Spain's Champions League teams all given tough draws
The Champions League draw has left Spain's sides with an awkward last 16. None have been given an even halfway straightforward tie. Sevilla, the third of our three remaining teams, if I may describe them in such terms (reasonably so, I'd say), got Manchester United, a club with both past and present, and which is champing at the bit. A bad draw for them. Barcelona, who have the greatest right to set their sights on every trophy going given that they play week in, week out with an ace up their sleeve called Leo Messi, have pulled Chelsea out of the hat, while Real Madrid drew PSG, the latest sporting contribution of a city that gave us the Olympics, the Tour, the World Cup, the European Cup, the Ballon d'Or...
Paris, we owe so much to you! And not only because of the French Revolution, which saw subjects become citizens, but also for everything that came afterwards; for the likes of Coubertain, Degranges, Rimet and Godet... Sport as we know it was to an extent a brainchild of the British, but it was the French who gave meaning to it. They broke through the Brits' insularity and elevated their sporting creations to a global realm, allowing those inventions, which include - but are not limited to - football, to come to belong to the world. Good friends of mine from across the channel such as former Liverpool player Michael Robinson, now a pundit on Spanish TV, admit to me with some regret that they invented everything, but do it all worse.
Last 16 has the feel of a LaLiga-Premier League match-up
My British pals will find some consolation in this year's Premier League. Its clubs lead the way this season, with five teams through to the Champions League last 16 - compared with LaLiga's three. We feared being drawn together, and so it proved: Sevilla have been handed José Mourinho's United, Barcelona the Chelsea of Eden Hazard, Álvaro Morata and Antonio Conte. Real Madrid didn't draw a Premier League side, instead getting PSG, that constellation of stars managed by its fearsome Basque commander, Unai Emery. Nevertheless, the first knockout round still has the feel of a match-up between the Spanish and English leagues, even if Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool won't directly face LaLiga opposition.