Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid cheers after his goal against 1.FC Union Berlin on September 20th. Source: Imago Images
Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid cheers after his goal against 1.FC Union Berlin on September 20th. Source: Imago Images

What next in the Champions League?

Champions League OlyBet 21.12.2023

Ah, the UEFA Champions League knockout phase. Is there anything more beautiful in the world? There is certainly nothing in club football that compares to the prestige of winning the Champions League. It is the stuff of dreams.

Every year, 81 teams enter the competition – qualification rounds included – with the hopes of winning it all. Sure, it might be a big ask from the champions of San Marino or Andorra, but as they say, dreaming costs you nothing. For many, it remains a dream forever; in 68 seasons, just 23 teams from ten nations have ever won the coveted cup.

And now, 16 remain again. Four from Spain, three from Germany and Italy, (just) two from England, and one representative each for France, Portugal, Holland, and Denmark. This is where it gets tight and tricky for everyone.

Looking at the probabilities of each team winning the Champions League provided by Opta, teams can be divided into four different categories. Manchester City (33.3%) are far away from the pack as defending champions; Bayern Munich (20%), Real Madrid (15.4%), and Arsenal (14.3%) all have a reasonable chance to hope it could be their year.

If everything – everything, really – clicks at the right moment, PSG (7.7%), Barcelona (6.7%), Inter Milan (5.3%), and Atletico Madrid (4.8%) could be crowned. And there are plenty of dreamers left too: Napoli (2.4%), Real Sociedad (2%), RB Leipzig (1.5%), Porto (1.5%), PSV (1%), Lazio (0.7%), and FC Copenhagen (0.4%) are still in it, mind you.

The next round of matches have been drawn. Now the waiting game begins.

All games listed below will be held at 22:00 Eastern European Standard Time (GMT+2).

FC Porto – Arsenal

21.02 @ Estadio Dragao, Porto
12.03 @ Emirates Stadium, London

Arsenal is back in the Round of 16 after missing out for seven seasons, and it probably helped everyone forget that they had previously made a habit of being eliminated here: between 2011 and 2017, they fell in the R16 seven straight times. When they last proceeded in 2010, they did so by beating Porto; they have a faultless record at home, but have never won away to Porto (one draw, two losses).

Source: Imago Images

Napoli – Barcelona

21.02 @ Stadio Diego Maradona, Naples
12.03 @ Estadi Olimpic, Barcelona

Barcelona can count themselves unlucky to have drawn Napoli, who was considered to be one of the front-runners in the same competition just twelve months ago. They have not been as impressive this term, but the games are still two months away. Fortunately for Barcelona, they have never lost a competitive game against the Neapolitans.

Paris Saint-Germain – Real Sociedad

14.02 @ Parc des Princes, Paris
05.03 @ Anoeta, San Sebastian

Going through as the runner-up, PSG was the team to avoid for many. In the end, the Parisians were fortunate themselves as it could be argued that La Real was probably the draw everyone wanted. They performed admirably to secure the top spot, but are quite close to their peak levels, and keeping that momentum will be a challenge.

Inter Milan – Atletico Madrid

20.02 @ San Siro, Milan
13.03 @ Metropolitano, Madrid

The only pair where both have a reasonable shout to win it all. Inter reached the final last year but finished second in the group to Real Sociedad. They have not met Spanish opposition in the knockouts since dispatching Barcelona in 2010 en route to the Treble. Both teams have a reputation for being uncomfortable, so it should be fun to see how it plays out.

Source: Imago Images

PSV Eindhoven – Borussia Dortmund

20.02 @ Philips Stadion, Eindhoven
13.03 @ Westfalenstadion, Dortmund

When they last met in Europe, Arjen Robben was a teenager breaking through at PSV while Dortmund relied on the goals of Jan Koller. It is a rare Round of 16 appearance for the Dutch team, having made it so far only once after 2007. The same can not be said about Dortmund, although they have advanced further just once in their last six attempts.

Lazio – Bayern Munich

14.02 @ Stadio Olimpico, Rome
05.03 @ Allianz Arena, Munich

They met in the Round of 16 fairly recently, when Bayern won 6-2 on aggregate in 2020/21. Lazio went 0-4 down at home in the first 47 minutes back then, and avoiding that would be a step forward. It will not be easy, however, as Bayern has made it a habit to advance quite adamantly from R16 (3-0 vs PSG in 2023, 8-2 vs Salzburg in 2022, 6-2 vs Lazio in 2021, 7-1 vs Chelsea in 2020).

FC Copenhagen – Manchester City

13.02 @ Parken, Copenhagen
06.03 @ Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Copenhagen has never met with City, but has been to Manchester this season. They lost 0-1 to United in England and recorded a famous 4-3 victory at home, which helped them through in the end. They should have no trouble making friends at the Etihad, even if they hold their own at home – the defending champions are clear favourites.

RB Leipzig – Real Madrid

13.02 @ Red Bull Arena, Leipzig
06.03 @ Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Leipzig won their group stage home match 3-2 last season, so this could not be very straightforward for Real. The Germans have the tools to be a nuisance, although Real has a generally favourable record against German sides. The 2-3 loss to Leipzig is their only one out of the last 16 played against teams from Germany.


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