Liverpool – Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid – Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur – Borussia Dortmund highlight Champions League’s last 16 draw.
February 12 / March 6
Manchester United – PSG
– Since Manchester United and PSG don’t have a history of competitive matches of any meaning against each other in recent memory, this will be a very a curious encounter. Les Parisiens are just happy to have avoided some of the “big guns” for a change. Plenty can alter until February, but as things stands now, PSG are heavy favorites to progress, especially considering the second leg is due to be played at Parc des Princes. The Red Devils have what it takes to cause a surprise, but their coach’s reluctancy to attack could prove fatal against an offensively explosive adversary such as this one.
Roma – Porto
– Roma actually has a bone to pick with Porto, as the Portuguese outfit doomed the Italians to the Europa League in 2016 after eliminating them in the last CL qualifying round. Even though they finished second in the group, last season’s semi-finalsts are favorites in this duel. Porto had the luxury of playing in this season’s easiest group and came out of it unscathed, with five wins and a single draw. None of the teams they faced, though, had the firepower Roma does, so it’ll be a completely different challenge waiting for them in February. We’ll see which of these two teams will be able to take advantage of a rather lenient draw. A healthy and in-form Edin Dzeko will go a long way towards assuring progress for Giallorossi.
February 13 / March 5
Tottenham Hotspur – Borussia Dortmund
– Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund take on each other in what is a rematch of last season’s group stage, where The Spurs got the better of BVB twice on their way to finishing first. Borussia Dortmund is playing fantastic football under new head coach Lucien Favre. Placing ahead of Atletico Madrid is not a simple task and that’s exactly what his team did. As long as they maintain their current form and Marco Reus stays healthy, the Germans will be tough to knock out by anyone, and that includes Tottenham. It is definitely an interesting matchup and perhaps one of the most entertaining to watch in the last 16.
Ajax – Real Madrid
– Ajax missed a great opportunity to claim top spot in Group E. Their reward? A date with the back-to-back-to-back defending champions Real Madrid. This is not the Real Madrid everybody knows and fears, though. They weren’t at this point last season either and then everything turned around once the calendar flipped. The same might happen again, although Solari and Zidane are hardly at the same level. On paper, it seems as if Ajax should be the more worried side, but in reality, it is Los Blancos who should be very careful and prepared. If not, the Dutch are capable of pulling off an upset, as unlikely as it might seem at the moment.
February 19 / March 13
Lyon – Barcelona
– Tough luck for Lyon. They are a great side, but out of all the teams they could face, this is probably the least desired one. They managed to take advantage of Manchester City’s ineffectiveness in the group stage, but Barcelona is a whole different beast, especially in the knockout round. They’re a team on a mission this year, trying to make up for last season’s embarrassing exit to Roma while also trying to end their rival’s European reign. Sorry Lyon, but you’re probably out.
Liverpool – Bayern Munich
– Niko Kovac will not enjoy this matchup. His Bayern is playing much better now than it did at the beginning of the season, but a meeting with a former enemy who knows the Bundesliga (Bayern Munich in particular) far too well will not be cherished to say the least. This is definitely the one round of 16 clash that separates itself from all the others. These are two outfits capable and worthy of a semi-final spot each. One of them will have to go out. The fact that the second leg is played in Germany certainly helps the Bavarians. A good result for them at Anfield could be highly detrimental to Liverpool’s hopes of repeating last season’s success. We’ll see what happens by February, but at this time, this is a 50-50 tie.
February 20 / March 12
Schalke – Manchester City
– If Liverpool – Bayern Munich is a 50-50 tie, Manchester City – Schalke is by far the biggest mismatch. The Germans are here only because of having the luxury of playing in a weak group. Napoli, for example, are a much better team, but the nature of the Champions League ranking system cost them. Be it as it is, anything but a very convincing two-leg victory for The Citizens will be a huge upset.
Atletico Madrid – Juventus
– This is not the draw Juventus wanted for sure. Atletico Madrid are one of very few teams who have the coach, the experience and the know-how to stop Cristiano Ronaldo. Allegri will have to devise a plan to break Atletico’s barrier while at the same being extra careful not to concede, as that could be deadly against Simeone’s team. The home advantage could be crucial here, as any deficit could be made up for with the help of an electrifying atmosphere at Juve’s Allianz Stadium. It will undoubtedly be a chess match in which the loser will not deserve to lose. Diego Simeone has swallowed plenty of sour pills since becoming Atletico’s coach. This has all the makings of yet another one.