Now that the group stages of the UEFA Champions League are done and dusted with, the draws for the Round-of-16 will take centre stage.
Having been on the receiving end of a lot of ire from the fraternity for their non-show in European competitions, all the five English clubs have made it through to the next round of the competition. Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have all made it through to the knock-out stages, with the latter four clubs doing so as group winners.
United were off to a flier on their return to Europe’s premier event and had maintained a perfect record until matchday five when they were beaten 1-0 by Basel. But, they sealed the top spot in Group A with a 2-1 comeback win over CSKA Moscow, courtesy of quickfire goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford.
With the draw for the next round almost upon us, let’s take a look at who Jose Mourinho’s men could be lining up against;
When Is the Draw?
The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on 11 December at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The first legs will be played on 13, 14, 20 and 21 February, with the return legs set to be played on 6, 7, 13 and 14 March 2018.
Rules of the Draw
In the draw for the Round of 16 matches, the teams that finish at the top in all the eight groups are seeded, while the second-placed teams are not seeded. The seeded teams will be drawn against the unseeded teams, with the seeded teams scheduled to play the second leg of the tie at home.
However, teams from the same groups cannot face each other, while teams from the same country cannot take on one another either. However, these rules will not be applicable to the quarter-final stages and onwards.
Who Could Chelsea Face?
Pot 1: Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma, Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester City, Besiktas, Tottenham Hotspur.
Pot 2: Basel, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto, Real Madrid.
Having finished top of their group, United will play teams from Pot 2, teams that are not English and not from their group. That means they have a chance of facing up against three champion sides in Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid, along with Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto and Sevilla.
Worst Scenario – Bayern Munich/ Real Madrid/ Juventus
Bayern Munich may have finished second in their group, owing to some early falters under Carlo Ancelotti, but have found their groove since Jupp Heynckes took over the reins and their convincing win over Paris Saint-Germain in the final group game should be an indicator as to what any side facing them will be up against. Moreover, it was Die Roten who dumped United out of the competition back in 2013/14 season at the quarter-final stages.
A meeting with Jose’s former side Real Madrid is also very much on the cards for United. The Galacticos haven’t been at their best this season, but still remain the ultimate force to be reckoned with when it comes to the Champions League. And former United man Cristiano Ronaldo’s ominous form in Europe, despite his struggles in domestic competitions will be a reason for much worry for the Red Devils, should they be drawn up against Madrid.
Arguably, the better of the worst-case scenario for United would be a tie against Italian champions Juventus. The Bianconeri have been struggling to live up to their high standards this season and have been surprisingly vulnerable at the back, while the likes of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain haven’t been firing either. However, it still won’t be easy for United to beat Max Allegri’s side by any means.
Best Scenario – Porto
Another former Jose team that United could face off against in the Champions League round of 16 stages, a clash against Porto will be the Red Devils’ best possible opportunity to progress to the next stages. While they me topping the league table in Portugal, the gulf of class between the quality of players could be a telling factor.
A tie against either Sevilla or Shakhtar Donetsk might not exactly be the worst either, but could prove to be a potential banana skin for the twenty-time English champions. As was seen this season, Sevilla put up a more than formidable fight against Liverpool and showed they can match up to the best. And Shakhtar’s win over Manchester City, albeit a much-changed side, on the final day matchday will serve as a warning as to what to expect from the Ukrainians.