Two weeks ago we kicked off the knockout stages of the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League. Dustin and I did our best (or worst) to predict how those eight fixtures would pan out with varying results.
Few could have expected a 4 – 0 demolition of Barcelona at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain, nor did anyone foresee a combined eight goals being scored between Manchester City and Monaco. The predictions business is harsh and unforgiving.
Yet here we are, back at it again this week (and next) for Leg 2 to give you our best guesses on who will make it through to the quarterfinals.
Before we make our picks I think it’s prudent to give a brief overview of how the tw0-leg system works in this tournament. As you can probably tell, “two-leg” refers to a two-game format in which each team gets to play a game on their home pitch. For example, Benfica was able to narrowly defeat Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at home in the Estádio da Luz in Portugal, but must now travel to Dortmund, Germany in Leg 2.
Within the two leg system, a winner is determined by total or aggregate goals scored. The team who scores the most goals at the end of the two legs advances. That is unless there is a tie. Ties are broken first by goals scored away from home. This is why we refer to “away goals” a lot because a visiting team scoring a goal could prove incredibly important when it’s all said and done.
Let’s return to our Dortmund-Benfica example. Benfica winning in Leg 1 is very impressive, but what’s more important is that they did not allow Dortmund to score either. Dortmund now has zero away goals, which means it is crucial to not only score a goal or more in Leg 2 but also to prevent Benfica from scoring. Say, for example, the final score of Leg 2 is 2-1 in favor of Dortmund. On aggregate the teams would appear to be tied 2-2, right? Technically yes, but since ties are broken by away goals, Benfica would win and advance to the quarterfinals despite losing in Leg 2, because they had 1 away goal and Dortmund had zero. Sounds brutal and unfair right? In a way, yes. But in other ways no. This tournament is meant to be difficult. It also is meant to accommodate not just the Barcelonas or Bayerns of the world, but also the upstarts like Benfica and Porto. The away goals rule forces teams to not only score but also defend in both matches in order to advance.
Alright, class dismissed. Here are our picks for today and tomorrow’s Leg 2 fixtures.