Revisiting the Champions League Last 16–and What's Changed Since the Draw

The round of 16 looks awfully different now compared to two months ago, when the draw was conducted. Here's how the outlook has changed for each of the eight matchups.
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The Champions League returns next week, with the last 16 getting underway at last, two months after the draw. 

Since then, there's been a full transfer window, while injuries, manager changes and dips in form have altered the landscape significantly. We previewed the eight ties in the immediate aftermath of the draw back then, but we do so again now, assessing how has the balance of each changed.

Borussia Dortmund vs. PSG

First leg: Feb. 18 in Dortmund | Second leg: March 11 in Paris

When the draw was conducted, this looked a straightforward PSG win. The French champion should still progress. It remains dominant in France, despite the rumors of a rift between coach Thomas Tuchel and star Kylian Mbappe, and everything that was said about the tactical improvement in PSG through the group stage, the way Idrissa Gana Gueye has added bite to the midfield, remains true. 

But Dortmund has become even more unpredictable than it was before, scoring 21 goals in five games since the winter break–and still somehow losing twice. Erling Braut Haaland, who scored eight goals in his first four games after signing from Salzburg, offers increased attacking menace, although the fresh injury to Marco Reus is a major blow, with the German expected to miss at least the first leg.

New prediction: PSG wins, but possibly in slapstick fashion

Atletico Madrid vs. Liverpool

First leg: Feb. 18 in Madrid | Second leg: March 11 in Liverpool

Liverpool was always the favorite for this tie, and if anything it looks like an even more likely winner now than when the draw was made.

Liverpool has gone from strength to strength and, sitting 22 points clear at the top of the table, Jurgen Klopp’s side can now focus on Europe without the simultaneous stress of a heated domestic title race.

Atletico’s difficulties in adapting to a more adventurous style, meanwhile, continue. It sits fourth in Spain's top flight, but it has won just one of its last six games in all competitions and, in part because of a number of injuries to key forwards, it is struggling for goals. A Diego Simeone side is always capable of frustrating an opponent, but Liverpool, at the moment, looks all but unstoppable.

New prediction: Comfortable Liverpool win

Tottenham vs. RB Leipzig

First leg: Feb. 19 in London | Second leg: March 10 in Leipzig

Neither side is quite what it was when the draw was made. Back then, Tottenham had won five out of seven under Jose Mourinho, and everything seemed to be turning around. Spurs are up to sixth in the Premier League, but they have kept only three clean sheets in 19 games under Mourinho, and without Harry Kane, who remains out until April at the earliest, they often look short of ideas going forward. The midfield has also been significantly altered, with Christian Eriksen leaving and Gedson Fernandes and Steven Bergwijn arriving.

Then again, being able to play on the counter against RB Leipzig may suit them. Julian Nagelsmann's side has suffered a slump, failing to win its last four games in all competitions and falling out of first in the Bundesliga.

New prediction: Narrow Tottenham win

Atalanta vs. Valencia

First leg: Feb. 19 in Bergamo | Second leg: March 10 in Valencia

This remains as hard to call as it was when the draw was made in December. These are two wildly inconsistent sides, neither of whom would have begun the season expecting to be anywhere near a Champions league quarterfinal.

Atalanta rather snuck through the group stage having lost its first three games and with a large slice of luck, but its high-tempo pressing game can cause problems for any side–as Manchester City discovered. Valencia now lies seventh in La Liga. The 1-0 wins away to Chelsea and Ajax in the group stage suggest a certain grit, but Atalanta is marginally the more consistent side.

New prediction: Narrow Atalanta win

Napoli vs. Barcelona

First leg: Feb. 25 in Naples | Second leg: March 18 in Barcelona

For three years, it's felt like Barcelona had a crisis waiting to happen, and finally it’s broken. A day after Luis Suarez was ruled out for four months with a knee injury, Ernesto Valverde was ousted as manager in haphazard fashion on Jan. 13, replaced by Quique Setien. To nobody's surprise, that was not the cure-all elixir. An unbalanced squad has become increasingly slowly through the midfield, a problem magnified by a detached forward line, and while the brilliance of Lionel Messi–who has been publicly critical of sporting director Eric Abidal–can transform any game, Barcelona looks extremely vulnerable to any side that can attack it at pace.

Whether Napoli can cause that upset is another issue entirely. Napoli fired serial Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti just hours after the club progressed to the knockout stage. Under Gennaro Gattuso, there has been an uptick in its overall form, including recent victories over Juventus and Lazio, but it remains 11th in Serie A and most recently lost to relegation-threatened Lecce.

New prediction: Narrow Barcelona win

Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich

First leg: Feb. 25 in London | Second leg: March 18 in Munich

How Chelsea must wish it could have caught Bayern last fall. As it is, with Niko Kovac replaced by Hansi Flick, Bayern has rediscovered its enthusiasm and energy. It had won eight in a row before Sunday’s draw with RB Leipzig and now stands top of the table in the Bundesliga, playing its best football in a couple of years. 

Chelsea, meanwhile, has suffered a slump since the draw was made, winning just four of its last 13 in the league and suggesting all those early doubts about whether Frank Lampard’s side could defend against the counterattack and set plays were justified.

New prediction: Straightforward Bayern win

Real Madrid vs. Manchester City

First leg: Feb. 26 in Madrid | Second leg: March 17 in Manchester

The perspective on no matchup has changed quite as much as this one.

Real Madrid is now atop La Liga, having gone unbeaten in its last 14 league games–a run during which it has conceded only five goals. Thibaut Courtois seems to have finally settled, and, while this is certainly not as memorable or flamboyant as many Madrid teams of the past, it is functional and effective.

Man City, meanwhile, with little to play for in the league, continues to drift, looking defensively suspect and missing an implausible number of chances. Aymeric Laporte’s return to fitness may add resolve to the back four, but Raheem Sterling's injury creates a fresh concern, and, at the moment, Madrid is in the better form of the two.

New prediction: Narrow Real Madrid win

Lyon vs. Juventus

First leg: Feb. 26 in Lyon | Second leg: March 17 in Turin

This should still represent a fairly simple passage into the quarterfinals for Juventus, but nothing is perhaps quite as clear as it seemed 10 weeks ago. 

Lyon remains hopelessly inconsistent, ninth in the French league and now without its captain and most exciting forward, Memphis Depay, who has damaged cruciate ligaments. But Juventus is not quite right either, losing two of its last three games and appearing to be increasingly reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored in 10 straight Serie A matches. There are even rumors making the rounds that manager Maurizio Sarri could be ousted for the man he replaced, Max Allegri.

New prediction: Straightforward Juventus win