When the draws for the round of 16 ties of the UEFA Champions League were made on Monday, December 11, 2017, a number of games stood out from the drawn ties. Here are the pick of the bunch.
Having missed out qualification for last season’s UEFA Champions League, Manchester United’s reward for making it out of Group A as group winners is a tie against Vincenzo Montella’s Sevilla. The Manchester giants will have to raise their game after sailing through the group stage, as they will have to be wary of The Whites and Reds’ threat and capability to hurt teams as Liverpool found out in the group phase. Having made their name as Europa League kings, SFC are determined to establish themselves in Europe’s most prestigious competition and claiming a huge scalp will make people stand up and notice. The fact that they’ve never made it past the round of 16 is extra motivation. However, United are favourites and are expected to see it through.
With neither side having never met in the competition, this draw isn’t one they would’ve really fancied, Juventus especially. Last year’s beaten finalists have been eliminated in each of their last five knockout ties with English teams in Europe, and having seen how Tottenham raised their game for the Real Madrid doubleheader in the group stage, might have a bit of self-doubt. Spurs tend to play the big teams without fear and this is one thing to expect in this knockout tie. Another subplot to this one will be the tactical battle between Massimiliano Allegri and Mauricio Pochettino, which sets this up as one of the ties of the round.
Porto vs Liverpool
A meeting between the 2004 and 2005 winners of the competition go head-to-head and the tie certainly has a lot riding on it. For Porto, they haven’t made much of an impact in this competition since their unexpected win under Jose Mourinho and would be desperate to end a poor record in Europe (bar their Europa League win in 2011), that’s seen them make it past this stage only twice since 2005. For Liverpool, they themselves haven’t been setting this competition alight like they did in the last decade. In fact, this is their first appearance in the knockout stage in nine years. Both sides seemed to have a soft underbelly at times in the group stage and it’ll be interesting to see how they approach this tie. If their approach to the group stage is anything to go by, expect a flurry of goals.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side were the only English team to fail to top their group and they’ve been rewarded with a daunting tie with Barcelona. It sees both sides renew a long-standing rivalry in Europe after six years since their last meeting in 2012 when Chelsea won their maiden Champions League. To put things in perspective, the Blues and Barca have met 15 times in Europe and both sides have won five apiece with the remaining five ending in draws. Lionel Messi has played Chelsea eight times and has strangely never scored against them. However, with the English Champions’ recent malaise, you’ve got to fancy the Argentina international to break his duck this time around. Nevertheless, you never can rule out the Stamford Bridge club on European nights. Barcelona may be favourites, but they won’t be underestimating Conte’s side.
Real Madrid vs Paris-Saint Germain
Real Madrid’s pedigree vs. Paris-Saint Germain’s riches. The current player of the year vs. a contender to the crown. This first leg of this doubleheader may take place on February 14, but there would be no love lost once both sides cross the white line at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Undoubtedly the tie of the round, the current holders of the competition do battle with one of the top sides in the tournament. Real haven’t been at their best this season and a below-par group stage saw them end behind Tottenham, which has ultimately led to this tie. PSG, on the other hand, will want to show they’ve grown from last season when they collapsed against Barcelona in the Quarterfinals after winning the first leg in Paris. It’s definitely going to be a mouthwatering couple of games between the stumbling defending champions and the frightening Parisians.