There has been a somewhat scandalous draw for the first round of the Champions League playoffs of the current season, which presented us with many interesting local confrontations and intrigues. We propose today about them and talk in our small dossier on future matches of the 1/8 finals.
PSG Real - Madrid
Let's start with the most potent pair of the entire 1/8 stage, which it would not be surprising to see in the tournament's final. It's even a pity that these giants crossed so early, and we won't see some of them at the later battles in the Champions League. The second draw is to blame. Initially, Real Madrid got the digestible Benfica, which would have been "creamy" entirely in the teeth, and Paris Manchester United.
The oversight of the organizers deprived us of another part of the confrontation between Messi and Ronaldo, at the same time throwing a pig "Blancos." The vice-champions of Spain are already ready to appeal the results of the re-draw, but their message is unlikely to be heard.
If we abstract from conspiracy theories, we got two matches in view, great level, and entertainment.
The main intrigue lies, of course, in the return to Santiago Bernabeu of Lionel Messi and ex-captain of Madrid Sergio Ramos, as well as Ashraf Jakimi with Keylor Navas and Angel di Maria (the Argentine, by the way, two years ago already scored against Madrid in the group), in which will indeed have their scores with the galactic club. If we are used to the intrigues of Leo Real, then watching Sergio act on the other side of the barricades on the same line with the once enemy in the person of the Argentine will be incredibly wild.
In more detail, we will dwell on the teams' chances and the history of the confrontation closer to the fights themselves. Still, we state the following fact out of six meetings against the French grandee in the central European Cup, Madrid lost only one.
The first time they crossed was in the group stage of the 2015/16 season when Real gained a minimal victory thanks to a goal by Nacho in the Spanish capital after an away zero.
The same defeat also fell on the group, namely the 19/20 campaign. Then the Paris of Thomas Tuchel didn't leave a stone unturned on the rival in the Park of Princes (3: 0), and in the return game, the fighting took place 2: 2.
The most famous opposition of these teams also took place in the 1/8 finals in 2018. The then Real looked like an easy underdog of the confrontation with the intensified Neymar and Kylian Mbappé Paris. The Unai Emery gang even opened an account at the Bernabeu with Adrian Rabiot. Still, Cristiano's double and Marcelo's goal allowed the Blancos to get a strong-willed Victoria and the return advantage.
In short, we stock up on popcorn and look forward to the starting whistle in the French capital on February 15.
Sporting - Manchester City
"And I have to go home" - this is the phrase that the Lisbon mentor Ruben Amorim might have christened the draw. No, but what? If, with turbulent Juventus, it was still possible to find some counterarguments from the Portuguese champion, then with Manchester City, there are none at all.
Pep's team is simply more robust than its rival by the head. If you do not take the matches with the deaf outsider Besiktas, Sporting played brilliantly only in the meeting with Dortmund in the fifth round, having suffered three defeats from the same Borussia and twice from Ajax.
The absence of "bumblebees" in the playoffs is a tragic accident that became possible thanks to many negative factors, such as the removal of Mats Hummels in the fourth round, which cost the DB a critical point in the home game against Amsterdam. So Lisbon, although it looks like a dark horse of this pair, will be able to get to the quarterfinals only in case of another brilliant "inspiration" of Josep Guardiola, and if the "townspeople" will not fly in the lion's share of their blows (a forward is needed!).
The only meeting of these rivals took place in the 1/8 finals of the Europa League season 2011/12. In Manchester, the hosts celebrated the victory with a score of 3: 2 and then burned "lions" 0: 1 away and ingloriously left that tournament.
Interestingly, Pedro Porro was once in the structure of Man City, never having played for Blue Moon.
RB Salzburg - Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich has won from the re-draw. Initially, "Rotten" went to the reigning Spanish champion Atletico. Nagelsmann-team would have looked like a slight favorite of the confrontation, but the devil only knows in what form the "mattress mates" will approach the fight. In addition, Diego Simeone's lineup and selection of players allow even such a Munich to pass. Nevertheless, we discard all these "ifs" because it will not be before the quarterfinals if the meeting with Madrid happens.
Why is Bayern Munich the favorite of the pair? Why is the Earth round, and you can't live a day without your smartphone? Here the answer is no less obvious - because this is Bavaria.
