On Tuesday and Wednesday, the UEFA Champions League returns with the first four matches of the round of 16. Manchester United welcoming Real Madrid is the most attractive and widely discussed pairing, but Europe's premier club football competition offers three other intriguing ties: Celtic vs. Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Borussia Dortmund, and Valencia vs. Paris Saint-Germain.
AccuScore's statistically based simulations played out the home and away fixtures for each of these four ties 10,000 times. Based solely on individual and team statistics, the super computer believes Juventus has the easiest route to the quarterfinals.
After Juve, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Paris Saint-Germain is considered to have a structurally superior squad to Valencia. PSG is currently top of the Ligue 1 table by six points, and Ibrahimovic is the top scorer in France with 21 goals in 21 domestic appearances. He has also scored in his last two domestic league matches, so the Swede is in form.
Real Madrid is the next most likely team to advance to the final eight.
In the computer’s calculation, Cristiano Ronaldo's recent form gives Madrid the necessary edge over his former team. Ronaldo, who played for Manchester United from 2003 to 2009, scored a hat-trick against Sevilla on Saturday. He has scored five hat tricks this season, including one in the Champions League against Ajax during the group stages.
United’s lethal striking duo of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie is also in fine form. Rooney has scored five goals in five matches since returning from a knee ligament injury suffered in training. Van Persie, on the other hand, has maintained health throughout the season and leads the Premier League with 19 goals.
Still, the computer believes Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are still statistically more likely to give Real Madrid a decisive goal, and thus, Madrid is favored.
The computer believes the tie between Borussia Dortmund, the German champion, and Shakhtar Donetsk, the Ukrainian champion, is the most level pairing of the bunch. Shakhtar's uniquely Brazilian squad has won three league titles in a row and has a comfortable 13-point lead in the domestic league this season.
Dortmund is on the other end of a domestic league deficit, trailing by 15 points in the German Bundesliga. However, Dortmund has been impressive in European competition, and the focus of the squad is clearly on the Champions League.
Dortmund conquered the “Group of Death” and finished ahead of Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City. Dortmund won four matches and drew two during the group stage, and it is a fair assertion that the German league was not the primary goal for manager Jurgen Klopp's men.
Dortmund has only failed to collect maximum points on 10 occasions during this season's domestic campaign. Of those 10 occasions, six matches came on a weekend immediately before or after a Champions League tie.
As such, Saturday's humiliating 4-1 home defeat to Hamburg is not a proper indicator of Dortmund's European form.
Odds to Advance