The teams Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City will want to avoid in the Champions League knockout stagesPublished December 08, 2016
Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City will represent the Premier League in the Champions League Last-16 after safely navigated their way through the group stages.
Attention will now turn to who they could play in the next round, with a series of daunting ties awaiting the trio.
Ahead of Monday’s draw in Nyon, we took a look at clubs to avoid in the knockout rounds.
Potential opponents: Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Real Madrid, Porto, Sevilla
Ones to avoid: Real Madrid or Bayern Munich
After topping Group A ahead of favourites PSG, Arsenal could be forgiven for feeling a bit worried about a number of potential opponents, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid both failing to top their group.
Champions League holders Real appear to be the most difficult draw on paper following a stunning run of form that has seen them go unbeaten in 34 matches across all competitions.
Boasting players of the calibre of Ballon d’Or favourite Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, Los Blancos are favourites to retain their crown and would be a monumental hurdle to overcome for Arsenal.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern, meanwhile, may not be in quite the same vein of form themselves- indeed, they have been usurped by RB Leipzig at the top of the Bundesliga and came second to Atletico Madrid in Group D- but still contain an enormously talented squad featuring the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer and Arjen Robben.
Plum tie: Porto
Despite a 5-0 victory over a much-changed Leicester on Wednesday evening, a tie against FC Porto shouldn’t hold any fears for Arsene Wenger’s men. Behind Benfica and Sporting domestically, Nuno Espírito Santo’s side are a far cry from Jose Mourinho’s Champions League-winning team of 2004 but do possess, in Andre Silva, one of the top young striking talents in Europe.
Potential opponents: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Monaco, Napoli
Ones to avoid: Juventus, Borussia Dortmund or Atletico Madrid
Runners-up to the might of Barcelona, Pep Guardiola’s outfit will be keen to avoid any of Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, who would all be considerable threats to City’s chances of progressing.
In Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, Juventus boast arguably the best defence in the tournament, and can complement that solidity at the back with a potent strikeforce of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala. Not quite the danger they once were before Paul Pogba’s departure, the Bianconeri would nevertheless present City with a real challenge.
Borussia Dortmund, a quite superb attacking side on their day- and Diego Simeone’s wonderfully stubborn Atletico Madrid team could also give the Citizens a real run for their money.
Plum tie: Monaco
Elsewhere, Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli are playing some brilliant stuff both domestically and in Europe, and as the Stadio San Paolo remains an incredibly hostile place for visiting teams, AS Monaco would undoubtedly be the best bet for Guardiola’s men.
Group winners ahead of Spurs and Bayer Leverkusen, the Ligue 1 side are not to be taken lightly though, and in Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva, have two of the best youngsters in Europe to call upon.
Potential opponents: Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Paris St-Germain, Real Madrid, Sevilla
Ones to avoid: Bayern Munich, Paris-Saint Germain or Real Madrid
The Premier League champions are in a remarkably similar situation to Arsenal after winning their group, but can also face PSG in the knockout stage.
Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s class has already been discussed above, and matters are further complicated by the presence of the Ligue 1 giants.
Unai Emery may be having a torrid time of late, but the Parc des Princes outfit have world-class players all over the pitch and can be a match for anyone on their day.
Plum tie: Benfica
Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla are definitely another to avoid, so with that in mind, Benfica probably offer Claudio Ranieri and Co the best chance of progression. Shorn of the quality of quality of some of the other sides listed, a trip to the Estadio da Luz is unlikely to intimidate the Foxes too much.