outright collapse. Getting gamers like Bennacer and Tomori again will assist, however Milan was already struggling earlier than they bought damage, and … once more … they’ve allowed 13 objectives of their final 4 matches! Leao continues to be attempting to make issues occur, and there is nonetheless apparent expertise on the pitch, however issues are genuinely dire in the intervening time.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +10000 (equal to 1%) and 1%
Round of 16 opponent: Napoli (Feb. 21 and March 15)

Why they are going to win: They may need the very best participant in Europe proper now. Yep, Randall Kolo Muani is that good.

Why they won’t: The subject is tilted towards them. Getting the worst draw for the final 16 is not their fault, however it’s their drawback.

The longest lengthy pictures

Club Brugge

Caesars and FiveThirtyEight odds: +15000 (equal to 0.7%) and
Round of 16 opponent: Benfica (Feb. 15 and March 7)

Why they are going to win: Super enjoyable younger guys with nothing to lose. (And Simon Mignolet‘s been superhuman between the posts.) This is “house money” territory and that fearlessness will be an asset when attempting to spring a shock.

Why they won’t: They’re the fourth-best team in Belgium. And that is not nice preparation for the highest European competitors.

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