With the culmination of the group stages, the knockout draw is all that’s left to be completed in the UEFA Champions League for the year of 2016. The Hard Tackle analyses and lists out the potential match-ups we can expect in the round of 16.
While the advent of Christmas signals an upswing in the frequency of football matches in England, it marks a brief pause on the league proceedings across the rest of Europe and sadly enough in the UEFA Champions League as well.
However before the curtains are brought down on 2016 at the end of what has been an enthralling group stage in Europe’s elite competition, we are allowed to get a sneak peak into what to expect from 2017 with the draw for the knockout phase scheduled for Monday.
The Hard Tackle analyses and lists out potential match-ups that the fans could expect come February 2017. Before we proceed, here’s a look into how the respective groups finished at the end of Match Day 6 :
Group A – Arsenal (winners), Paris Saint-Germain (runners-up)
Group B – Napoli (winners), Benfica (runners-up)
Group C – Barcelona (winners), Manchester City (runners-up)
Group D – Atletico Madrid (winners), Bayern Munich (runners-up)
Group E – Monaco (winners), Bayer Leverkusen (runners-up)
Group F – Borussia Dortmund (winners), Real Madrid (runners-up)
Group G – Leicester City (winners), Porto (runners-up)
Group H – Juventus (winners), Sevilla (runners-up)
The group winners (seeded) will be placed in one pot, while the runners-up (unseeded) will be placed in another before the draw is made to form eight two-legged last 16 ties. Two teams from the same domestic league cannot draw each other during the round of 16 stage in the competition. Moreover the sides grouped together in the group stage cannot face each other until later on in the competition.
The Gunners have finished top of their group for the first time since 2011, and will be keen to carry that confidence forward to exercise a realistic chance of lifting the trophy for the first time in their history. However given how some of the other groups have transpired this time around, it is worth discussing whether Arsenal have done themselves any favour by winning their’s.
The North Londoners have often been criticized by their supporters for their inconsistent run of form during the group stages that often sees them finish second fiddle, before drawing one of the Bayerns and Barcelonasm whom they seem to be no match for over the course of two legs.
However finishing top this time around has still left them with a chances of facing Real Madrid and FC Bayern, as both the sides finished 2nd in their respective groups behind Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid respectively. Apart from the 11 time and 5 time winners, the Gunners are in with a chance of drawing the likes of Porto, Benfica, Sevilla and Bayer Leverkusen.
The Bavarians have been among the most consistent campaigners this decade and are always among the favourites to lift the Champions League crown. However things have kick-started on the back foot for them under new boss Carlo Ancellotti thus far.
The reigning Bundesliga champions are trailing newly promoted RB Leipzig domestically and finished behind last year’s finalists Atletico Madrid in their group in the Champions League.
This opens up the possibility of the Bavarians possibly lining up opposite FC Barcelona as early as the round of 16. Apart from the Blaugrana, Ancellotti’s side could be pitted against Leicester City, Juventus, Monaco, Napoli and usual suspects Arsenal.
The Germans have looked far from a side worthy of challenging for the Champions League and will need to up the ante of their performances, if they are to harbour dreams of lifting their first crown since Jupp Heynckes guided them to the treble back in 2013.
Die Schwarzgelben are breaking records for fun in the Champions League this time around, as they finished top of Group F beating Real Madrid, Legia Warsaw and Sporting CP. Thomas Tuchel’s German boys broke the record for the highest number of goals (21) scored during the group stage with Marco Reus’ equaliser at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Early on they were involved in the highest scoring match in the history of the competition, a 12-goal fracas against Legia Warsaw that ended 8-4 at the Signal Iduna Park. The winners of group F have earned themselves the possibility of facing the likes of Porto, Benfica, Manchester City, Paris Saint Germain and Sevilla, and they most certainly have the firepower to blow the aforementioned teams out of the water.
The La Liga champions endured some stumbling blocks along the way, but have emerged comfortably on top of the Group and look prepared to challenge for Europe’s biggest honour once again. Bayern Munich remain the biggest threat for Luis Enrique’s side who avoid bitter rivals Real Madrid among others like Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund by virtue of seeding and league quota.
That said, there remain a couple of potentially dodgy ties for the Blaugrana to be wary of. Paris Saint-Germain and Bayer Leverkusen could be testing fixtures, and so too could the Portuguese clubs FC Porto and Benfica.
Ideally, the Blaugrana should have little trouble trying to continue their streak of quarter-final appearances should they draw any team other than Bayern. But as we all know, stranger things have happened in the Champions League.
It’s been far from the ideal title defence for Leicester City in the Premier League but the Foxes seem to be flying high in the Champions League, making light weather of regular campaigners like FC Copenhagen, FC Porto and Club Brugge.
Their demoralizing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Porto on the final match day will serve Claudio Ranieri an adequate reminder that things aren’t going to get any easy for his side.
While they avoid Manchester City in the knockouts by virtue of being in the same league, they will still have to prepare themselves to face up against the likes of Paris Saint Germain, Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
The East Midlanders have experience of beating Portuguese opposition in Porto from early on in the competition and could certainly manage a tie against Benfica. The Primeira Liga leaders have shipped the highest number of goals among the qualifying sides and could be a side Leicester could look to exploit with the attacking quality they possess.
The Citizens have surpassed everybody’s expectations in recent years and apart from upstaging the big guns like Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, their semi-final appearance in the 2015-16 season proves testament to their growth within the Champions League fraternity.
This time around, having come through a testing group featuring Barcelona, Celtic and Borussia Monchengladbach, Manchester City have quite a few favourable ties despite finishing 2nd in their group.
Guardiola’s side will avoid Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid in the round of 16 and stand the chance of being drawn against the likes of Atletico, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Monaco and Juventus.
While the list most certainly doesn’t look as daunting as it can be for an unseeded outfit, the teams in question most certainly won’t prove to be pushovers. City will have their task cut out regardless of who they draw.
The defending champions have enjoyed a terrific start to the season, sitting nine points clear atop La Liga and still unbeaten in all competitions half way through the 2016-17 season. Their only cause for worry will be a second placed finish in the group stage of the Champions League, or will it?
While it would have been a good statement of intent to have upstaged a free-scoring Borussia Dortmund side in a testing group F, Los Blancos have alternatively done themselves a favour by finishing 2nd.
Their finish has rid them of the possibility of entertaining Bayern Munich in the next round, as well as big guns like FC Barcelona, Dortmund and Atletico. That leaves them with a relatively less daunting list of Monaco, Leicester City, Napoli, Arsenal and Juventus to draw from in the next round.