Two months ago we were taking a look at the UEFA Champions League knockout draw, and now that the first set of Round of 16 fixtures have played out over the past nine days it is time to look at how those predictions fared. Today the goal is twofold — to evaluate how the first legs unfolded, and how they set up the combatants for the return matches taking place over the upcoming two weeks.
In the process we will look both at the post-draw predictions, evaluating where I went right and where I fell horribly short in my initial analysis. Some teams are in better shape than others, while certain teams appear on the brink of watching their bubbles burst in the second leg. When necessary, total failures will be acknowledged and quarterfinal predictions will be adjusted.
KAA Gent v. VfL Wolfsburg
(3-2 Wolfsburg after first leg in Gent)
So much for Gent in the competition, as they have a nearly-insurmountable hill to climb thanks to Wolfsburg’s win on the road coupled with three pivotal away goals. Gent put on the pressure in the final 15 minutes, scoring twice after the 80th minute to make the Germans sweat, but Julian Draxler looks increasingly dangerous as the tournament advances through the bracket and will almost certainly add to his goal total in Wolfsburg on March 8 after striking a brace in Belgium.
Gent was certainly a dangerous draw on the road so far in the tournament, but they would have to win by a 3-2 minimum to force extra time or win by at least two goals to move on in regulation. It is still technically possible, but given the fact that Wolfsburg is midway down the Bundesliga table and thus is all-in on the Champions League it is highly improbable. Look instead for Wolfsburg to add to its aggregate advantage to advance convincingly.
PREDICTION: 6-3 Wolfsburg on aggregate (Gent picked in December)
AS Roma v. Real Madrid
(2-0 Real after first leg in Rome)
Well, just as expected the main question is whether Real Madrid will even allow a goal to Roma in their Round of 16 encounter. The Spaniards dominated in the Italian capital, allowing their opponents little possession and few offensive opportunities. Cristiano Ronaldo notched his 88th career Champions League goal early in the second half off a Marcelo assist, and Jese added a second away goal four minutes from stoppage time to set Real up for easy advancement to the next round. Keylor Navas was barely challenged, and will likely have even less work to do when the two sides meet at Santiago Bernabeu on March 8.
Look for Ronaldo to notch another goal or two when the two sides meet again in Madrid, and for the defense and Navas to hold the Italians to yet another clean sheet. Already two goals ahead on aggregate, the Spanish side is likely to surpass my aggregate prediction from December to dominantly move on to the final eight.
PREDICTION: Real 5-0 on aggregate (Real picked in December)