The Champions League group stage wrapped up final week with 16 of the event’s 32 groups bowing out of the competitors.
The remaining 16 — the highest two groups in every of the eight teams — will regroup in February to find out who will advance. Their path is easy: defeat one different staff in a two-legged playoff to make the following spherical.
On Monday, UEFA — the governing physique of European soccer — drew heaps to find out which groups would face one another on this knockout spherical. Every of the eight group winners was drawn towards one of many eight second-place finishers to create a collection of intriguing games for the Round of 16.
However whose draw was fortunate and whose was unlucky? And who may break via to shock everybody and advance towards the percentages?
The Premier League did properly within the Spherical of 16 draw — welcome information for anybody anxious about two of its 4 representatives crashing out within the opening matches.
Arsenal will tackle FC Porto, which is third within the Liga Portugal behind Benfica and Sporting Lisbon. Whereas Porto isn’t any pushover, the core of its squad is growing old, with 40-year-old Pepe main the protection and 31-year-old Mehdi Taremi main the entrance line.
If Arsenal can maintain Porto from scoring too many targets — it put 5 previous Ukrainian aspect Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday — it ought to win with out an excessive amount of problem.
Manchester Metropolis, in the meantime, acquired the most effective draw of the event: FC Copenhagen. The Danish aspect is taken into account the weakest staff by far left within the Champions League and isn’t any match for the treble-winning Residents. The one destructive about this draw for Metropolis is that it should journey to the chilly Nordics in February for the away leg.
Skeptics who swear Metropolis at all times will get the simplest staff of the lot is not going to be swayed by this draw.
Third in La Liga behind Actual Madrid and upstart challengers Girona, Barcelona is having a tough season. Sadly, this Champions League draw will not make it any simpler.
The Blaugrana should journey to Italy to tackle Napoli — final season’s swashbuckling Italian champion. Whereas Napoli has grown weaker since its huge win final summer season, it is nonetheless a large offensive menace, with Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia linking as much as present goal-scoring firepower.
Napoli is without doubt one of the hardest groups Barcelona may’ve drawn.
Informal followers might take a look at PSG versus Real Sociedad and see nothing however a transparent PSG victory, however longtime Champions League viewers know the true story. PSG has persistently underperformed within the knockout rounds since its big-money takeover final decade, and Spain’s Actual Sociedad — a real left-field challenger who stormed La Liga final season — has all the products to harm PSG.
Within the group stage, Sociedad completed first over robust groups Inter Milan and Benfica and did not lose a match.