The Champions League and Europa League knockout stages hit full throttle today as the revamped version of the tournament kicks off. It's going to make for an interesting couple of weeks and the one game knockouts will favour some sides a lot more than two legs. Personally, I'm very excited for the next few weeks, and as an Arsenal fan who has just seen his side win the FA Cup, it'll be nice to sit back and watch some other teams play with high pressure stakes (although it would have been nice if we were still in the Europa League).
Let's focus on the Europa League first. Europe's B-Tier competition. The one no-one really cares about until the semi-finals at least. However, a potential semi-final could be between English duo Manchester United and Wolves. Now that would be decent. The thing is, the one tie knockout stages has thrown things into the air, because it really levels up the playing field.I suspect United should beat Copenhagen tonight, but you just can't say for sure over the course of a 90/120 min game. Wolves on the other hand, have a tricky game no matter the type of fixture against a Sevilla side who recently won the competition three times in a row. Under the great Unai Emery. That is going to be a tricky contest, but I think Wolves will pip their opponents. Inter Milan have a really intriguing game against Bayer Leverkusen. That should be a good one. Antonio Conte's side looking to pick up some silverware this season. I do think they'll win, and I suspect they'll reach the final too. In fact, I think they will be the winners of the competition. One of United or Wolves could be in the final, but over the course of one game, I think Conte will be able to get the job done. He's a high class manager who has done a very good job in his first season. A European cup would be a good reward. I reckon they will beat Wolves in the final, after they themselves knock out United 1-0 in a bore fest. Come back to me when this plays out exactly to how I predicted.
Now onto the real business. The CHAAAAAAMPIONS LEAGUE. First up, I'll get straight to the point. I think Bayern Munich will win. They've been far and away the best team I've seen this season I have no idea why on earth the Balon d'Or was called of this year, but Robert Lewandowski would have walked it this year. He's been sensational and so have Bayern. They play brilliant, relentless football, with the superb Thomas Muller and the pacy combo of Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman flanking the big Pole up front. Their midfield isn't bad either, with the mercurial Thiago Alcantara running the show in the middle of the park next to the more defensive minded Joshua Kimmich. Alphonso Davies is a special talent at left back. I adore watching him play. His pace just takes your breath away. They're a fantastic team and I think they would beat Manchester City too. City were good against Real Madrid, although I don't think Madrid are a particularly impressive side. Them winning La Liga just showcases what a poor league it has been this season. I don't think Bayern will have any problems putting away Barcelona, although they do have Lionel Messi. And as long as you have that man then you always have a chance. His goal against Napoli was a thing of beauty and he's just a player where words cannot describe him any more. I don't think he will have enough just on his own though to take down a formidable Bayern team.
On the other side of the draw, PSG and Atletico Madrid both have been given tremendous chances to reach the final. Their only real threats are each other. Once they play against one another in the semis, it will be a very predictable style of game. PSG will have the ball and attack, Atletico will defend and counter attack. The French champions have a mental block in Europe, while Atletico have done well in Europe in recent years. Their type of football is perfect for this competition, and especially this new one-off set up.This game is tough to call, but I think Diego Simeone's men may pip it. However, as mentioned earlier, I do believe Bayern will have way to much for Atletico Madrid in the final and pick up their 6th Champions League crown.
So that's my predictions for the European games. Chances are I will be spot on and get all of these right. Trust me. Football's easy. Nothing unpredictable ever happens.