UEFA Champions League Draw
We’ll make another blog post after the draw has been undertaken, but my question to any viewers is this; is there a specific match you’d like to see occur from this draw? Or do you have in mind a full list of who you’d like to be paired with each other? If so, feel free to post it in the comments section! Below is a draw that I’d like to see when it’s completed next week:
Paris Saint-Germain vs Bv09 Borussia Dortmund
PSG are going to get better under Emery as time goes by. By the time this fixture comes around, I would expect them to be playing more consistently, and more convincingly. On paper, they’re better than Dortmund. However, Dortmund are better at being a unit, understanding one another’s game, and in terms of doing what their manager wants them to do. I am curious to see which team would come out on top, given the varying dynamics and balances here.
SL Benfica vs Atletico Madrid
These two sides played out some very interesting games not long ago, and I would expect more of the same here. I do think that Atletico Madrid would progress, because SL Benfica aren’t really good enough to do well in Europe nowadays. However, they’re a huge footballing institution in Portugal, and they gain an extra 10-15% when playing as underdogs, so I would want to see how this one goes. These two clubs have swapped numerous players over the past few years, so the familiarity would make this an interesting contest, I feel.
Manchester City vs Juventus
Tactically speaking, this should be one hell of a meeting. I think both teams have excellent match-winners, and although I feel that Juventus have a better balance to their team, there’s really not much in it. Juventus are more experienced and consistent than Manchester City, but Manchester City have some players that it’s virtually impossible to keep quiet. Guardiola is gradually making them a more comfortable team on the ball, and by February, I expect them to have improved even more. I’d find this a fascinating tie to observe.
Bayern Munich vs Arsenal
Same old, same old, eh? Bayern Munich tend to win such duels, and I would not be surprised if they did so here. I just find them interesting to watch because Arsenal are somewhat fearless in games of this nature. They tend to play very well against teams that are supposedly much better than they are, and although it doesn’t often manifest itself into results, they do tend to scare teams sometimes. At some point, luck is going to be on their side, and with some of Bayern Munich’s stars gradually on the decline, you have to wonder if this could be the year when that happens. On paper, Bayern Munich should be reasonably comfortable. In reality, I think that this would be a tough one to call.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs Barcelona
I don’t rate Leverkusen in Europe nowadays. I think that they’ve been assembled to be an effective force in Germany, not outside of it, so Barcelona should logically progress. However, I don’t really trust Barcelona under Luis Enrique, either. Tactically, he’s not great, and he seems to repeat a lot of his mistakes. He was a terrific midfielder, but I don’t think he’s a good manager, basically. Barcelona’s top-heavy team are very good at scoring goals, but are seemingly getting worse at the back. Leverkusen will hopefully have Bellarabi back by February, which should give the German team that bit more flexibility in their attacks. Leverkusen like playing as underdogs, and they’re a very committed team. Although I would expect Barcelona to progress, I just have this feeling that Leverkusen would make them sweat for it.
Real Madrid vs SSC Napoli
Two massive and prestigious teams within their respective countries, and a chance to reunite Spain vs Italy? I can’t pass this one up. On the pitch, I’ve been more impressed by SSC Napoli this season. However, Real Madrid have more match-winners, more experience, and a manager that is finally lending his team some semblance of composure, and even a bit of balance to their top-heavy team. Real Madrid haven’t been so easy on the eye this season, but they’ve been efficient. However, SSC Napoli look a very different beast under Sarri, full of confidence, consistency, and creativity. I’ve enjoyed watching them since the former Empoli manager took over, and I think that they’d give Real Madrid a really tough ride here, particularly given that Spanish teams do tend to struggle to handle Italian teams.
FC Porto vs AS Monaco
I’d love to see a repeat of the final that first introduced the world to Jose Mourinho. At the time, these two teams were playing some excellent football with plenty of passion, attacking power, and confidence. Times have changed a little since then, and nowadays FC Porto look short of confidence, consistency, and even quality, to an extent. However, they’re experienced in Europe, still in possession of some good players, and they’d be facing a team that they can beat. AS Monaco boss Jardim would no doubt be keen to get one over on his old club (Sporting Clube de Portugal)’s rivals here, and I am sure that Bernardo Silva and Moutinho would be particularly motivated for obvious reasons. AS Monaco look good at the moment, even though they’re still integrating new faces into their back four, but are they good enough to handle a wary FC Porto? I don’t know. This would be an interesting tie.
Sevilla CF vs Leicester City
Leicester City did wonderfully well to make it as far as they have, but I think that the dream is over for them now. I can’t see a team left in this competition that they can realistically hope to beat, so I’ve tried to pair them with a team that will introduce them to proper European football without crucifying them. Sevilla CF look strong under Sampaoli, even though they need to be more consistent with their results, and I believe that they’d win this tie. Still, Sevilla CF are not good defensively, and there is scope for Leicester City to hurt them – if their main players are in the mood. This should be an entertaining fixture, although I believe that the reigning UEFA Europa League champions would ultimately progress.