Tontrends takes a look at those who will be feeling positive after the draw for the first knockout round, and those who have cause for concern
The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League was made in Nyon on Monday. And, as ever, it has thrown up some intriguing, and mouth-watering, ties.
Who will be dancing with delight? Who will be crying into their beers? And whose fans are already looking forward to their next European adventure?
Winners: Fans of underdog stories
There will be at least one unfancied side in the last eight after Atalanta, last-16 debutants, were drawn against Valencia. In a year when all of the teams in the knockout stage come from Europe’s top five leagues, this is about as close to an underdog tale as you’ll get.
Valencia, eighth in La Liga at present, won a group which included Chelsea so will fancy their chances against Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, who nonetheless showed enough against Manchester City to suggest that they will provide some danger. Either way, we will see a relatively new face in the quarter-finals.
Winners: The broadcasters
The TV companies will be laughing. Take your pick from the plum ties. Real Madrid versus Manchester City is the standout, but Atletico Madrid versus Liverpool, Chelsea versus Bayern and Borussia Dortmund versus PSG all look mouth-watering too. Even Spurs versus RB Leipzig, while not a clash between two traditional European powerhouses, will be an intriguing contest between two talented, energetic sides.
Reports recently have suggested that viewing figures for Champions League games, across the globe, have been falling. This should give them a welcome shot in the arm. Armchair fans are in for a treat in the New Year.
Winners: Jose Mourinho and Spurs
Coming second in the group, Tottenham could have found themselves facing the likes of PSG, Juventus or Barcelona. Instead, they drew Leipzig, relative newcomers to the European scene. The Bundesliga outfit are a handy side, of course, and in Timo Werner they have one of Europe’s hottest, and most wanted, strikers. Julian Nagelsmann’s men are no mugs, that’s for sure.
But if Jose Mourinho had been asked, he’d have taken this draw. He’ll certainly be confident of getting last year’s finalists into the last eight. And we know all about Jose and this competition, especially when he’s seen as an underdog.
Loser: Pep Guardiola
There is a common theory that Manchester City get the rub of the green when it comes to cup draws. A group including Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb and Atalanta seemed to feed into that narrative. Well, they got their payback with the last 16. Pep Guardiola, we know, would dearly love to clinch a third Champions League crown as manager, but he’ll have to beat the competition’s most successful club if he is to do so.
Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane stand in City’s way, the 13-times champions having finished second to PSG in their group. City have never been beyond the semi-finals in the competition, and have reached that stage only once, in 2016 when Manuel Pellegrini was in charge. And guess who beat them that time?
Loser: Thomas Tuchel
Another manager desperate for some continental success is Thomas Tuchel at PSG. The German knows that cruising to the Ligue 1 title each year is not going to convince the world of his credentials, and given the amount of money that has been spent at Parc des Princes in recent years, the expectation is that PSG will find a way to challenge for Europe’s top prize.
Disappointing, then, for Tuchel to find he will be returning to his old club Borussia Dortmund, where he will face one of the continent’s most intimidating atmospheres. Tuchel won a German Cup with Dortmund in 2017, but can expect no favours from Lucien Favre and his team. It looks a pretty even contest at first glance.
Losers: Chelsea’s defence
When you struggle to keep clean sheets, the idea of facing Europe’s deadliest No.9 is not really one you’d like to entertain. But Chelsea will do just that, after they were drawn against Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich. The Pole has been simply remarkable this season, with 33 goals in 29 games for club and country – including 10 in the group phase. Lewandowski’s record in the knockout stages has been the source of some debate in recent seasons, with critics suggesting the 31-year-old fails to replicate his form in the biggest of games.
Given Chelsea’s woes at the back of late – only three clean sheets in 17 league games, and one in six in the Champions League – he’ll have the chance to prove a few doubters wrong.