Bold Predictions for the Champions League Round of 16 Fixtures

Champions League trophy, Coupe des clubs Champions Europeeens during the UEFA Champions League final match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on May 28, 2016 at the Giuseppe Meazza San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

Yes, it’s been a while since I published a post on this blog and to be honest, I really missed writing about Arsenal and football in general. A whole lot has happened since my last article on the blog and of course, Arsenal just had to Arsenal their way out the Premier League title race, leaving the FA Cup and the Champions League as the only realistic targets in what could prove to be Arsene Wenger’s final hoorah with the club? That’s just me echoing what Ian Wright said. Somehow, everybody seems to know a lot about the manager and his future these days.

Enough about that, let’s move to the article of the day! Champions League football is back again as we neutrals brace ourselves up for some wonderful football from Europe’s 16 best clubs. The group stages saw some shocks and surprises, especially with some ‘big’ clubs finishing in second place but the draws were made and we know what to expect in the next two days.

Without further ado, here are Gooner Daily’s bold predictions for the Champions League Round of 16 fixtures.

Tuesday’s Fixtures

Paris St. Germain vs Barcelona (Parc des Princes)

PSG’s reward for failing to win their group was a clash against Barcelona and like Arsenal, I’m sure they’d get pissed off with the prospects of playing such a team with Barcelona’s caliber. PSG is one of the strongest teams in Europe and their striker has one of the most enviable goal scoring records in the last. Both teams come into the game with good form as well as good football on display, so I i will not be surprised if this match ends in a draw

Prediction: PSG 2-2 Barcelona

SL Benfica vs Borussia Dortmund (Estadio da Luz)

Benfica is running away with the Portuguese Super Liga with just two losses in 21 league but they are facing a fearless Dortmund side that have been worth their weight in gold in the Champions League this season. Dortmund hasn’t been in good form in the Bundesliga though, with just two wins in their last seven, dropping them to fourth place on the log and they would still be gnashing their teeth following a rather surprising loss to Darmstadt 98 last weekend.

Kostantinou Mitroglou and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be looking to lead the lines fo rtheir respective clubs, but I feel both teams have enough in the tank to edge out each other to a stalemate.

Prediction: Benfica 2-2 Dortmund

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs Atletico Madrid (Bay Arena)

Bayer Leverkusen’s form has been indifferent this season and they find themselves languishing in ninth place, which is a far cry form a team that are perennial qualifiers to the Champions League. Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, will be hopeful to better their current record in the competition, which stands at two final appearances in the last three seasons.

Antoine Griezmann has been the subject to speculation of a big money move to England next summer but that news will continue to generate momentum as the campaign progresses but Diego Simeone’s first task is to ensure his lads qualify from the two-legged affair with some German machines.

Prediction: Leverkusen 0-1 Atletico

Manchester City vs AS Monaco (Etihad Stadium)

Manchester City has gone through some rough patches this season with Pep Guardiola feeling the heat of becoming a Premier League manager. With five league defeats this season, including the 4-0 mauling in the hands of Everton, their title challenge is fading but in Europe, they have a different challenge in the form of AS Monaco. The club from the Principality is currently leading Ligue 1 and in their captain, Radamel Falcao, they have a player reborn with 22 goals this season (16 in Ligue 1). Man City can take some solace in the fact that Falcao struggled in England but they will also have to contend with the threat of the wonderkid, Kylian Mbappe, fresh from a hat-trick against Metz last week.

The goals have been distributed evenly for City but with Sergio Aguero regaining his place following an unfortunate injury for new hotshot, Gabriel Jesus, the Argentine forward would want to prove himself to his boss by banging a couple past the French outfit.

Prediction: Man City 2-1 Monaco

Wednesday’s Fixtures

Real Madrid vs Napoli (Estadio Santiago Bernabeu)

Real Madrid are on the ascendancy in La Liga, battling hard with their arch rivals, Barcelona, at the top of the La Liga table but they have to be weary of Napoli that are currently third in Serie A. Gonzalo Higuain’s departure caused a huge void in attack and it seemed to have been curtailed with the arrival of Arkadiusz Milik, but his long term injury affect the Italian club, even though Dries Martens and club captain, Marek Hamsik, have been coming up with the goods with 31 goals between them. Both players scored hat-tricks in the recent 7-1 demolition of Bologna but they will have to be mindful of the fact that Real Madrid houses the world’s best player and one of the finest attackers of his generation, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo scored only two goals in the group stages and Madrid ended up with a second placed finish, but they would be happy to have been paired with Napoli. The Italians are good on their day, but the class and quality of Los Merengues will shine through on the night

