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It’s Valentine’s Day 2017 and while some of us will be riding solo today, there’s still a reason to be happy. The UEFA Champions League round of 16 begins today and some of the best teams in world are ready to make a push to dethrone defending Champs Real Madrid. The knockout stages of the Champions League are always exciting and sometimes unpredictable but here are my picks to make it through to the next round.

ARSENAL vs. BAYERN MUNICH:

First Leg: February 15. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 7. 2:45pm ET.

Arsenal has had the misfortune of drawing Bayern in the round of 16 for the third time in five years. I don’t see this year being any different than the last two, Arsenal is not in the same class as Bayern and for the third time, it will be proven. Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal will dominate Arsenals midfield and Robert Lewandowski will create major problems the Gunners back line. Arsenal won’t be intimidated by Bayern but at the end of the day the German Champions will be the team to make it to the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Bayern 5:2 on aggregate

PSG vs. BARCELONA:

First Leg: February 14. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 8. 2:45pm ET.

PSG had the misfortune of drawing Barca this early in the Champions League and unless PSG plays flawlessly in both games, they will be headed back to France disappointed. Their Barcelona comes into the first leg red-hot without a loss in their last 10 games in all competitions. The trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez has been on fire in 2017 combining for 23 goals and 9 assists since the New Year. I can only see this matchup ending in one result; Barcelona advances to the next round in a tough battle.

Prediction: Barcelona 4:2 on aggregate

REAL MADRID vs. NAPOLI:

First Leg: February 15. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 7. 2:45pm ET.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid look to repeat as winners of the Champions League in 2017 but first they will run into the hottest team in Serie A, Napoli. After losing Gonzalo Higuaín to Juventus in the summer transfer window, Napoli has responded to his absence by scoring more goals per game than last season. Dries Mertens stepped up and has already scored 20 goals this season. Real will miss Gareth Bale in the first leg as he recovers from a ankle injury but they will still be the favorites to move on. I expect these two teams to play exciting soccer with lots goals but in the end Real Madrid will come out on top.

Prediction: Real Madrid 6:3 on aggregate

DORTMUND vs. BENFICA:

First Leg: February 14. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 8. 2:45pm ET.

Borussia Dortmund enters the round of 16 as the highest scoring team in Champions League history during the group stage scoring a record 21 goals. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus lead the German squad against the Porteguese league leaders Benfica. For Benfica to be able to compete with Dortmund’s goal scoring, forward Kostas Mitroglou needs to show up. Mitroglou is Benfica’s leading scorer in the Portuguese Liga but he has yet to score in the Champions League this season. Though Dortmund has under performed so far in 2017, I believe they will score enough goals to make it to the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Dortmund 5:2 on aggregate

MANCHESTER CITY vs. MONACO:

First Leg: February 21. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 15. 2:45pm ET.

Manchester City vs. Monaco promises to be one of if not the most entertain match up in the round of 16. Monaco is the highest scoring team in all of Europe and they are expected to create chaos for City’s struggling defense. City can counteract their below average defense with their world class attacking players. Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling need to provide plenty of goals because this matchup could become a shootout. Ramedel Falcao’s return to form has been one of the stories of the season and he looks to lead the French squad into the round of 8. I predict both teams will play very aggressive attacking soccer and score plenty of goals; in the end I think Manchester City will be too good and win in a nail biter.

Prediction: Man City 5:4 on aggregate

ATLETICO MADRID vs. BAYER LEVERKUSEN:

First Leg: February 21. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 15. 2:45pm ET.

While Atletico Madrid have somewhat struggled this season in La Liga, they dominated throughout the group stages, winning five of the six games. Antoine Griezmann is leading Atleti in Champions League play with 3 goals to his name. Leverkusen has been a major disappointment this season after a promising 2015/16-year and only made the round of 16 because of poor overall play in the group. This matchup should heavily favor Atletico Madrid and I expect them to easily find their way to the round of 8.

Prediction: Atletico 5:1 on aggregate

PORTO vs. JUVENTUS:

First Leg: February 22. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 14. 2:45pm ET.

Italian giants Juventus look to justify spending over €100 million for Gonzalo Higuaín and Miralem Pjanić last summer by advancing to the quarterfinals. Juve will be favored to win over the Portuguese powerhouse Porto, who haven’t been to the round of 8 in the Champions League since 2009. At the end of the day, Juventus has some of the best players in the world and Porto will have to play mistake free soccer to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Juve 4:1 on aggregate

SEVILLA vs. LEICESTER CITY:

First Leg: February 22. 2:45pm ET.

Second Leg: March 14. 2:45pm ET.

Sevilla will come into the matchup against Leicester City heavily favored. Leicester City are currently displaying the worst season from a defending Premier League Champion in the history of the league and benefited from being in the easiest group to make it to the round of 16. I think Sevilla will flat out dominate this matchup because they have the experience and enough quality players to completely outmatch Leicester’s team.

Prediction: Sevilla 4:0 on aggregate

 

The round of 16 is filled with exciting matchups this season. All the remaining teams will give every ounce of effort to make it one step closer to becoming Champions of Europe.