Sunday 22 July 2018

Champions League permutations: Here is who Premier League teams can draw in the last 16

The Champions League Trophy
The Champions League Trophy

Luke Brown

English teams are enjoying something of a renaissance in the Champions League this season. With the group stage of the competition almost at an end, all five teams are on track to qualify for the Round of 16.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have already booked their spot in the next round as well as topping their group, which means they will play a group stage runner-up.

Liverpool have all but guaranteed their spot in the next round, although they could yet finish second in their group which would see them play a group stage winner.

Ditto Chelsea: a win away at Qarabag will take them through but they will need Roma to slip up if they are to pinch top spot.

So who are the English clubs likely to play in the next round? Here, we outline the permutations.

Round of 16 draw rules

First of all, the rules. In the draw for the Round of 16, the eight group-stage winners are all seeded, while the runners-up are all unseeded. The seeded teams are then drawn against the unseeded teams, with the seeded teams playing at home in the second leg.

So far, so simple – right?

But there are a couple of catches. Teams from the same group cannot play one another – so Group H winners Spurs cannot play Group H runners-up Real Madrid, for example – while teams from the same country cannot play one another either.

Which means, unfortunately, there's going to be no Manchester United vs Liverpool European showdown until at least the quarter-finals, when seeding goes out the window and teams from the same association can be drawn against one another.

The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on 11 December at Uefa HQ in Nyon, Switzerland. The first legs will be played on 13, 14, 20 and 21 February, with the return legs played on 6, 7, 13 and 14 March 2018.

With that in mind, here's a look at who the five English teams can play for a place in the quarter-finals.

The pots

Pot 1 as it stands (club coefficient ranking): Manchester United (14), Paris Saint-Germain (6), Roma (30), Barcelona (3), Liverpool (32), Manchester City (8), Besiktas (28), Tottenham Hotspur (21).

Pot 2 as it stands: Basel (20), Bayern Munich (4), Chelsea (15), Juventus (5), Sevilla (7), Shakhtar Donetsk (16), Porto (12), Real Madrid (1).

Manchester United, Group A winners

There's a small chance Basel can still sneak ahead of United on goal-difference but for the purposes of this article we're going to assume Jose Mourinho's side hold out and win the group.

PANews_P-836e754c-f1e9-4fac-a705-db79151acc81_I1.jpg
Manchester United's Paul Pogba limps off with a hamstring injury against Basle

Potential opponents as it stands: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto, Real Madrid.

Spurs have thrown a massive spanner into the works for all the English teams by beating Real Madrid to first-place in Group H: the reigning champions are the obvious team for United to avoid. Bayern and Juventus are the other big banana skins.

That leaves three ties United would view as winnable: Sevilla, Shakhtar and Porto. There's still a very good chance Sevilla could beat Liverpool to the top of Group E, however, which would increase the chance of United playing one of the biggest teams in Europe in the next round.

Chelsea, Group C runners-up

Potential opponents: Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Besiktas.

If Chelsea finish second – and if Liverpool win their remaining match against Spartak Moscow to top their group – Chelsea have a 66% chance of being drawn against either PSG or Barcelona. They won't want to play either.

Besiktas, who have somewhat surprisingly topped Group G, are the other potential opponents. They're a tough side but far more manageable than either PSG or Barca.

Liverpool, Group E winners

Potential opponents: Basel, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto, Real Madrid.

Liverpool will naturally be desperate to avoid Bayern, Juventus and Real. They will see Basel, Shakhtar and Porto as far more winnable matches.

It's vital Liverpool win their final match against Spartak as otherwise they could be beaten to top-spot by Sevilla and end up playing one of PSG, Roma, Barcelona or Besiktas – which is much tougher.

On a sidenote all the English teams left in the competition should be willing on Roma to beat Chelsea to the top of Group C as otherwise there is a chance they will have to play Eusebio Di Francesco's in-form side.

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Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson look dejected at the end of the match

Manchester City, Group F winners

Potential opponents: Basel, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Sevilla, Porto, Real Madrid.

As with the other English teams, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid are the teams to avoid. Although playing as they currently are, City will surely fancy their chances against all three.

Basel, Sevilla and Porto shouldn't pose too many problems to Pep Guardiola's side.

Tottenham Hotspur, Group H winners

Potential opponents: Basel, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto.

Spurs fans will be delighted to know they've made life more difficult for all of their English rivals by unexpectedly topping Group H ahead of Real Madrid, meaning the defending champions will be unseeded for the Round of 16 draw.

But Spurs could still play either Bayern Munich or Juventus in the next round – two of the biggest and strongest teams in the competition.

Mauricio Pochettino's side would be the favourites to progress if drawn against either Basel or Porto, although Sevilla is a potential banana skin.

Independent News Service

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