This is the time of the season when things get serious and the games come thick and fast for fans of the UEFA Champions League.
The group stage was completed in the first week of December. Now, we get down to the straight knockout stage of the tournament with the start of the round of 16 fixtures.
The pick of the two games scheduled for Tuesday is Juventus against Tottenham Hotspur. The first leg will be played in Turin and the second in London on March 7.
Manchester City plays away to Basel in Tuesday’s other game while Wednesday brings the delicious matchup between 2016 and 2017 champions Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain while Liverpool travels to Portugal to play against FC Porto.
The first legs of the other four matches of the round of 16 are scheduled for February 13 and 14.
Juventus has made it to the final of the Champions League in two of the last three seasons but has fallen at the final hurdle both times – to Barcelona in 2015 and Real Madrid in 2017.
After beating Barcelona in the quarter-finals last season Juventus was drawn against the Spanish team in the group stage this season. A 3-0 Barcelona win in Spain and a 0-0 draw in Turin provided Barcelona with the edge and they finished top of the group.
Spurs’ performance in the group stage was far more impressive. In a group comprising Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and APOEL the London team won five and drew the other and qualified comfortably as group winners.
However, since the conclusion of the group stage, both teams have shown impressive form. Juventus has drawn 1 and won 11 while only conceding a single goal.
Spurs have lost just once in its last 15 matches, drawing another 4 and winning 10. This run includes wins against Manchester United and Arsenal and a draw with Liverpool in three Premier League games since January 31.
Defensively Spurs are nowhere as close to the parsimonious Juventus but the first thing coach Mauricio Pochettino focused on when he took over was cutting back on the goals conceded by Spurs.
The season prior and his first year in charge Spurs conceded over 50 goals in the Premier League. In 2015/16 that number dropped to 35 and to just 26 last season.
So far Spurs have allowed 24 goals after 27 games.
The solid defensive numbers from both teams and the inherent cageyness of the first leg of a home and home series (no team wants to throw away the tie after just 90 minutes) point towards a tight tussle.
Juventus is also unbeaten in its last 22 home matches in the Champions League stretching back to 2012/13 when Bayern Munich left Turin with a win.
Add all this up and a score draw or a one-goal defeat with Tottenham scoring at least once would be a terrific result for Spurs and put them in the driving seat come March 7 at Wembley Stadium.
Group stage (complete)
- Each of the 32 teams qualifying for the Champions League group stage received $15.5M (exchange rate of 1.23 euro to dollar)
- For each win at the group stage a team received $1.8M; for a draw $610,000
- Each team qualifying for the round of 16 received $7.3M; qualification for subsequent quarter and semi-final rounds bring additional payments of $7.95M and $9.2M respectively
- The eventual runners-up will receive another $13.4M and the winners $18.9M
In addition, there are payments from the market pool. Allocations from the market pool are the chief contributor to the regular phenomena of the eventual winner receiving less than a team that is knocked out at an earlier stage.
There are three variables that influence market pool payouts to teams qualifying from each market.
- The value of television deals within each market
- The ranking of the qualifying teams in their domestic championship the season previous
- Performance in the Champions League relative to other teams from the same country