Initially, it was clear that the Austrians would get a severe opponent due to the impossibility of playing with Lille. So the excellent team led by Karim Adeyemi and Noah Okafor can start packing their bags. It is not yet clear whether some of the gang leaders, Matthias Jaissle, will be bought up.
The history of this confrontation is short, and it began not so long ago. If we do not take into account the freight train of 2014, when Red Bull beat the opponent 3: 0 (one of the goals was on account of Sadio Mane), then everything floats on the surface - 6: 2 and 3: 1 in the group stage of the Champions League-20/21. The score of at least the first game came out entirely out of the game since the "bulls" were very serious about driving Neuer and Co., but the disproportionately superior class of the enemy had an effect. It may be so this time.
Not in favor of the Austrian champion is the following statistics - Bayern won all four fights against teams from the homeland of great composers and musicians. For dessert, it should be noted that geographically, this rival is also very convenient for FC Hollywood. Only a 116 km ride separates Munich and Salzburg.
Inter - Liverpool
Inter can also blame the villainous Fate. Yes, with Ajax, it would also be hard to count on a leisurely walk, but you must admit, this is far from the same as going to Liverpool!
So what speaks in favor of the "Nerazzurri"? Of course, the African Cup of Nations. The same Sadio Mane has a pretty good chance of reaching Senegal (the current CAS finalist) at least to the semifinals (February 2 or 3, the final is scheduled for February 6), which may cost the Reds not only the leader in the Premier League but also the passage to the quarterfinals the central European Cup. And this is another victim of the re-drawing since the second in a row meeting with the brainchild of Red Bull in the 1/8 finals (this winter, Leipzig passed) would have helped Jurgen Klopp's team theoretically win the class and give the leaders an average recovery, and so the situation is diametrically opposite.
Milanese will not experience such problems, so at the moment, the chances of "snakes" look a little preferable. Nevertheless, Liverpool is Liverpool. The team is on a crazy move, and if Mo Salah and the company maintain such a rhythm, they will be able to pass a strong Inter.
Simone Inzaghi's team is a real dark horse of the playoffs. After Conte and Lukaku left, many rushed to end the club's prospects in the new season, but we see that the new mentor is doing well so far, and the Italian champion has not become weaker!
The baggage of personal meetings is not in favor of Internazionale - one victory and three defeats, but in what historical match this triumph was obtained!
In the 1964/65 season, the Milanese faced Liverpool in the European Cup semifinals. At Anfield, the hosts overpowered the rival 3-1, but in the fashion capital, Inter played one of the best matches in its history, beating 3-0 and reaching the final, in which they beat the damned Benfica thanks to a goal from the world champion-62 Jair da Costa.
These teams are now the most productive in their championships, adding an extra degree to this battle.
In short, another insanely attractive pair of 1/8.
Chelsea - Lille
And here is the luckiest participant in the re-draw. Amazingly, Chelsea managed to pull out the weakest winners of their groups Lille for the second time.
We will not spray here. The reigning Champions League winner can rub his hands together happily. The loss of first place in the final game with Zenit (3: 3) even went into the hands of the "retirees," so you can safely tune in to the quarterfinals. Genuine, you shouldn't go out to the game too relaxed either!
Chelsea has won 4 of their last four games against French teams, including the current French champion on this list. Another duel took place in the group of the winning Champions League against Rennes.
In the 2019/20 season, these guys clashed in the group stage, where, in addition to them, there were also Valencia and Ajax. Both victories of Frank Lampard's teams turned out with a difference of one goal 2: 1 at Pierre Maurois (Osimhen, 22 Abraham, 22, Willian, 77), 2: 1 at Stamford Bridge (Abraham, 19, Aspilicueta, 35 Remy, 78 Some parallels between the players of both teams can also be omitted. If only Eden Hazard were in the "blue" lineup Villarreal Juventus.
A very controversial couple. Of course, the "submariners" were lucky instead of City to end up with a turbulent "old lady," but Lisbon Sporting looked like a higher priority option for Juventus itself. In short, both of them can be happy.
It will be the first meeting of these teams in a European competition. All in all, the "Bianconeri" has the following balance with the representatives of the Pyrenees 25 wins, 16 draws, and 25 defeats.
