UEFA Champions League draw – thoughts
Manchester City vs AS Monaco
I don’t see there being any great surprises with this one. AS Monaco have improved a lot over the past couple of years, but they’re not really near Manchester City’s level right now. They’ve got some players that are capable of hurting Manchester City, particularly if Manchester City are as suspect defensively as they were in the first part of the season. However, based on the quality within each squad, you have to feel that Manchester City will be the ones to progress here.
Real Madrid vs SSC Napoli
I am truly delighted by this tie! I am looking forward to it more than any of the others, because it’ll be fascinating. Traditionally, Italian teams cause Spanish teams a lot of problems, and although I wouldn’t say that SSC Napoli play an Italian style of football, I do think that they’re good enough to cause Real Madrid problems in this two-legged affair. SSC Napoli are 100% confident in their ability to win each game, and they’ve backed it up by winning the vast majority of their matches. They’re quick, comfortable on the ball, and specialise in breaking through teams. I think that Real Madrid have rode their luck in Europe this season, so this will be a really interesting test for Zidane and co. Real Madrid are better on paper, but I think SSC Napoli are better with their cohesion and consistency. Logically, you have to feel that Real Madrid will progress from this tie, but I wouldn’t bank on it – SSC Napoli are a very hard side to handle, and if they were to knock the reigning champions out, I would not be surprised.
SL Benfica vs Bv09 Borussia Dortmund
This is the kind of tie that looks good on paper, but will most likely to fail to deliver because both of these teams are only good in certain circumstances. SL Benfica were a little fortuitous to make it out of their UEFA Champions League group, and like all Portuguese teams this season, they’ve looked out of their depth in Europe. Bv09 Borussia Dortmund are overrated by just about everybody, in my experience – they only seem to do well against teams that don’t sit too deep for them to run in behind. If they’re “bunkered”, then Dortmund are largely ineffectual. I don’t see SL Benfica being good enough defensively to shut Dortmund down, but I don’t see them running into the lion’s den with every man they’ve got, either. Dortmund have the better squad, but there’s not much in it. Neither team are much good defensively, and only Dortmund seem relatively competent in Europe when it comes to attacking, although I still don’t think they were particularly good when locking horns with SL Benfica’s neighbours Sporting Clube de Portugal earlier in the competition. I have my fingers crossed that these two sides will go at one another to produce a terrific couple of games, but I have serious doubts over that occurring. One final point – SL Benfica tend to play better as underdogs than they do as favourites. Dortmund should progress here, but it’s a bit of a lottery.
Bayern Munich vs Arsenal
Poor Arsenal, eh? Another tie with Bayern Munich looms for them, and I expect the same outcome, to be honest. Arsenal do have good players, and their style always gives them a shot of beating top European teams, but they always seem to bottle it. I think it’s logical to lose games against top European teams for the most part, but I refuse to accept that Arsenal have done so as consistently as they have over the years with the players that they’ve had at their disposal. It’s mental frailty that costs them in every major competition they compete in, and it’s what is likely to be the nail in their coffin here, particularly against an Ancelotti team. Bayern Munich are ruthlessly efficient, and are littered with match-winners, so I find it very likely that the Bundesliga champions will progress here.
FC Porto vs Juventus
I’ve seldom been in a position whereby I consider FC Porto to be an “easy” opponent, but that’s where I am at right now. FC Porto have been incredibly disappointing over the past couple of years, and I think that they were lucky to be placed in an easy group this season. Now they’re facing one of the teams that can realistically try to win the UEFA Champions League, and to say that I don’t fancy their chances would be a huge understatement. At the Dragao, they’re always hard to beat, but I can’t see what they’re going to do to upset Juventus over two legs. Juventus are organised, experienced, and have a huge squad packed full of match-winners. I cannot see beyond Juventus progressing with some ease here.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs Atletico Madrid
This tie alone is already making me yawn, and it’s not even started! It’s at this stage of each tournament where Simeone’s boys shut up shop defensively, and focus on not conceding any goals whatsoever. Scoring goals can happen, but their aim is to not concede. If Bayer 04 Leverkusen are as ineffectual in this game as they have been for their current campaign, then they’ve no chance of scoring a goal. Leverkusen were created to be good domestically, not good in Europe – and it shows. Atletico Madrid know their defence can hold, and that they’re more likely to take their chances than their opponents are, so I expect two horribly dour and boring games that Atletico Madrid will find a way to win. No offence to Atletico Madrid, incidentally – I am always in complete awe of their efficiency and consistency; they’re just not very interesting to watch, generally speaking.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona CF
I wonder if this is the year when PSG will get the better of Barcelona CF? It’s not that I think that PSG are especially good, per se, but more that Luis Enrique is running Barcelona into the ground, and they look worse for it. They’ve got a frighteningly good attack, Barcelona, but aside from that, they’ve looked rather average. Handle Iniesta and Messi, and you won’t recognise Barcelona after that. Can PSG do that? Theoretically, yes. I think that this competition will be Emery’s focus because PSG are likely to win Ligue 1 whether they continue to play inconsistently or not. Emery has bags of experience of managing in Europe, and he’s managed against Barcelona many times before. PSG have the match-winners at their disposal to get one over on Barcelona here. I’m not bold enough to say that the French champions will do so, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they managed it, particularly with Barcelona having demonstrated a number of underwhelming displays in the current campaign. I hope that there will be interesting games between the two teams, but I have my reservations about that, as they’re likely to fear one another.
Sevilla CF vs Leicester City
Massacre. Leicester City did really well to make it this far, but let’s face it; they were placed in a group that they should have qualified from, so doing so should not be heralded as anything special. They’ve got a few good players, but not enough to handle a well-drilled and talented Sevilla CF. Their attacking pace may cause a dubious Sevilla CF defence problems, but when it comes to quality, possession, and creativity, the Spanish team should really have no trouble in overcoming Leicester City over two legs.
Feel free to post your own thoughts on the draw below!