The Knockout Phase Begins
With the group stage now firmly behind us, the pinnacle of European club football have reached the knockout phase for 2022 and with 16 teams still left in Champions League contention, their Road to Saint Petersburg has now become slightly shorter.
Kings Of Europe
With all four of this season’s representatives safely navigating through the group stage, it means the Premier League is well placed to put forward another winner of this legendary competition and with holders Chelsea making it through to the Round of 16, they will soon prepare to host Lille of France.
A pairing that could have been far more difficult for Chelsea and after only finishing second in Group H, Thomas Tuchel and his players will have been praying to avoid the biggest names in the next round.
Thankfully for the West London outfit, a bullet has seemingly been dodged and with Lille languishing within Ligue 1’s mid-table, this should you been a rather routine task for Chelsea to deal with.
While in terms of the Premier League’s other three representatives, it is arguably Liverpool who have been given the toughest draw of all and after earning six group stage wins out of six, their reward is a two-legged meeting with Inter Milan.
Of course, the Merseyside men have already been to the San Siro this season and after getting the better of AC Milan, Jurgen Klopp will now relish another trip to Italy – one that comes with much higher stakes than before.
Blue Or Red
Then again, it would be unfair just to focus on the two English clubs that have managed to conquer Europe in recent years and with both Liverpool and Chelsea each winning one of the last three finals, they will be the envy of their Manchester counterparts.
Especially when it comes to Manchester City and after failing at the final hurdle last season, manager Pep Guardiola is once again setting out to land the one prize that has alluded him for so long.
A prize that has always been the end game for the club’s Abu Dhabi owners and although domestic dominance continues to be the order of the day, conquering the continent has always been out of reach.
While if City are to make it to this year’s final, they will first need to get the better of Sporting Lisbon and although the runaway Premier League leaders will be heavy favourites to advance, they will not be able to simply overlook the Liga NOS outfit.
Making a quick switch to the red half of Manchester now and United have been paired against Atletico Madrid and if you thought Liverpool’s upcoming duel with Inter is going to be difficult, this one is going to be no easier.
Admittedly Atletico have stuttered both home and abroad this season and their defence of last season’s LaLiga crown is one that can be marked as non-existent. However, such is their European pedigree, that you can only write off Diego Simeone’s men at your peril.
But There’s More
With four ties not involving Premier League outfits, the pick of the bunch must surely be PSG going up against Real Madrid and with the former leading Ligue 1 at a canter, they like Manchester City, will now look to finally gain outright European supremacy.
Something that opponents Real Madrid have done 13 times previously and although the title race in Spain is a little tighter than in France, it is fair to say Los Blancos are much improved since the return of Carlo Ancelotti as manager.
Whether Real can make it 14 European Cup/Champions League trophies at the end of the season, remains to be seen and although they are not quite at the top of football’s heavyweight class these days, they will certainly give a PSG a stern test next month.
Two pairings that are perhaps the most intriguing are that of Villarreal and Juventus and Benfica and Ajax and with these ties having the ability to go either way, it could be a case of risk versus reward from a betting standpoint.
While the foregone conclusion looks like being Red Bull Salzburg going up against the might of Bayern Munich and although the Austrian Bundesliga giants will be playing host to the German cousins in the first leg, all signs point to an away win for Julian Nagelsmann’s all-star squad.