With 2016 now well underway, excitement is building ahead of the first knockout stage of this year's Champions League. The last-16 is always a fascinating stage of the season, with European football's best teams vying for a place in the quarter-finals and one step closer to lifting club football's most illustrious trophy. So, as we prepare for eight intriguing Champions League ties being played out across two legs, let's take a closer at each game.
Benfica vs. Zenit: While Benfica came through their group in second place behind Atletico Madrid, Zenit controlled their group on their way into the last-16. But while the Russian side looked strong throughout the pool stage, it will be Benfica who are expected to come through this tie against Zenit. Currently second in the Primeira Liga, the Portuguese giants will fancy their chances against a Zenit team struggling in the Russian league, although this tie could honestly go either way.
PSG vs. Chelsea: A tie to really whet the appetite, PSG vs. Chelsea is, on paper, a battle between two of European football's most powerful clubs. But the duo are currently enjoying very different seasons. While PSG are currently dominating Ligue 1, Chelsea have endured a nightmare league campaign this season. That said, the Londoners will be putting even more emphasis on their Champions League and the Parisians will need to be at their best to make sure they reach the quarter-finals.
Gent vs. Wolfsburg: This is one of those last-16 ties that could really go either way. While the German's experience in the competition has played a role in their odds with the likes of http://www.32red.com/jp/ being as short as 1/3 to qualify for the quarter-finals, Genk's form this season means they are a very lively betting option. Leading the Belgian Pro League and having come through a group ahead of Valencia and Lyon, Genk will fancy their chances of springing an upset against Wolfsburg.
Roma vs. Real Madrid: With it looking as though they're going to miss out on La Liga this season, the pressure is really on Real to win the Champions League this year. Standing in the way of the Spanish giants is a Roma team that are down in fifth in Serie A and scraped through the group stages with only one win to their name. On paper, it's hard to look behind Real, and Roma will need to produce something truly special to see off Zinedine Zidane over two legs.
Arsenal vs. Barcelona: We've seen throughout the years that whenever Arsenal and Barcelona meet in the latter stages of the Champions League, it usually results in fireworks. Both teams are enjoying successful domestic campaigns, although the Catalan giants route through to the last-16 came somewhat easier than the Gunners', who finished second in their group thanks to goal difference. Arsene Wenger's men look a different team to previous years, and this could be the Frenchman's best chance at guiding a team past Barca in the Champions League.
Juventus vs. Bayern Munich: One of the tastiest looking ties on the last-16 menu sees two of European football's greatest powers doing battle. Both Juventus and Bayern were both being tipped by a lot of punters betting with the likes of 32Red and UNIBET at the start of the season to be in with a chance of winning this tournament. While Juventus have recovered following a dismal start to the season, Bayern have again dominated German football this year, cruising into the latter stages of the competition ahead of Arsenal in Group F and will be confident of seeing off their Italian rivals.
Dynamo Kiev vs. Manchester City: Ever since becoming one of the biggest clubs in the world, Man City have failed to make it beyond the last-16 stage of the Champions League. Coming up against Dynamo Kiev this year, Manuel Pellegrini will be under no illusions that his job could be depending on reaching the quarter-finals. While the Ukrainian champions are a very decent side, City will rightly be going into this tie expected to be too strong for Kiev, with a place in the last-eight on offer for the Premier League club.
PSV vs. Atletico Madrid: Two teams still very much in the title race in their respective leagues, PSV and Atletico Madrid could be one of the most evenly matched last-16 ties in the tournament this year. Both teams contain a number of talented players, as well as exciting young managers who have done well in their short coaching careers. Considering Atletico's success over recent years, though, Atletico will be confident of making it into the Champions League quarter-finals for the third season running.