Champions League round of 16 preview: The Bundesliga’s finest going for glory

This week sees the Champions League return with the first of the round of 16 first-legs being played on Tuesday and Wednesday. This week we see Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig in action with Borussia Dortmund appearing next week. Here’s the lowdown on the key fixtures in Europe’s elite competition……

RB Leipzig v Real Madrid (Tuesday)

Leipzig and the Spanish giants met for the first time in last season’s group stage of the Champions League with both sides advancing from Group F. Die Roten Bullen’s trip to the Bernabeu was only trainer Marco Rose’s second game in charge after he had been brought in to replace Domenico Tedesco. The home side were made to work for their 2-0 win with goals from Fede Valverde and Marco Asensio in the final ten minutes. The return leg at the Red Bull Arena saw the German side gain revenge with a 3-1 win. Both sides went on to be eliminated by Manchester City with Leipzig losing 8-1 on aggregate in the round of 16, whereas Real fell at the semi-final stage with a 5-1 aggregate scoreline. 

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Los Blancos progressed from this season’s group stage with a perfect record of six wins from six, while Leipzig finished as runners-up in their group after being paired with English champions Manchester City again. They won all four of their matches against Young Boys and Red Star, but succumbed twice against City 

Carlo Acelotti’s side look on course for another La Liga title this season, although they are seeing a challenge from minnows Girona. Real are currently five points clear and have only lost once in the league this season. They beat second place Girona 4-0 on Saturday with Jude Bellingham scoring twice to continue his amazing start to life at the capital club.

Leipzig’s Bundesliga form isn’t hitting the heights this season and the Saxony side currently sit outside the top four with Borussia Dortmund three points ahead of them. They were held to a 2-2 draw at Augsburg on Saturday and have now won just one of their five league games so far this year. They will certainly need to raise their game for the arrival of the 14-times European Cup/ Champions League winners.

Player to watch

The good news for Leipzig is that Jude Bellingham looks set to miss the match having suffered an ankle injury after scoring twice at the weekend. The bad news is that Real have plenty of other world-class stars in their line-up and picking one from a stellar cast is not easy. At 34 years of age Toni Kroos remains the metronome in the Madrid midfield and with rumours of a possible return for this summer’s Euros on the cards, a top display from the World Cup winner would do his cause no harm at all.  

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Possible line-up: Lunin – Carvajal, Tchouameni, Nacho, Mendy – Camavinga, Kroos – Fede Valverde, Brahim Diaz – Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior

Lazio v Bayern Munich (Wednesday)

Bayern Munich’s chastening defeat in the big clash with Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend means that a positive performance and result are a must in Wednesday’s clash with Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The fallout from the 3-0 loss at the Bay Arena is still being felt and anything other than a first-leg win will just add fuel to the fire and heap more scrutiny on coach Thomas Tuchel.

Bayern’s record in this season’s Champions League is however near perfect with only a goalless draw at home to FC Copenhagen on the penultimate matchday preventing them qualifying with a perfect 100% record from Group A. Since winning their sixth title in 2020, the Bavarians have seen a quarter-final exit in all the following three seasons and the expectation is that they go deeper into this year’s competition. 

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Lazio finished second in Group E to progress to this round of 16 tie finishing behind Atletico Madrid, but ahead of both Celtic and Feyenoord. They currently sit 8th in the Serie A table, but are still within touching distance of a top four spot with Atalanta just five points ahead of them in fourth. The Biancocelesti enjoyed a 3-1 away win over Cagliari at the weekend after losing to Atalanta the previous weekend by the same scoreline.

Player to watch 

The Roman side have former Eintracht Frankfurt attacker Daichi Kamada in their squad, but the Japanese is not a guaranteed starter at the moment. Their leading scorer and main man up front is however another player with Bundesliga connections. Ciro Immobile has six league goals and three in the Champions League this season and will be remembered for his season in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund back in 2014/15.  

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Possible line-up: Provedel – Marusic, Casale, Romagnoli, Hysaj – Cataldi – Guendouzi, Vecino – Felipe Anderson, Immobile, Pedro

About Mathew Burt 1053 Articles
Former writer at and JustFootball, I've been doing my thing for Bundesliga Fanatic since 2015. A long-suffering Werder Bremen fan and disciple of the Germanic holy trinity...Bier. Wurst und Fußball

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