Prediction: Madrid 3-1 Napoli

Sevilla CF vs Leicester City (Estadio Sanchez Ramon Pizjuan)

Leicester City comes into this game in the worst of forms and I can’t see anything more than a resounding Sevilla home victory. In their last seven Premier League games, Claudio Ranieri’s side has drawn one and lost six consecutive games, and to add to their woes, Leicester has failed to score a league goal in 2017. Last season, Jamie Vardy scored 24 and Riyad Mahrez scored 17 as the Foxes upset all odds to win their maiden League title. Their defense of the crown has been shambolic, and even though they managed to hold unto Vardy and Mahrez last summer, both players have scored only eight goals in the league (Vardy five, Mahrez three).

Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yadder and Luciano Vietto have been banging in the goals regularly and in former Gunner, Samir Nasri, they have a potent creative force tha has managed to get on the scoring act himself.

Prediction: Sevilla 3-0 Leicester

FC Porto vs Juventus (Estadio Dragao)

FC Porto have been chasing SL Benfica in their league and are currently on a five game winning streak but they are set to lock horns with the undisputed kings of Italian football, Juventus. The Old Lady paid over the top to secure the services of striking sensation, Gonzalo Higuain, from Napoli and he has fired 21 goals for his new team, with three coming in the Champions League.

Juventus remain one of the unbeaten sides in the competition and I expect this to remain when they take on Porto.

Prediction: Porto 1-2 Juventus

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal (Allianz Arena)

As an Arsenal fan, it has become quite frustrating being paired against Bayern Munich. In the last six games with the Bavarians, Arsenal has always finished second best and that 5-1 drubbing in the Gunners last’ meeting in Bavaria. The Gunners will also have to bear in mind that Bayern creates the most chances (14) almost every game week with the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Mueller and co.

The Gunners are going through a shaky spell at the moment with one win in three but this would be one hell of a challenge for the Gunners to come out from this game with anything. Maybe the odd away goal.

Prediction: Bayern 2-1 Arsenal.

 

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Preston 1-2 Arsenal: Giroud to the Rescue, again!!!

Olivier Giroud v Preston North End

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

It’s been ages since I published any article on this blog. Apologies for the hiatus but I’ve been involved in a whole lot of things and with no one to hold the fort, there have been a lot of cobwebs in this place.

So I dashed away from a wedding reception I attended to ensure I made it to a bar in time to watch Arsenal’s game against Preston. With the prior knowledge that some of the big guns were going to be rested, as well as the niggling injuries and a certain Mohamed Elneny joining his country on international duty, Arsene Wenger didn’t have many options on his team selection strategy for the team.

However, he had places for David Ospina in goal as Petr Cech got a breather, but Kieran Gibbs hadn’t recovered from his knee injury on time, allowing Nacho Monreal to continue as the left back. Laurent Koscielny was rested to accommodate Gabriel alongside Skhodran Mustafi but it was very interesting seeing Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a right back ahead of Carl Jenkinson. I strongly believe that Jenks is leaving on loan to another English club this January, but the boss probably didn’t want to cup-tie the lad. The paucity of options in midfield saw the RamXhaka combination with newly crowned CAF Youth Player of the Year, Alex Iwobi, in the Ozil role. Lucas Perez and the Ox flanked the captain of the night, Olivier Giroud.

To be honest, the first half was pure shite from an Arsenal perspective. Preston scored an early goal from a young bloke called Robinson, they had a drilled effort across the goal that would have put them two up if any player touched the ball, and they even had a chance that Monreal cleared off the line. It was that kinda half for Arsenal. Going into the break with a goal behind a lower division team was embarrassing to say the least and everyone demanded a response which Arsenal obliged.

Straight from the restart, the Gunners pressed hard for an equalizer and found it from Ramsey, a player that had been bereft of goals all season long. Iwobi has to be hauled for some brilliant player in the link up to the goal. The early equalizer settled some nerves and the visitors continued to push for the winner but it wasn’t forthcoming. Just when we thought that we would have an unnecessary FA Cup replay on our hands, the Gunners nicked it right at the death, thanks to Giroud. Ramsey played a good ball to Perez who noticed the French forward in his path then he executed a neat back-heeled pass. For a lad not renowned for his speed, Giroud reacted really swiftly to Lucas’ pass and bundled the ball into the net to send the Gunners to the fourth round.

