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Champions League Last 16: Predicting This Week's 1st-Leg Scores

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterOctober 8, 2016

Champions League Last 16: Predicting This Week's 1st-Leg Scores

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    The UEFA Champions League's Round of 16 continues with four more matches this week as the field is slowly whittled down to eight quarterfinalists.

    It's still early in the competition, but the Round of 16 features a couple high-profile matchups. Arsenal host Bayern Munich on Tuesday, and AC Milan host Barcelona on Wednesday in a rematch of last year's quarterfinals.

    Who's going to win? Keep reading for our predictions.

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich

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    When: Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET

    Where: Emirates Stadium, London

     

    How they got here: Arsenal finished second in Group B; Bayern won Group F.

    These two clubs could hardly be heading in more different directions.

    Bayern Munich, the runaway leaders of the German Bundesliga, have lost only twice in all competitions this season. Manager Jupp Heynckes is due to step down at the end of the season, when former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola will take over.

    Guardiola, who won the Champions League with Barca in 2009 and 2011, will inherit a strong squad. Through 22 league matches, Bayern have scored 57 goals and allowed just seven. In 10 away matches, Die Roten have conceded only once.

    Arsenal, on the other hand, are in danger of finishing outside the Premier League's top four for the first time in manager Arsene Wenger's 16-plus-year reign. Over the weekend, the inconsistent Gunners crashed out of the FA Cup, losing to second-tier Blackburn at home.

    This is Arsenal's last chance for silverware this season, and even the most diehard Gooner would admit this tie looks like a tough assignment.

     

    Prediction

    In a way, playing Bayern might be a decent tonic for Arsenal, who tend to play to the level of their opponents. Bayern hold possession well, which could actually afford Arsenal's own possession game a bit of space in which to work.

    Against Blackburn, the Gunners dominated for 90 minutes but struggled to break down Blackburn's organized defense.

    But Bayern's defense will be organized as well, and the Germans have a long list of lethal attackers to call on.

    It seems unthinkable that Arsenal's defense—which is facing a selection headache at left-back—will keep a clean sheet. But will the offense be able to sneak a goal on a counter? 

     

    Arsenal 1, Bayern 3

Porto vs. Malaga

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    When: Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET

    Where: Estadio do Dragao, Porto

     

    How they got here: Porto finished second in Group A; Malaga won Group C.

    Malaga stormed onto the European scene on Matchday 1—their first ever in the Champions League proper—with a resounding 3-0 thumping of Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg in Group C. Isco, a 20-year-old Spanish attacking midfielder, scored twice that day and instantly drew heavy attention in the gossip columns.

    Malaga kept up the pace, winning Group C over AC Milan, Zenit and Anderlecht, and Isco recently committed his future to the club (per Sky Sports).

    Porto led Group A until the final day, when a loss at Paris Saint-Germain ensured a second-place finish. Vitor Pereira's team won all three home matches in the group stage, outscoring opponents 7-2.

    Currently tied atop the Portuguese league, Porto have not lost since that trip to Paris in December. Leading scorer Jackson Martinez, a Colombian international forward, scored three times in the group stage and leads the Portuguese league with 20 goals in 19 matches.

     

    Prediction

    Malaga, who continue to deal with financial difficulties, sold left-back Nacho Monreal to Arsenal in January.

    But in Isco, Javier Saviola and Joaquin, the Spanish upstarts have plenty of attacking options remaining. So do Porto, which means this one could be interesting.  

     

    Porto 2, Malaga 2

AC Milan vs. Barcelona

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    When: Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET

    Where: San Siro, Milan

     

    How they got here: AC Milan finished second in Group C; Barcelona won Group G.

    If this fixture looks familiar, it both should and shouldn't. The same teams met in the quarterfinals of this competition last season, with Barcelona advancing after a 3-1 aggregate victory (the first leg in Milan finished 0-0).

    That said, Milan's squad will look a bit different this time. Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and defender Thiago Silva were sold to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, and young Italian forwards Stephan El Shaarawy and Mario Balotelli have begun to emerge.

    El Shaarawy, 20, has tallied 15 goals in Serie A this season. The 22-year-old Balotelli, who signed from Manchester City in January, has scored four goals in his first three matches with the Rossoneri.

    (El Shaarawy is a doubt for Wednesday's game, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport).

    Even with all that offensive potential, Milan will be firm underdogs against Barcelona. European champions in 2009 and 2011, the current core of players pass the ball and hold possession better than any other club team in the world.

    And with Lionel Messi applying the finishing touch, the result is often both sublime and deadly for opponents.

     

    Prediction

    Milan have improved after a poor start. Barcelona will be favorites, but don't be surprised if manager Tito Vilanova and his team have a fight on their hands.  

     

    Milan 1, Barcelona 1

Galatasaray vs. Schalke 04

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    When: Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET

    Where: Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul

     

    How they got here: Galatasaray finished second in Group H; Schalke won Group B.

    Galatasaray qualified for the Round of 16 with a late push in the group stage. After losing their first two matches, the Turkish giants closed with a draw and three wins—including a home triumph over group winners Manchester United, who had already qualified.

    Now that they're here, though, Gala will bring a bit of a new look. Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Ivorian forward Didier Drogba—who helped lead Chelsea to the European title last season—signed in January.

    Sneijder has played four times, starting his last two, but he has not yet completed a full 90 minutes. Drogba scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over Besiktas on Friday.

    Schalke won Group B behind strong away form, beating Arsenal in London and Olympiakos in Greece. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored four times in the group stage.

    The Germans did some business of their own this winter, re-signing Huntelaar to a new deal and bringing in Brazilian winger Michel Bastos on loan from Lyon.

    Bastos has scored three times in as many Bundesliga games since joining the club. But Bastos' scoring run has coincided with a four-match winless run.

     

    Prediction

    Schalke played well on their travels in the group stage, but it's hard to know how they'll fare in Istanbul, which can be an intimidating place for any visitors.

    Huntelaar hasn't played since Feb. 2 after sustaining an eye injury (via Bundesliga.com), and Schalke have fallen to ninth place after a poor run in the Bundesliga. Galatasaray, meanwhile, have fresh faces and home-field advantage.  

     

    Galatasaray 2, Schalke 1

     

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