The round of 16 drawn in the Champions League - top scorers and predictionsAs you probably know, the first part of the UEFA Champions League 2023/2024 has been completed and today the draw was made for the next round of 16, which will be played between 13 and 21 February. We won't see any super-hot meetings in this round unfortunately, and although surprises can and will certainly happen, most of the matches feel pretty easy to predict. The biggest surprise so far, FC Copenhagen, got a nightmare draw (in terms of the chances of progressing anyway) as they will face the reigning champions Manchester City in a doubleheader.
But before we take a closer look at all the round of 16 matches, let's take a closer look at the top scorers and the standings there right now.
Álvaro Morata, Atlético Madrid - one of the top scorers in the group stage
Double Atlético Madrid in the topUsually after the group stage, you have one of the great scorers scoring plenty of goals, including one or two hat-tricks against easier opposition, and in practice decided the top scorer, but this season this is not the case.
Before the start of this season's Champions League, it was Erling Braut Haaland, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappé and Robert Lewandowski were the big favourites to become top scorer. Of these four big favourites, it is Haaland who has performed the best and is in joint lead with five goals scored. On the same number of goals scored, we find the two Atlético Madrid players Álvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann, and also Manchester United's Dane Rasmus Højlund. Manchester United finished last in their group, despite Højlund's five goals, so he is out of the game, but the other three players at the top are for sure candidates to be this season's top scorer.
Behind the four leaders we find eight players who have scored four goals each. If we are to pick out players among these who have a serious chance of challenging the top three for the Champions League golden boot title, we find Gabriel Jesus, Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and Julián Álvarez here.
Two hat-tricks scored in the group stageThere were only two hat-tricks scored in the group stage, and both were scored by players from the Portuguese league. Benfica's João Mário scored a hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with Inter, and Porto's Brazilian Evanilson scored a hat-trick in their 4-1 win away to Royal Antwerp.
Gabriel Jesus in Arsenal - one of the contenders
So who will be the top scorer in the end?At this stage there is a clear favourite, and it is not unexpectedly Erling Braut Haaland. For one thing, he is already in the lead, even if it is shared, and in addition, Manchester City will face FC Copenhagen in the round of 16. With all due respect to FC Copenhagen, they are will most likely be a very easy target for City, and the chance that there will be many goals from City's side is also great.
Other candidates are of course the other two players in shared lead, Álvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann. Unlike Manchester City, however, Atlético Madrid got a very tough draw as they face Inter Milan in the round of 16, and it certainly not given that Atlético Madrid will even advance to the quarterfinals.
Among other players who should not be counted out, we find these:
- Jude Bellingham - he has delivered goals very consistently for Real both in the league and the Champions League
- Harry Kane - whose Bayern Munich are seen as the main challengers to Manchester City and Real Madrid to win, and also often scores a lot of goals on the road
- Gabriel Jesus - Arsenal plays solidly in both the league and the UCL and can go far
- Julián Álvarez - if Haaland continues to be injured (as he has been lately), it is Álvarez who will jump in as the number one goal scorer for City instead
- Kylian Mbappé - currently he has only scored three goals but Mbappé can explode and score a hat-trick against any team, so don't count him out yet
Of course, there are more players who have a realistic chance to win the top scorer title, but most likely the winner is one of the names we just listed.
Among players who may be seen as a disappointment, we of course think about Robert Lewandowski, who only scored one goal in the Champions League this season. However, this is on a par with how he is performing at Barcelona right now, which is nowhere near what he did at Bayern Munich.
Champions League draw round of 16 2023/2024So finally, here are the round of 16 matches we have to look forward to:
- FC Copenhagen vs Manchester City - clear favourite here is of course Manchester City, as FC Copenhagen have overachieved themselves just by getting this far, and can hope to keep the numbers down to an honourable loss
- Inter vs Atlético Madrid - this is the toughest clash of all in the round of 16. Neither team are favourites to win the tournament, but both are seen as realistic candidates to pull off a surprise and go all the way. Very difficult to predict, to say the least, but perhaps the 2023 finalist Inter has a slight advantage
- Lazio vs Bayern Munich - here Bayern are big favourites. Beating Lazio is certainly not a walk in the park, but Bayern should advance quite comfortably here
- Napoli vs Barcelona - the reigning champions of Serie A against the reigning champions of La Liga. None of the teams have been as good as last season, and this applies above all to Napoli, and therefore Barcelona must be seen as favourites here, but Napoli might very well win
- Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad - here it is also very uncertain. PSG is seen by most as clear favourites, but Real Sociedad have played stable and fine football in both the league and the UCL this season and can surprise everyone and win
- Porto vs Arsenal - the English are clear favourites with every right, but Porto have a lot of Champions League experience. Although few would be shocked if Porto won here, it is still most likely Arsenal that we will see in the quarter-finals
- PSV Eindhoven vs Borussia Dortmund - perhaps the weakest encounter as neither team is seen as potential finalist in the end. However, Borussia Dortmund is the stronger team here and should beat PSV
- RB Leipzig vs Real Madrid - of course, Real Madrid are always favourites whoever they play in the Champions League, and surely they are here as well. RB Leipzig has a young, bravely fighting team that will put up a good fight and make it difficult for Real, but anything but a win for Real in the end would be surprising