Appetising ties in UCL last-16
The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 draw was held Monday at the European House of Football in Nyon, Switzerland, producing some enticing ties in the first knockout round of the competition.
Following a most exhilarating group stage, the 2022/23 European campaign now moves forth onto the knockout phase commencing in February. As the road to Istanbul heats up, clubs have now found out who they will meet in the UCL last-16.
Despite the six-part group stage being condensed into just nine weeks to accommodate the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the action has by no means disappointed.
Across the 96 group matches there was a total 304 goals (an average of more than three goals per game), four fewer than the all-time record for goals in the group phase. In match-week 5 alone, 59 goals were scored – the joint-third highest tally in a single week throughout UCL history.
Bayern emerged from the groups unscathed, collecting a maximum 18 points. The Bavarians are the first club to achieve this feat for a third time, having won all six games thrice in the last four seasons. Bayern are unbeaten in 34 Champions League group stage matches and they have reached the knockouts in each of the last 15 seasons.
Let's look into the eight clashes drawn in the Champions League Round of 16:
- RB Leipzig vs Manchester City
The Premier League reigning champions avoided the substantial heavyweights and were paired with German side RB Leipzig. The teams met last season in the group stage as Man City shipped six goals past the Bundesliga outfit at the Etihad stadium. Despite Leipzig's recent resurgence under new manager Marco Rose, the mighty unit of Pep Guardiola's should ultimately prove too powerful for the Red Bull franchise.
Guardiola and his world-class team are hunting an elusive Champions League crown, having fallen short numerous times in recent years. Man City are the odds-on favourite (2.62) to claim UCL glory, with next-favourite Bayern Munich at 8.00.
RB Leipzig are 5.00 to cause an upset and dump the Citizens out of Europe; Man City are 1.66 to win.
- Club Brugge vs Benfica After nine exits from the group stage, including in each of the past four seasons, Belgian side Brugge have finally progressed to the knockouts where they will meet Benfica. The men from Portugal topped Group H ahead of a rampant Paris St-Germain and they are unbeaten domestically, winning 11 of their 12 matches in the Primeira Liga.
Brugge kept clean sheets in all of their opening four encounters in Group B, before conceding four in their penultimate match-up with Porto. For Benfica, midfielders Joao Mario and Rafa Silva have both found the net four times this UCL season.
Despite not being a headline encounter, these teams still have the potential to produce a couple explosive match-ups when they come together in February and March.
- Liverpool vs Real Madrid
With Benfica already drawn, Liverpool were left with only three possible opponents: Bayern Munich, Benfica, and Real Madrid. The Reds were paired with holders Real, and Jurgen Klopp will be on a revenge mission after overseeing his side fall agonisingly short against Los Blancos in the UCL final last time out in France.
Liverpool and Real have won a combined 20 European Cups and in the last five years they have twice met in the Champions League final. Now only of these European juggernauts will reach the quarter-finals.
Following the draw, Liverpool were 2.00 to beat Real Madrid; the Spanish giants were 3.50 to win.
- AC Milan vs Tottenham Antonio Conte is braced for a trip to his homeland with his side are drawn to face Italian champions AC Milan. Spurs scraped through Group D as group winners while the Rossoneri came runners-up in Group E. These teams last shared a pitch at this same stage in the 2010/11 season, when Spurs triumphed 1-0 on aggregate.
AC Milan 2.45
- Eintracht Frankfurt vs Napoli In their maiden season in Europe's primary club competition, Eintracht Frankfurt have advanced beyond the groups and into the knockouts. Die Adler have it all to do as they are to come up against high-flying Napoli. These teams last met in the last-16 of the 1994/95 UEFA Cup (precursor to the Europa League).
Eintracht Frankurt 3.10
- Borussia Dortmund vs Chelsea Dortmund and Chelsea are to come together for a maiden on-field rendezvous. The men in yellow and black came runners-up to group winners Man City. Teenage sensation Jude Bellingham will be on display in plain sight of one of the prospective suitors interested in purchasing the England international in 2023.
The last time Chelsea changed managers mid-season the Blues tasted Champions League success with Thomas Tuchel. Less than two years later Tuchel is gone and Graham Potter is in charge at Stamford Bridge, under new owners.
Borussia Dortmund 2.75 Chelsea 2.40
- Inter Milan vs Porto There is also a battle between two clubs synonymous with two-time Champions League-winning coach Jose Mourinho. Neither club has reached the pinnacle of European football since the ingenious Portuguese coach worked his magic.
Present day the Portuguese champions topped their group with 12 points meanwhile the Nerazzurri did well to outwit Barcelona over 180 minutes and progress to the last-16. Inter and Porto met at this stage of the competition in 2004/05, and the following season they were grouped together.
Inter Milan 2.00 Porto 3.60
- Paris St-Germain vs Bayern Munich
These European heavyweights have met 13 times in the Champions League, most significantly in the final in 2020 when Bayern edged the Parisians to hoist a sixth European crown. The teams also met the following season in the quarter-finals, as PSG advance via away goals.
Both teams are reigning champions in their respective leagues and this tie is certain to be a Clash of the Titans! With a free-scoring forward line of superstars in Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappé, PSG will be eager to overcome their German counterparts.
Bayern Munich 2.80
Liverpool ace Mohamed Salah is the joint-highest scorer in the competition this season, tied with Mbappé on seven goals. The 23-year-old Frenchman recently netted his 40th goal in the Champions League, becoming the youngest player to reach this milestone. Erling Haaland (Man City) and Mehdi Taremi (Porto) have scored five goals apiece in Europe this term.
The Round of 16 takes place from February 14/15 and 21/22, with the return legs on March 7/8 and 14/15.