Olivier Giroud v Preston North End

The highlight of the night was the return of long term injury absentee, Danny Welbeck, to first team football action. He almost capped with with a brilliant curled effort but the Preston goalie denied the forward a fairytale comeback. In the end, it was a job well done from Wenger’s men and they’d be hoping to put up better performances as the season progresses.

Like Bournemouth a couple of days ago, the Gunners were terrible and for some reason, the defense is no longer impregnable, as the team continues to leak in goals from all classes of opposition. All focus would turn to Swansea away.

More on that game in the coming days ahead.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Go Top After Easing Past Stoke

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

This fixture against Stoke at home was one that the fans had become accustomed to collecting three points at the end of the game. The records spoke for themselves – 14 consecutive wins at home against the Potters with eight clean sheets to match, but this was a team arriving at the back of two consecutive Premier League victories, so it wasn’t going to be a stroll in the park.

The stats boys also made us understand that Theo Walcott had 99 club goals and was in search of his century, and it goes to show how much time has passed since that young kid Sven-Goran Eriksson took to the World Cup and never handed him an appearance. The English forward had a chance early on when he received a brilliant through ball from Skhodran Mustafi but his first time drilled effort was saved by Lee Grant. Then in typical Arsenal fashion, the Gunners conceded what seemed to be a soft penalty. Granit Xhaka challenged the ‘Welsh Pirlo’, Joe Allen, in the box and his trailing elbow caught the Stoke midfielder on his face, causing Lee Mason to point to the spot. Normally, that kind of the decision was meant to be followed with a booking, but the ref chose leniency.

Charlie Adam stepped up and sent Petr Cech the wrong way to put Stoke one up. You tend to wonder when Cech would save a penalty though. I read somewhere that since the 2011/12 season, he has faced 12 penalties and conceded all. My bigger concern would be why the Gunners have conceded three penalties at the Emirates this season. What’s up with the clumsiness in the box? Only Hull has conceded more with seven.

To add insult to injury, Mustafi picked up a hamstring injury and the boss has confirmed that he would be sidelined for at least 21 days. Thankfully, we have Rob Holding that has been in good form this season and a Gabriel Paulista that can put a good shift when required. There is also a certain Per Mertesacker that is working his way to full fitness. Mustafi’s injury allowed Hector Bellerin to return to the fray, pushing Gabriel to the middle to play alongside the captain. Bellerin’s introduction proved to be a stroke of genius as he reacted quickly to Alexis Sanchez’s through ball to feed Walcott whose one-timed poked effort beat Grant on his near post to level the score. 100 club goals for our man and 1-1 to the Arsenal.

Going into the break with the draw was the least the Gunners deserved and they came into the second half with some hunger to do something more. The home side grabbed the lead when Mesut Ozil beat the offside trap to latch onto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dinked effort. Seeing Grant off his line, Ozil lobbed the goalie with a looping header to score his ninth goal of the season. If he scores one more goal this season, he would reach double figures – a feat he has never achieved with Arsenal. This has already been his highest scoring season in an Arsenal jersey but he scored 11 in Werder Bremen and scored 10 goals on two different seasons with Real Madrid.

2-1 is always a delicate scoreline, so it was important for the Gunners to grab the next, and they did with another substitute, Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian was in something of a drought in recent weeks, now he has two goals in two games. Kudos to Mason for giving the advantage after Sanchez was scythed down by some bloke but the Nigerian unleashed his inner Robert Pires to side-foot the ball home.

As Walcott stated in post-match interview, ‘everybody is contributing‘ which is a hallmark of the team this season. I look back at seasons past when a certain Robin van Persie would have 37 goals, then Walcott would have 10 while the rest of the team would be struggling for scraps but this season, it’s a lot different. You’d be surprised to know that Arsenal has scored 60 goals already and we are not in the half way point of the season. Alexis has 13, Walcott 10, Ozil nine, Ox has six, Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez have five each, new boy, Xhaka has three, Iwobi, Koscielny and Santi Penalties and Sir Own Goal have two, then Chambers had one against Liverpool before switching to Middlesbrough.

This essentially means that Wenger can rely on any of his players on the pitch to do the business and it would go a long way.

All focus will be moved to Everton, that continued their rot with a 3-2 loss to Watford but the Gunners would have to put a leash on Romelu Lukaku that found his scoring boots with a brace after a four-game dry spell.

Sayonara.

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