Champions League predictions, odds: Expert picks for PSG vs. Real Madrid, Sporting vs. Manchester City, more

The UEFA Champions League returns on Tuesday with the start of the knockout stages, highlighted by the massive showdown at Parc de Princes as Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain host Real Madrid. Half of the round of 16 will play their first legs this week, with two matches on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday. Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Manchester City are also in action over the next couple days. As always, you can see all of the games live on CBS and Paramount+.

Here’s a look at how our experts think the matches will go with our predictions and analysis.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Madrid

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 15 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | TV: (CBS/Paramount+)
Odds: PSG -102; Draw +270; Real Madrid +265 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Featured Game | PSG vs. Real Madrid

One matchup to watch: Marco Verratti vs. Luka Modric. The two remain increasingly important to their respective sides despite the Italian maestro’s fragility and the Croat master’s 36 years of age. Assuming both are fully fit and involved from the off, the battle between the two midfielders as part of a larger bid for supremacy in the middle of the park promises to be unmissable. Verratti warmed up for Modri by facing his compatriot Lovro Majer in the narrow win over Stade Rennais and it was absorbing to watch. PSG’s tactical plan is unlikely to involve passing Real to death so the Azzurri star will be key as ever to Mauricio Pochettino’s plans and the hosts’ overall hopes of progression.

Most likely to score a goal: Kylian Mbappe. If there was a game written for Mbappe to star home and away, it is this one. The French superstar will be the pre, mid and post-match focus around both legs and the chances of him taking center stage in at least one of these two showdown clashes are high.

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Man of the Match pick: Marquinhos. The Brazilian often reserves his world-class best form for these UCL nights and they do not come much bigger than this. Real have plenty of potential match winners too with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior both traveling, but the Parisien captain has the potential to silence both and strong performance from the Brazilian would go a long way towards helping to secure a good opening result for the hosts.

Match prediction: PSG 2, Real Madrid 1. Although Real are the pre-match favorites, the French giants raise their game massively in the Champions League and this will be no different. This tie is likely to go all the way across both legs, but PSG may well draw first blood in Paris.

Sporting CP vs. Manchester City

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 15 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | TV: (Paramount+)
Odds: Sporting +1000; Draw +460; Man City -360 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Featured Game | Sporting CP vs. Manchester City

One matchup to watch: João Palhinha vs. Kevin De Bruyne. Sporting’s top priority will be limiting De Bruyne’s chances if the Portuguese side if to have any shot of getting a result. Manchester City’s midfield maestro is back to top form with two goals and two assists in his past five matches. Palhinha, who leads the team in tackles (35), will be one of the midfielders tasked with tracking De Bruyne as he is usually in the right place to not get caught out. That said, De Bruyne is a next-level athlete in all phases of the game and this certainly won’t be a one-man job for Paulhinha — he’ll need help all around from his teammates.

Most likely to score a goal: Kevin De Bruyne. While Raheem Sterling completed a perfect hat-trick on Saturday against Norwich City, my pick here is sticking with a well-rested De Bruyne who didn’t even come off the bench that game. Expect him to step up when the game is on the line and produce, grabbing a goal and an assist in Lisbon.

Man of the Match pick: João Cancelo. Cancelo will play a large part in City containing Sporting on the offensive end while grabbing an assist with Kyle Walker serving a suspension during this match.

Match prediction: Manchester City 3, Sporting 0. Sporting can be a bit of a wild-card side but they won’t be able to keep up with a motivated Manchester City. With De Bruyne and Cancelo running the show, City will roll.

Inter Milan vs. Liverpool

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 16 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | TV: (CBS/Paramount+)
Odds: Inter Milan +235; Draw +265; Liverpool +109 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Featured Game | Inter Milan vs. Liverpool

One matchup to watch: Mohamed Salah vs. Alessandro Bastoni. If he is fit – and the pre-match signs are that he will be – this could be a great opportunity for Alessandro Bastoni to show the world why he is considered one of the most promising young Italian center backs. He will certainly be put through his paces, placed on the left of Simone Inzaghi’s back three, he will likely find Mohamed Salah driving straight at him. Even the best defenders in the world cannot be confident of stopping the Liverpool forward for a full 90 minutes, perhaps the best they can do is hope to make it more difficult for him and to force the Reds to explore other attacking channels. Equally, Salah against a defender who may not be fully fit? This could be tough.

Craving even more coverage of the world’s game? Listen below and follow ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.  

Most likely to score a goal: Edin Džeko. The Inter striker has a surprisingly impressive record against Liverpool and has scored in his last three meetings with the Reds, including both legs of the thrilling 2018 semifinal defeat for Roma. He is smart enough to know not to get involved in aerial duels with Virgil van Dijk and will instead be sniffing around for the poacher’s opportunities that Jurgen Klopp’s defense do give up.

Man of the Match pick: Thiago Alcântara. Thiago is just the sort of steadying influence Klopp will want in his midfield in the San Siro – Burnley may be a very different opponent to the champions of Italy, but the way he took the danger out of that contest augurs well for what might otherwise be a high-octane clash.

Match prediction: Inter Milan 1, Liverpool 2. This could be tight until late on, but watch for the strength in depth available to Liverpool to swing the tie off the bench. Whether it is Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota or anyone else, Inter could be overwhelmed late on.

RB Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 16 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | TV: (Paramount+)
Odds: Salzburg +900; Draw +470; Bayern Munich -340 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Featured Game | Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich

One matchup to watch: Karim Adeyemi vs. Bayern center backs. The 20-year-old German striker is in top form, having scored 14 goals in 18 games this season. Linked with a move to Dortmund, he needs to get used to facing Bayern, but it’s actually a club he’s quite familiar with. Not only is he from Munich, but he was a youth player at Bayern from 2010-12. Was he simply not good enough to stay with the club and work his way up? There is certainly some extra motivation to prove to otherwise.

Most likely to score a goal: Robert Lewandowski. It would be silly to pick anybody other than Lewandowski, right? The prolific Polish superstar, back-to-back FIFA Men’s Player of the Year, is just in incredible form. With 37 goals in 30 games this season, there’s been no stopping him. Consider that Bayern just suffered a shock lost to Bochum in the Bundesliga, I think Lewandowski gets at least a brace here to put the Bavarians on the brink of the quarterfinals.

Man of the Match pick: Robert Lewandowski. Considering I have Lewandowski scoring twice, he’s a no-brainer here. While Salzburg have quality, even the best defenses struggle with him. I expect him to be a constant threat in attack, especially in the air, and for him to have a massive night against a team that is simply overmatched. Don’t be shocked if comes from a hat trick.

Match prediction: Bayern 4, Salzburg 1. The Bavarians have way too much quality for this to be close, and they end the tie in the first leg with a three-goal advantage.

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