The Champions League draw is out and it is no surprise that the whole footballing world is dissecting the draw and looking at potential individual match ups that can swing the tie in their side’s favour. There are a number of great ties in the draw, arguably the best in recent years. Here are our takes on the draw:
Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur:
Spurs could not have wished for a worse draw after doing excellently in the group stages to finish first. Juventus are definitely worse off than last season but will probably be too much to handle for Spurs. But do not count Spurs out just yet. Pochettino is a great tactician and has instilled excellent defensive solidity in this Spurs side, as evident from their performances over Real Madrid in the group stages. Juventus are definitely favourites in this tie due to their long standing experience in the competition. But make no mistake that Allegri will not be entirely be happy with this match up as Spurs are a well drilled side and this tie makes a great case for the best match up of the Round of 16 draw, along with PSG Real Madrid.
Basel v Manchester City:
Pep Guardiola would be massively happy with this draw as Basel will find it hard to make a case for themselves against the in-form table toppers from England. While the match is not until February, by the looks of it now, City will find it comfortable to look off the Swiss side. The one thing that can offer some sort of respite for Basel is that they have an excellent record against English side at home, with a win over Manchester United earlier in the group stages at home this season. Their performance in the first leg will be crucial as to how the tie pans out. If they can, and this is a massive if, restrict City to not scoring an away goal then they can have a say in the second leg. The chances look bleak however for Raphael Wicky’s men.
Porto v Liverpool:
Another tie that looks favourable on paper for an English side as Jurgen Klopp’s men travel to Porto for their first leg tie in the Round of 16. Porto are not to be taken lightly as they have conceded just a measly 5 goals in 14 league games so far in the Liga NOS and are top of the table, tied on points with Sporting. They will need that defense to be on top of their game as Liverpool are in red hot form in attack. Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane will be crucial for the Reds with their pace up front. Sergio Conceicao will have his hands full in dealing with this tough tie and this promises to be a great match-up if Liverpool are to continue with their defensive naivety.
Sevilla v Manchester United:
A first competitive match-up between the two sides, as United avoid potentially tougher clashes in the form of Bayern or Real Madrid in the next round. Sevilla are a tricky customer on their day and contribute to the uncertain nature of the match-up, casting doubts as to how the tie might pan out. United are favourites and Jose Mourinho would be comfortable in dealing with Sevilla. United’s firepower up front will probably be too much to handle for Sevilla. With no injuries to key personnel, United will probably be confident in seeing off Sevilla, although a trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is no cakewalk whatsoever.
Real Madrid v Paris Saint Germain:
THE tie of the draw with two of the biggest clubs in the world facing off each other. PSG look to be a different animal this season with the acquisitions of Neymar and Mbappe, but two time defending champions up their game in the Champions League. Madrid’s tactical flexibility against the ‘big’ opposition is a game changer for Madrid and anyone thinking that PSG are favorites for the draw are stretching it a bit too far, in our opinion. Indifferent form or not, Madrid are not to be taken lightly, especially in the Champions League with Ronaldo and co featuring. The midfield is where the game will be won, although PSG arguably have the better front line, and this is where Madrid are distinctly better off than PSG. This promises to be a blockbuster and the whole world will be watching. PSG have it in their hands to ensure whether or not they are to be taken seriously with their astronomical spending and there is no better way to do that than beat the defending champions.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma:
Both the teams will probably be happy drawing each other. We suspect an upset is on the offering here if favourites are anything to go by looking on paper. Paulo Fonseca’s men play top drawer football and backed it up with great wins over Manchester City and Napoli in the group stages. While both Guardiola and Sarri are being praised for their versions of Positional Play, Shakhtar are no slouches themselves and took the game to both the sides in the group stages. Roma themselves have done fantastically well to come out on top in a group featuring both Chelsea and Atletico. Eusebio di Francesco has been doing a great job as well at Rome and this match promises to be an excellent match, with both entertainment and tactical value on offer.
Chelsea v Barcelona:
Chelsea and Barcelona have met multiple times over the years in the Champions League and this tie will be no different. Antonio Conte is a manager you would not want to face over two legs while this can also be said about Ernesto Valverde, a pragmatist of a certain degree himself. Barcelona have become extremely difficult to beat this season and are unbeaten at the time of writing. Chelsea will need Eden Hazard to come up with the goods and everything will depend on whether or not they concede a goal at the Bridge in the first leg. Again, a top drawer match-up with both teams having drawn blood over the other, down the years. A tactical battle is on for sure.
Bayern Munich v Besiktas:
Besiktas have been fantastic this season in Europe, with their shrewd buys over the summer transfer window. Pepe has been a revelation at the back for the Turkish giants and they will need him to be on top of his game against the German side, his experience coming in handy here. Jupp Heynckes will probably take this tie over the others but it is never easy to go to Turkey needing a win. Bayern will look to gain the upper hand in the Allianz Arena and ensure that not much is left to be done when they travel away for the second leg. Heynckes has Bayern playing like a top class side again with their win over PSG last week proving this. Bayern are looking like the team that was formidable in Europe under Heynckes when they won the treble in 2013 and are definitely favourites for this tie.
The draw offers so many interesting tactical duels and promises to be one of the best Champions League knockout stages in recent years. Only time will tell how the matches pan out!