We’re back it on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week as the final four 1st leg matches of the Champions’ League Round of 16 take place. This week features three underdogs trying to establish an early advantage in the matches and of course the Inter-Chelsea pairing that so many have been waiting for.
Without further adieu let’s preview Tuesday’s fixtures and give you the One Game, One World occasionally reliable predictions.
On paper this looks like something of a sever mismatch especially if the match were to be played before the New Year. However, defending European champions Barcelona would be wise not to overlook Stuttgart, especially in this first leg tie at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Stuttgart have won 6 or their last 7 and warmed up for this match with a 5-1 thrashing of Cologne at the weekend. Though they are currently midtable in the Bundesliga, Christian Gross’ side are in the midst of superb run of form and will enter this knockout round game with a load of confidence.
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona though are also playing well at the moment as well. They bounced back from their first La Liga defeat of the season against Atletico Madrid to destroy Racing Santander 4-0 at the Nou Camp on Saturday. There have been in injury worries and the Catalans enter this match with some question marks over key personnel. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Xavi, and Dani Alves are in the squad, though unclear if or how much they will feature. Eric Abidal and Seydou Keita will surely miss out through long-term injuries.
Stuttgart have nothing to lose coming into this one and couldn’t come to this match in a better frame of mind. Barcelona have struggled to reach the lofty heights of last season as injuries have disrupted the cohesion of the side, but even so the talent on hand has been more than enough to produce some good football and ensure that they are the leaders in La Liga and aiming to repeat as European champions. The Germans may spring a surprise or two to some and make this match close, but if Barcelona come anywhere close to hitting their stride then they will bring a healthy advantage for the return in Spain in a few weeks’ time.
One Game, One World Prediction: Vfb Stuttgart-Barcelona 1-2
This is one of the more intriguing fixtures for me and not solely because I am Greek! It features a perennial Champions’ League participant in Olympiakos against a very promising Bordeaux, managed by the in-demand Laurent Blanc.
Olympiakos have had a tumultuous season to say the least. Already on their third head coach of the season, the Greek champions have suddenly found their domestic dominance in question this season as they are in second place with PAOK on 50 points, two behind leaders Panathinaikos. This is rare at this stage of the season for a side that has won 13 of the last 14 titles in Greece.
8 point behind a few weeks ago in the Greek Super League, Serbian coach and former Olympiakos player Bozidar Bantovic was brought in and the ship has been steadied a bit under his stewardship as well as the arrival of fresh blood with the likes of Jesus Datolo (on loan from Napoli) and return of Lomana LuaLua (bought from Al Arabi) providing an instant impact.
Bordeaux meanwhile have enjoyed a fine campaign thus far. They surprised Europe when they finished atop a Champions’ League Group that included Bayern Munich and Juventus. They are the current Ligue 1 leaders, though their form has taken a bit of a dip in recent weeks. Still, Blanc’s well-worked side are the favorites in this two-legged affair and have won two matches on the trot in France.
Boredeaux did not play this past weekend in order to be able to fully concentrate on this match. Les Girondins appear to be taking their presence in the competition very seriously and will surely be aware of the enormity of their task Tuesday night. Olympiakos have a fantastic home record in this competition at home and won all three of their group stage matches, including a 1-0 win over Arsenal, albeit a reserve starting 11.
A real tough one to call here. It appears to be a match with few goals in it, though both sides have the skillful players that can bring about offense. Olympiakos need a clean result in order to harbor hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals as they have a ridiculously dismal away record in the Champions’ League. Bordeaux meanwhile will fancy their chances especially with a result or at least an away goal in Greece.
One Game, One World Prediction: Olympiakos-Bordeaux 1-1