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.
Antonio Conte’s Blues though, finished second in the Group C, behind eventual leaders AS Roma, following their 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid earlier this week.
The Blues dominated the proceedings against Diego Simeone’s men for large parts, but a defensive failing saw Saul Niguez head the ball into the net in the second period. They managed to restore parity courtesy of a Stefan Savic own goal purely instigated by the brilliance of Eden Hazard, but could not find the winner and had to make to do with just a single point, which left them second in the standings.
And with the draw for the next round right around the corner, let’s take a look at who could the Premier League title holders could get as their possible opponents;
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.
The rules of the draw make it pretty simple as to figure out who the Blues could be taking on in the next round. With fellow English clubs finishing as group leaders in four of the eight groups, Chelsea will not be eligible to draw any of those and the rules don’t allow them to face Roma again at this stage of the competition.
Worst Scenario – Barcelona or PSG
Antonio Conte sounded very confident about his team’s chances following their game against Atletico. Speaking in his post-match press conference, the Italian said:
“This is a fantastic competition, the best tournament and for this reason if you want to go through, if you want to be the main protagonist in this tournament then you must be ready to face every team.
“Our opponent won’t be happy to play against us. “
While that does exude great confidence, he will still be uncomfortable at the prospect of his side being drawn against either Barca or PSG, who are two of the most feared sides in Europe.
Chelsea might have fond memories of beating Barcelona in the semi-finals on their way to the Champions League triumph back in 2011/12, but Ernesto Valverde’s men haven’t been beaten since their Spanish Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid at the start of the season. Currently in fine form in the La Liga, where they have a five-point lead at the top, the Catalans will pose a huge threat to Chelsea’s quarter-final hopes.
Arguably an even more devastating force than Barcelona, thanks to their huge transfer outlay in the summer, PSG led by the free-scoring trio of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe could be a bigger danger for the Blues. Les Parisiens have just lost two games so far this season – one coming in the league against Strasbourg and the other in their final group game in Europe against Bayern Munich and they have been in rampant form this campaign and will take some serious stopping.
Best Scenario – Besiktas
It will not be easy to enter a packed Vodafone Arena, filled with the passionate and aggressive crowd and come away with the goods, but facing Besiktas in the next stage remains Chelsea’s best chance to achieve progression to the next round.
The Turkish giants topped their group, ahead of the likes of Porto, Monaco and RB Leipzig, but their league form hasn’t been at the topmost level and the West Londoners could prove to be a class above them if the two teams are drawn together.