Chelsea v Lille
Chelsea to win 2-0
First up this week we’ve got the defending champions, Chelsea. Lille won Ligue 1 last season, which was an amazing achievement, but they’ve struggled this year. They sit in 11th place domestically, and this is a huge step up for them. Lille did well to make it out of their group, but I fancy this will be as far as they go this season.
Villarreal v Juventus
This is a hard one to call. Villarreal are an experienced, underrated side who tend to do well in Europe, as shown by winning the Europa League last year. They made a slow start this season but have improved and are in the top six in La Liga and Unai Emery is a shrew operator in European football.
Juve, have had a very disappointing season. They’ll do well to finish in the top four in Serie A, but they have shown signs of improvement since the turn of the year. New man Dusan Vlahovic arrived with a huge price tag and should give them more goals.
I can’t split these two, 1-1.
Atletico Madrid v Manchester United
Atletico to win 2-1
This is an interesting one. Atletico have had a strange season and have underperformed. Defensively, they’ve had lots of issues, which is unheard of for a Diego Simeone side. I would never rule them out in these big games though, particularly at home, and I know Simeone will have his side really up for this one.
As for United, they got the win at Leeds at the weekend but again, there’s issues at the back. In these high-intensity matches, are United physically good enough against the top sides? I have my doubts.
I can see Atletico edging this, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Luis Suarez got a goal. I don’t think there will be much between these two in both games, but I can see Atletico taking a narrow lead to Manchester.
Benfica v Ajax
Ajax to win 2-1
For their standards, Benfica are having a poor season domestically. 12 points behind Porto at this stage is a mountain to climb and they’ll really need to improve their form.
Ajax on the other hand, are having another brilliant season. Their numbers in the Eredivisie are ridiculous, 70 goals scored and just five conceded.
Ajax cruised through the group stage, winning all six games. They beat Sporting 5-1 in Lisbon earlier in the season, and I can see another win in Lisbon here. 2-1 Ajax.