The Champions League group stages came and went, with a few surprises along the way, and we now have our round of 16 competitors paired up in their respective fixtures:
- Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur
- Port v Liverpool
- FC Basel v Manchester City
- Real Madrid v Paris St Germain
- Bayern Munich v Beşiktaş
- Chelsea v Barcelona
- Sevilla v Manchester United
- Shakhtar Dontesk v Roma
The fixtures will be played over two legs, with the first happening in early February, and the second in March.
The most intriguing of the eight ties is the contest between title defenders Real Madrid and aspirants Paris St Germain. PSG recently acquired the services of Brazilian phenomenon Neymar and French youngster Kylian Mbappe – both of whom were brought in to secure the Parisian giants their first Champions League title. Coming up against European royalty and the defending champions in Real Madrid will truly test PSG’s credentials, but on the other hand, the encounter offers a healthy challenge to Los Blancos too. Real have had a difficult time in the league, and came second in their group to Spurs, so PSG may feel confident in their ability to get past their opponents.
The second tie that will have some extra drama is the meeting between Chelsea and Barcelona, two teams who have had some fiery encounters in Europe stretching back to Pep Guardiola’s first few seasons with Barca. There’s been bad-blood between the two sides since Barcelona had several decisions go there way and further stole victory in injury-time back in 2009 – so the Blues will be beyond motivated to bring an old enemy down a few pegs.
The rest of the English contingent escaped with relatively forgiving fixtures, apart from Spurs who will have to navigate a tough tie against Juventus – who featured in a final in 2015 and are unlikely to be easy opponents.
Before we get to European action again, we’ve got the extremely busy Premier League holiday period to look forward to, though, and it may end up hurting some of the English sides as the fatigue builds up before their Champions League matches.