First Leg, Tuesday, 8pm
Chelsea have been good this season in the Premier League, despite recent results suggesting otherwise, as they sit 3rd in the xG table, and they were very unfortunate to finish runner-up in Group H according to xG. They were the only team in that group to post a positive expected goal difference (+9.3 xGD), though this is another step up, and they have been far from convincing defensively this season.
Bayern Munich are second-favourites to win the competition according to the Infogol model, and after an early-season struggle, have really impressed under Hans-Dieter Flick. Domestically they rightly sit top of the Bundesliga, with a ridiculous process (2.94 xGF, 1.20 xGA per game), and FCB made extremely light work of their Champions League group, finishing with an xGD of +16.9.
First Leg, Tuesday, 8pm
Napoli are having a come-down season in Serie A and Gennaro Gattuso is the man tasked with improving the Albiceleste once again, but his reign hasn’t got off to the best of starts. Carlo Ancelotti was the man who closed out their qualification from the Group Stage, and while his departure has seen a downturn in results domestically, the teams underlying numbers have actually been on the up under Gattuso (1.71 xGF, 1.26 xGA per game), which is encouraging.
The ex-AC Milan tough-man will have his side well-organised and ready to die for the cause, with a high-intensity press and grafting style making this a much more interesting game than it perhaps could have been.
Barcelona are another team that have massive mental scars after some shocking exits of this competition having blown 4-1 and 3-0 leads against Roma and Liverpool in the last two seasons The core of the team remains the same, though Barca have also changed managers since their last Champions League game, with Ernesto Valverde replaced by Quique Setien. That means they’ve swapped a pragmatist who couldn’t be pragmatic at the important moments for a total-football dreaming risk-taker.
Key injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez mean that Barca are light in the attacking department, and combine that with their performances away record this season, plus their recent UCL traumas, and I think we have a closer tie than many would expect.
Given the points made above, I think the Italians are value and in my opinion, are worth a punt to progress at a big price.
First Leg, Wednesday, 8pm
According to the market, this is the most one-sided tie of the eight Last 16 matches.
Lyon have been poor this season, not living up to their early season hype domestically, as they rightly sit ninth in Ligue 1, though they haven’t been helped by injuries, as key man Memphis Depay is out for the season, as is big money signing Jeff Reine-Adelaide. Juventus themselves haven’t exactly been convincing this season, with Maurizio Sarri’s side inconsistent in results and performances, shown by the fact that they sit sixth in Infogol’s Serie A xG table.
They had the same fortune in the Champions League Group Stage, as although they won five of their six matches, they finished with a negative xGD (-0.7), massively overperforming by close to nine goals. Obviously, the Old Lady are dangerous as they have excellent individuals like the red-hot Cristiano Ronaldo, but as a team they haven’t yet clicked under Sarri, but we still make them strong favourites to qualify.
When the draw for the Last 16 was made, this was a tie that looked very one-sided, as Real Madrid were having serious inconsistencies and Manchester City were in their dominant mood. Since then though, that perception has flipped. Zinedine Zidane has unbelievable pedigree in this competition, and he has improved this Real Madrid side from last season, their underlying numbers better in both attack (2.21 xGF from 1.93) and defence (1.15 xGA from 1.35).
Given the state of play in the Premier League, Manchester City will be looking at this competition with a must-win gaze, which could be a hindrance. The club has never lifted this trophy, and it was Guardiola’s main goal to do just that, and so far he hasn’t come close, losing to Monaco in 16/17, Liverpool in 17/18 and Tottenham last year – he is yet to get City past the Quarter Finals.
Domestically their process is excellent, averaging 2.91 xGF and 1.14 xGA per game, and they made light work of their Champions League group, looking scintillating in attack. Issues have come defensively, but Aymeric Laporte is expected to be back for both legs of this tie, which is a massive boost for Guardiola’s side. He is their best defender, who seems to provide a calming influence to the whole team.
I think that over two legs Manchester City will prove too strong for Real, so back the English side to progress in an entertaining tie.