Ah February, the month of love. Valentine’s Day this year brings with it two mouthwatering games: Portuguese table toppers Benfica host Tuchel’s stuttering Dortmund while two giants go head-to-head in Paris.
Benfica v Dortmund
Benfica have suffered following their impressive showing last year. A league title and quarter final Champions League exit prompted a lot of interest from Europe’s biggest clubs. Gaitan, Renato Sanches and Guedes, who played 104 games between them last season, were sold for around the same number in Euros. They spent little and progressed to the knockout stages with the fewest points, nine.
Dortmund have struggled to hit their stride this season. Fears due to the summer sales of Hummels, Gundogan and Mkhitaryan seemed to be allayed by the signings of Schurrle and fan favourite Gotze. They have however been outside the top three since November.
This tie will likely come down to firepower and with Jonas likely missing out through injury expect Dortmund to progress to the next round. They were top scorers in the group stage with 21 and could give any team a real fright with their pace.
Paris St. Germain v Barcelona
PSG lost their talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and centre back Luiz. They have since spent wildly on overhyped, inexperienced players and relied on Cavani to do the business. After a slow start they are now in scintillating form, scoring 29 and remaining unbeaten in 2017. Cavani has matched his highest tally of 6 in Europe, while Draxler looks like a good acquisition and Verrati should return from injury. They will be very tough to beat.
Barcelona are undisputedly Europe’s best team over the last ten years. They have previous against PSG, advancing on both recent occasions. Their frailty this time around may be exploited by PSG’s best assets. With Bartra and Alves leaving in the summer and Vidal out for five months Barcelona have a problem at right back. Good luck to Sergi Roberto against Di Maria, Draxler and Moura. Barcelona will however have no problems in attack, scoring 20 in the group stages, with half of them coming from Messi.
This is a clash of the titans. Both teams have only lost four games in all competitions this season and sit in second place in their respective leagues. It should be tighter than previous encounters and it may be time for PSG’s revenge, unless of course the little magician has anything to say about that. Expect a cagey draw in the first leg and a Barcelona win at the Camp Nou.