The opening knockout round of the Champions League now knows its 16 competitors, and the list of teams advancing as group winners might just be the strongest in the competition’s history.
Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona all progressed as seeds. Six of them have lifted the famous trophy in the past.
More so than in any other year, the importance of topping the group has been highlighted. Those who qualified in second place face a guaranteed difficult draw en route to the quarterfinals.
Below we list the selection of teams each club can draw in the round of 16. No side can draw a team from their own group or country, which explains why certain clubs have more options than others:
|Champions League Group Winners|
|Groups A-D||Man Utd||Real Madrid||PSG||Bayern Munich|
|Schalke||Man City||Man City||Arsenal|
|Zenit||Zenit||Man City||Man City|
|Champions League Group Runners-up|
|Groups A-D||Leverkusen||Galatasaray||Olympiacos||Man City|
|Real Madrid||Man Utd||Man Utd||Real Madrid|
|Chelsea||Bayern Munich||Bayern Munich||Dortmund|
|Man Utd||Real Madrid||Man Utd||Man Utd|
|Real Madrid||PSG||Real Madrid||Real Madrid|
|Atletico||Atletico||Bayern Munich||Bayern Munich|
The draw for the last 16 takes place on Monday, with first-leg matches to be played on Feb. 18 and 19. Second-leg encounters are scheduled for Feb. 25 and 26.
Toughest Draw: Arsenal
No second-placed team has an easy prospect in the next round, but Arsenal just edge it as the club in the deepest hole.
Having failed to draw with Napoli during Matchday 6, Arsenal coughed up top spot in Group F to Dortmund. As a result, they can face arguably the three favourites—Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona—or two of the sides nobody would choose to meet: Atletico Madrid and PSG.
Atletico qualified with 16 points from a possible 18, scoring 15 goals and conceding only three, per UEFA.com. Where La Liga rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona possess plenty of individual talent, Atletico are arguably the most well-drilled outfit, boasting the joint-best defensive record in Spain this season.
They are currently level on points with Barca at the top of La Liga and have scored just two fewer goals in their domestic division. The Champions League's official Twitter account posted the following as Atletico marched toward victory over Porto on Wednesday:
PSG, meanwhile, have lost only one of 17 Ligue 1 games and are top by two points. They have scored 39 times in France’s top flight this term, per ESPN FC, and they boast the mercurial figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Best option for Arsenal? PSG
Easiest Draw: Manchester United
Plenty has gone wrong for David Moyes this season, but the lineup for Manchester United’s draw in the round of 16 could not have been much kinder.
The Red Devils’ options are almost identical to Chelsea, the only difference being that United cannot draw Bayer Leverkusen, while the Blues cannot pull Schalke.
Given their respective Bundesliga positions—Leverkusen are 13 points ahead of Schalke—Sami Hyypia’s side represent the more difficult test, meaning Chelsea have a fractionally more threatening potential draw.
AC Milan will strike fear into no team, given their ninth-placed position in Serie A. Zenit St. Petersburg and Olympiacos both top their domestic leagues, but do not have the star names of their English counterparts, either.
The toughest draw for United would arguably be Galatasaray, home of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder. The Turkish side’s home atmosphere is always intimidating, with Juventus the latest to suffer as they were dumped out of the competition.
Best option for United? Schalke