You remember the last meeting of Villarreal with the Italian team. Atalanta Gian Piero Gasperini imposed fierce resistance on the "submarine" in both matches. Still, she heroically torpedoed the enemy, the last of 16 participants to climb onto the pallet of the outgoing train called: "1/8 finals of the champion league".
Who do you think will win? The reigning Europa League winner or Max Allegri's tough but troubled team?
Atlético - Manchester United
It seems that here both teams are pleased with the repetition of the draw procedure since both Atlético and Manchester United initially got the most nightmarish options in the person of Bayern and the galactic PSG.
"Mattress covers" and "red devils" are far from stable in the current season. Despite a high-quality roster, United manages to go outside the Champions League zone, and Atlético, after the defeat in the Madrileño derby, lags behind Real by an impressive 13 points while having a match in reserve.
These teams may lose the championships after the Christmas and New Year holidays, so a meat grinder in the Champions League will become a priority. And here, it isn't straightforward to single out the favorite.
If Diego Simeone and Ralph Rangnick do not stabilize their teams' game, then this mortal battle will turn into a kind of "who will shoot whom." Madrid has long ceased to be that monolithic Colossus in defense, to which we were once accustomed, and it is somehow awkward to talk about the security of Manchester United.
But both clubs have thermonuclear power in attack. True, the Mancunians have some X factor that can make them a favorite with almost any opponent at any stage. Of course, we are talking about Cristiano Ronaldo. If it were not for the Portuguese, we would not have seen any Manchester United in the playoffs of the championship league.
When we talk about this factor in the context of the battle with the "Kouchner's," then it is necessary to multiply its potential by two.
Crito is the real evil genius of Atletico Madrid. If we remove the numerous goals against the "Indians" in Spanish domestic tournaments and take the Champions League as a basis only, then here you can find at least two incredible performances.
The first of them happened in the semifinals of 2017 when his hat-trick allowed Real Madrid to reach the final (they lost 1: 2 in the return leg), and another similar achievement, already for Juventus in 1/8 of the 2018/19 season, you probably remember well.
In 35 matches against Atlético, Ronaldo has 25 goals, four hat-tricks, and two victorious Champions League finals. "El Cholo" and his guys now look something like this.
Despite the pervasive European history of Atletico and Manchester United, the last time they crossed paths was back in 1991, when the "mattress" knocked out an opponent in the second round of the Cup Winners' Cup.
Benfica - Ajax
We will end with the most intriguing pair of this stage, in our opinion.
Instead of Real, Benfica got Ajax; instead of Inter, Ajax got Benfica. What more could you want ?! No, seriously, after such a draw, it is tough to name a clear favorite in this confrontation.
The "Jews" have recent experience with a confident double clearance of the reigning Portuguese champion Sporting, but the "Eagles" seem to be a slightly more balanced and formidable opponent. Yes, in the recent NOS League match, Jorge Jesus' team hit Ruben Amorim's team 1: 3, but all this is an internal showdown (besides, Ajax also allows punctures in the Eredivisie), but in the Champions League, Benfica put Barcelona in front of their feet, not missing in matches against Dynamo Kyiv and Catalans not a single ball! Even in the total 2: 9 with Bayern, you can find a bit of positive, as the Lisbonians looked very dignified with the "Star of the South."
Eric ten Haga's players have become one of the three clubs this season that have taken the most points in their complex group, and the composition and quality of the Dutch champion's football evokes a slight nostalgia for the 2019 semifinals and makes them quietly count on another sensation in the performance of this outstanding team.
The last time Benfica and Ajax crossed was in the same season 2018/19. The Amsterdamites took 4 points out of 6 possible, and the whole history of this confrontation is as follows - + 5 = 2-1 in favor of the four-time winner of the European Champions Cup.
Sebastien Aller made a splash in this Champions League, but hardly anyone remembers that he already has a successful track record of the Eagles in the 2018/19 Europa League. Then his Eintracht lost to Da Luzh with a score of 2: 4 (benefit performance of the star João Feliche that was lit up at that time), but won 2: 0 in the return leg and reached the semifinals. The Ivorian then missed both matches due to injury, but still. And in the end, aren't you interested in seeing the Yaremchuk-Aller confrontation in the playoffs of the Champions League itself ?!