With a number of shocking results and unbelievable comebacks in the Round of 16, this season’s Champions League is now wide open. But who exactly has an advantage after the recent draw?
Current title holders – Out! A club with a dream of winning the Champions League with a lot of money – Out! German Giants – Out!
Despite some of the biggest European clubs being knocked out of the competition, the Champions League is more open than ever with four English clubs and one each from Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. And all eight teams now know their road to Madrid. It’s not an easy one but some teams will be happier than other. So let us take a look at the winners and loser of the Champions League Draw:
With all due respect to Porto, Liverpool must be the happiest side after the draw. Not only did they avoid the clash against English sides but they are also safe from Ronaldo and Messi, at least for now. The Reds will face the Portuguese side in the quarter-final of the Champions League, with the first at the Anfield.
Porto will definitely not be a walk in the park for Liverpool, especially with former Real Madrid duo Iker Casillas and Pepe at the back. But Porto know their limits. And the side which recently beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena is certainly a step above them. Porto is also currently tied on points with Benfica in the Primeira Liga and are likely to focus on the league title race.
This draw is also likely to help Liverpool in the league title race as Manchester City will face a much difficult challenge in the form of Tottenham. But the Reds – They will fancy themselves to focus on the title race and qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions League at the same time, won’t they?
How time changes! Less than a month ago, it seemed like Juve’s decision to buy Ronaldo had not worked in their favor after a 0-2 to defeat against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Round of 16. And today, the Turin side is in the quarters, facing the side which knocked Ronaldo’s previous club out of the competition and they will be happy to face them at this stage.
Again, we all know what Ajax are capable of. They were unbeaten against Bayern in the group stage and embarrassed Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu and knocked the European Champions out of the competition for the first time in the last three years. The Dutch side is a great mixture of young and experience with the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt all set for stardom.
But they faced in-crisis Bayern and Real Madrid, when they did. They faced a defence nowhere near its glory days against both sides. But in the form of Juventus, Ajax will face one of the meanest defence in Europe and in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, they will face the best player in the history of the Champions League. And to pull off yet another miracle against Juventus, is a little too much to ask from this young and exciting but equally inexperienced Ajax side.
3. Football Fans:
This is already out there, BUT – the only way Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo can face each other in this year’s Champions League is in the final of the competition. And that is one hell of a news for football fans. Thanks to the newly introduced bracket system by UEFA, we now know which teams Juventus and Barcelona will face in the semi-finals, should they win their respective quarterfinal tie.
Juventus will face Ajax in last-eight and if they win that tie, the Turin-based club will go on to face the winner of Manchester City vs Tottenham in the semi-final. Barcelona will face Manchester United in the quarter-finals and if the Catalans can stop OGS’s wagon wheel, they will face either Liverpool or Porto in the semi-final.
Which means, despite not being in the same league anymore, we might get to see Messi vs Ronaldo, and this time on the grandest stage of them all. The last and the only time these two faced each other in the final of the Champions League was back in 2009, where Barcelona won the title, thanks to goals from Eto’o and Messi.
We know it is a long shot and there a number of strong contenders which can stop both Juve and Barca, but wouldn’t this be fun? Messi vs Ronaldo in the final of the Champions League! (Goosebumps!)
No club has had more ups and downs than the North Londoners in the ongoing season. Tottenham were almost knocked out of the Champions League group stage before they sealed the place in the knockouts in the last matchday. The Lilywhites then made it a three-horse race in the Premier League title before a poor run of games forced them to focus on top-four race instead.
And after a dominating 4-0 aggregate victory against Dortmund in the last round, it seemed like Spurs will be fighting with the big boys in the European competition. But they have now been drawn against Manchester City and if their recent meeting were anything to go by, Pep Guardiola seems to have found the perfect formula to beat Poch’s men.
Tottenham will face City thrice in the space of 11 days and the way City are playing right now, it is physically and mentally tiring to play against the Citizens even once, let alone thrice. Spurs were never favourite to win the Champions League this season anyway now it looks like they might not even make it to the semis. And if they somehow manage that, they will probably have Ronaldo’s Juventus waiting for them in the last four tie. Talk about bad luck!
2. Manchester United:
The mood in the red side of Manchester right now is much different than what it was a few months ago. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has brought his side back in the top-four race and they pulled an absolute miracle against PSG just a few days ago. But without taking anything away from OGS, Lukaku and Rashford, the Red Devils were lucky in Paris, to say the least.
Neymar and Cavani were injured and United were awarded a controversial penalty in the dying minutes to seal the tie. But against Barcelona, there will be no such thing. Lionel Messi is in the form of his life (when was he out of form, ever?) and more motivated than ever to win the Champions League. Suarez is far from finished and Barcelona’s defense is surprisingly very strong this season thanks to Pique and Ter Stegan.
OSG will have to pull of yet another miracle just the way he did back in 1999. But this time he will be in the dugout and his players will be facing a certain Leo Messi, who has scored more goals than anyone else in Europe this season. It’s a huge task for Manchester United and despite their recent results, the odds are heavily stacked against them for this one.
With four teams in the last eight, the Premier League is dominating this season’s Champions League. And given the fact that the last English side to win the European trophy was Chelsea in 2012, EPL fans desperately want at least one of the four clubs to deliver.
But will they? We have Manchester City vs Tottenham and the winner of that tie will face Juventus and especially, Ronaldo in the semi-final. That is one hell of a task to get past and into the final of the competition.
On the other side of the bracket, we have United facing Messi’s Barcelona and Liverpool vs Porto. And although Liverpool should have no problem against the Portuguese side, their semi-final opponents are likely to be the Catalan side. To make it simple for everyone, it looks like Ronaldo and Messi stand in the way of English teams reaching the final of the competition, let alone win it.
And not to forget, there are still eight games to go in the Premier League, with Manchester City and Liverpool fighting for the league title. Spurs and United are also involved in the top-four race with just 3-point difference and Arsenal between both the sides. So in the tightly packed schedule of the Premier League, can these teams afford to focus on the Champions League?
We’ll leave that up to you to answer but we think that EPL fans might have to wait another year for the European glory.