The Champions League draw did not go as planned after there was a mistake with choosing the teams. This lead UEFA to be forced to set a re-draw at a later time. The re-draw was held a couple of hours after the first one and the thing that can be said is that the Champions League re-draw brought about some intriguing ties.
Champions League Re-Draw Action
Chelsea (England) vs Lille (France)
Current title holders Chelsea are set to face Ligue 1 champions Lille. The amazing thing is, Chelsea and Lille were drawn together twice in the draw. Chelsea finished second to Juventus in group H which was seen as a problem for Chelsea as they could face tough teams. However, they were lucky as they got Lille when their other possible opponents could have been Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Ajax.
Lille may seem the weakest group leader however they have players with high quality and experience which can pull a surprise against Chelsea. The recent form of Lille in the current season is not that good and it is somewhat horrible looking to the fact they won the league last season but now sit 11th in Ligue 1 with only 25 points out of a possible 54. Lille’s defence this season has been struggling having conceded 24 goals. Their Champions League group stage campaign was not that impressive either considering the fact they had an easy group on paper.
Chelsea have now welcomed Romelu Lukaku back after missing out in many games due to injury. Thomas Tuchel needs to take the following two months to help Lukaku settle in the team in terms of tactics and instructions. As for the defence, although conceding six goals in the last two games is some cause for concern, it has been in general solid.
Bayern Munich (Germany) vs Salzburg (Austria)
Not much can be said about this game. Bayern Munich probably got the easiest team out of the draw. Salzburg on the other hand got the team that no one really wants to face. The large score margins they achieved against big teams just shows how strong this team is. Salzburg have already made a great achievement by reaching this round as they became the first ever Austrian team to do so meaning they have nothing to lose in this game. If they beat Bayern they make history. If they lose then no one will blame them.
Inter Milan (Italy) vs Liverpool (England)
Inter and Liverpool have both had great seasons so far with Inter first in Serie A while Liverpool sit one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League. Although the upper hand might seem to go to Liverpool, the English side have suffered some defensive issues since the start of the season and the return of Virgil Van Dijk hasn’t been the best. In addition, the injuries Liverpool have suffered in several matches this season are a cause for concern and some of the substitute players are not as good as the starting 11 but their record breaking group stage performances still make Liverpool one of the favourites for the trophy this season.
As for Inter, this is the perfect chance to show their fans that they have improved and can put up a serious fight to become Champions League winners. After finishing fourth last season Inter have been able to give a better performance in the Champions League and that has led to them to being just a few steps away from glory.
Manchester City (England) vs Sporting (Portugal)
Sporting have shown a different face when playing in this years Champions League and produced an amazing result against Borussia Dortmund when they won 3-1 helping them to a second place finish whist Dortmund finished 3rd. Their Champions League top scorer is the twenty-three-year-old Portuguese international Pedro Gonclaves who scored four and assisted two in four games in the tournament so far. Add to that, his four goals and two assists in the Portuguese league that lead the team to sit in second place until now and Sporting have a player in good form. The squad Sporting has has the ability to surprise Pep Guardiola’s side but he will need to be careful not to overthink tactics which has led to mistakes and crashing out to Monaco and Lyon in 2017 and 2020 respectively.
Manchester United (England) vs Atletico Madrid (Spain)
Diego Simeone’s nightmare is back as Cristiano Ronaldo once again goes face to face with Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. The history between those two clearly show just how much of a trouble Ronaldo is when playing Atletico Madrid. A victory over him in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League final, the hat-trick Ronaldo scored in the 2017 Champions League semi-final and finally the “remontada” when Ronaldo lead Juventus to a 3-0 victory after scoring a hat-trick making it 3-2 on aggregate.
Two months ago, looking at this game would seem that Atletico could ease through Manchester United but following the appointment of Ralf Rangnick, Manchester United have started to look more organised although had to rely on the heroics of David de Gea to hold onto three points against Norwich City on December 11th. Manchester United’s attack can be lethal with Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes up top although that has yet to be seen in full flow on a consistent basis this season and with Atletico’s defence being less than assured, that attack may get the chance to run riot.
Ajax (Netherlands) vs Benfica (Portugal)
Probably the least entertaining match in this round. However, this game has two underdogs of this tournament. Starting with Ajax, the dutch team managed to pull out a great performance in the group stages after winning all games and scoring 20 goals. The attacking football Ten Haag is producing is just phenomenal. This Ajax form is similar to their 2019 run but with less quality players. As for Benfica, they managed to finish second ahead of Barcelona. The Portuguese giants managed to take four points from their games against Barcelona which ended 3-0 and 0-0.
Benfica vs Ajax would most probably mean seeing another underdog pulling out more surprises in the Champions League. This match would boost both teams morale if they win and give them confidence to impress the world and marketing their young players. This is an opportunity for both teams to showcase their youngsters and increase their transfer value.
Juventus (Italy) vs Villareal (Spain)
In normal cases, Juventus would ease through Villareal. However, with their current form, defeating the Europa League title holders would not seem that easy. Juventus are sitting in 6th place in the Serie A with only 28 points. Their current form has been up and down constantly and they have not really impressed any one. As for Villareal their season is ticking along well managing to finish second ahead of Atalanta in the group stages. They had impressive performances against group leader Manchester United where, despite them losing, they produced some great football.
This will be a tough game for both teams but both have plenty of time to prepare and much can happen between now and February 2022.
Paris-Saint-Germain (France) vs Real Madrid (Spain)
Two giants of modern European football will face off in the greatest club competition there is. In the past five years PSG have had their eyes set on the Champions League and their continued high spending has all been about winning this elite competition. Recently they gathered the “dream team” with Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos arriving in a squad already containing Kyllian Mbappe and Neymar.
Real Madrid are in their best form for some time with wins becoming a welcome habit for the Spanish giants. Clean sheets here and there, and most importantly the phenomenal form that both Karim Benzeman and Vinicius Junior are having are all helping Madrid fire on all fronts. Their strong attack and solid defence currently sees them sit on top of La Liga with a comfortable lead of eight points over Sevilla. Madrid’s form has seen several people put them as number one contenders for the Champions League in 2021/22 but this a tie of superstars and anything is possible.
PSG have not impressed a lot of people with their current performances looking at the names they have. They are top of Ligue 1 but performances have at times been lacklustre although that has started to change in the past few games. Mauricio Pochettino’s position as manager is constantly being discussed whether it be talk of being sacked or a move back to the Premier League but he remains focused on the task in hand.
Real Madrid vs PSG is the showcase of this round especially with Ramos now playing for PSG and Lionel Messi once again facing Madrid but now with a different club.
Too Early To Judge The Teams
The round of 16 is set to played in February, around two months from now meaning that the teams could change after the winter transfer window. In addition much could also change in terms of form but one thing is certain that there will be some intriguing games and results to come when the Champions League returns in February.