Neymar, with a hat trick, led PSG to a comfortable, if controversial, homestand UEFA Champions League Round of 16 qualification. Cristiano Ronaldo, with a brace, did the same for Juventus while playing away. While in the same match, Lionel Messi’s Barcelona fell 0-3 at home to Juventus and still qualified.
Joining those three in the Round of 16 will be Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Porto, Borussia Monchengladbach, Atalanta, Sevilla, Lazio, and RB Leipzig.
The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on December 14, at 6:00 am EST.
Oddsmakers have selected the six top favorites to win the tourney and they are: 1. Bayern, 2. Man City, 3. Liverpool, 4. PSG, 5. Chelsea, and 6. Juventus. Porto is considered the least likely to win and the three Spanish big-boys are grouped in the middle of the pack Real-Barca-Atleti.
Projecting from that Round of 16 oddsmakers’ list, Bayern still seems to be hitting on all cylinders but somehow looks less formidable than last year’s champs. Perhaps the fact that many of their team were on the national side that lost 0-6 to Spain recently in the Nations League, is still affecting them.
Man City, Chelsea, and Liverpool are playing some of their best football on a seemingly on-and-off seesaw manner, with one poor performance sandwiched between good-to-superior outings. Juventus is slowly coalescing under new coach Andrea Pirlo but needs several games with a fully healthy and fit squad under their belt to be functioning optimally. PSG is beginning to reach that level of superior play, abetted by Neymar’s inspirational leadership, which got them to last year’s final.
The Borussias, Atalanta, Lazio, Leipzig, and even Barca and Sevilla to some extent, look more like they are coming for the ride but getting off at the first stop.
Meanwhile, Real and Atleti, who have been playing much like the British trio, are the big spoilers in the wings. If they get their ducks in order in time and have one of their better, albeit rarer days, they could knock anyone off of their pedestals.
But, for Papa, barring any unforeseeable occurrences, or an unfortunate pairing early on, PSG, Juventus, Man City, and Bayern, look like the teams to make it to the semifinals this year.