The Champions League draw in Nyon on Monday threw up some interesting ties, with a little bit of European glamour and some historical footballing grudges emerging from the tombola at Uefa HQ.
Zidane and Emery to lock horns
In perhaps the pick of the last 16, Real Madrid were drawn against Paris-Saint Germain, pitting Neymar against Cristiano Ronaldo, Unai Emery against his old nemesis, who he has never beaten at the Bernabéu – if the former Valencia and Sevilla coach is still in charge at the Parc des Princes in March – and inviting cold and hot ball conspiracy theorists to return to considering whether the world is spherical.
Spurs may have been a little deflated after winning their group ahead of the reigning champions, only to draw last year’s beaten finalists Juventus in the first knock-out round. As Mauricio Pochettino’s side were spared the prospect of Madrid, the serial Serie A champions were the worst possible outcome for the relatively inexperienced North London club.
Messi out to end Chelsea duck
Chelsea, by contrast, know the feeling of getting their hands on old big ears and did so at the expense of defending champions Barcelona in 2011-12 in an extraordinary 3-2 aggregate victory after a second leg that saw the holders take a 2-0 lead against 10 men in the first half, miss a penalty in the second and eventually crash out to an unlikely Fernando Torres strike deep into stoppage time. “The best side doesn’t always win,” Torres said afterwards. On current form, that is about the only crumb of comfort for Antonio Conte, other than the curious statistic that Leo Messi has never scored against his side in eight games.
Former Chelsea boss José Mourinho will consider Sevilla to be an attractive draw given the Liga club’s struggles in front of goal, which may or not be addressed in the January market. In any case, Manchester United’s team bus can remain parked at Old Trafford, where Mourinho will enjoy home advantage for the second leg.
Mourinho’s noisy neighbours Manchester City will have been quietly delighted with Basel, who have never been beyond the last 16 in the Champions League. Despite Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut sweeping all before them domestically and hammering in 48 goals in 16 games, in Europe the Premier League leaders were comfortably outscored by PSG and Liverpool and may find it tricky to break down the Swiss side, who allowed just five goals against in the group stage.
Klopp's heavy metal against Conceição's steel wall
Iker Casillas may have fancied Real Madrid but Porto will settle for Liverpool instead as the most miserly defence in Portugal (five conceded in the Primeira Liga) go up against the third-highest scoring side in the Premier League and one with a more-than-questionable defensive record. When the sides last met in the Champions League, in a group stage game at Anfield in 2007-08, Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners.
Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk met at the same stage in 2010-11 when the Brazilian-infused Ukraine side sprang a surprise with a 6-2 aggregate win to reach the quarterfinals for the first and only time.
Bayern Munich and Besiktas meet for the first time since the 1997-98 Champions League group stage, when the Bavarian giants won 2-0 home and away. The same outcome carries the lowest available odds for the match at the Allianz Arena at 6/1 and the five-times winners will be overwhelming favourites to progress at the expense of the Turkish champions.