The draw is done but how has it affected the quarter-finalists’ chances of going all the way in the Champions League? We’ve ranked them from the no-hopers to the favourites.
Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund
Porto v Chelsea
Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid v Liverpool
Bayern Munich/PSG vs Manchester City/Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid/Liverpool vs Porto/Chelsea
This is the fourth time Porto have made it past the last-16 since Jose Mourinho led them to glory in 2004, but they’ve not made it past the quarter-finals. Sergio Oliveira’s dramatic, controversial extra-time free-kick was a joyous moment for the neutrals but that will likely be as good as it gets for the Portuguese side this season.
A quarter-final draw against Chelsea may have been deemed a favourable one at the turn of the year, but not so now – they’ll do well to score a goal against Thomas Tuchel’s near impenetrable, N’Golo Kante-bounced backline.
7) Borussia Dortmund
Faced with the challenge of the best defence in Europe, a sky blue wall, we’re all thoroughly looking forward to seeing Erling Haaland attempt to bulldoze his way through it. Dortmund won’t be pleased with the draw, but neither will John Stones and Ruben Dias.
The question will be whether Dortmund will see enough of the ball to allow their bully the chance of wet willying Dias and Stones while the rest of the team contain and control the fluid ridiculousness of City’s attack. The answer – most probably – will be no.
6) Real Madrid
Luka Modric restored Real Madrid’s serenity to ease them past Atalanta in the last-16 as folly has been replaced by frugality since the turn of the year. They’re not great to watch, but they’re stubborn, conceding eight goals in 14 League and Champions League games in 2021.
There may be slightly less circus and a little more football, but they are no longer the team to avoid in the Champions League. Liverpool will fancy their chances.
5) Paris Saint-Germain
Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics in the first half of the second leg at the Nou Camp could easily have been costly. They sat back, allowed Lionel Messi to wave his wand and another mad Barcelona turnaround would have been on had Messi been assisting himself rather than Ousmane Dembele.
But by pressing higher in the second half PSG looked as comfortable as they did scary in the first leg. If Marco Verratti and Kylian Mbappe play like that – with Neymar set to return – they can beat Bayern. But if they’re even slightly off it, as they often are, Hansi Flick’s side will overpower and suck the life out of them, as they did in the final last year. Good news for the English sides – one of them is going out.
In truth, they could have been anywhere from sixth to second on this list – they’re the toughest to call. On one hand Liverpool have lost just one of 12 two-legged ties under Jurgen Klopp; on the other they’re in diabolically bad form in the Premier League.
What’s without doubt is they will have to play a hell of a lot better than they are now if they are to win the Champions League and will probably have to score a hatful of goals with opposition teams “licking their lips” at the prospect of facing Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips.
It’s all coming up roses for big Tommy Tuchel. An outstanding performance against Atletico Madrid has been followed by the perfect draw. Porto are by far the weakest team left in the competition, the second leg is at Stamford Bridge and they can’t meet Bayern Munich, Manchester City or PSG until the final.
Weirdly, from a position of no expectation there is now plenty. Are you getting giddy Chelsea fans? You probably should be.
2) Bayern Munich
The only blot on Bayern Munich’s last two Champions League campaigns has been an away draw at Atletico Madrid. They’ve won all their other 18 games, scoring an absurd 67 goals in the process.
They remain the team to beat but have been handed a very tough draw and have a battle on their hands domestically, something the favourites don’t have to worry about.
1) Manchester City
Is this finally the year? It feels like we always say so right before they or Pep Guardiola do something daft. We even held back last year but then couldn’t resist when they knocked Real Madrid out, only for them to embarrass us and themselves by losing to Lyon in the quarter-finals.
If they beat Dortmund it will be just the second time they’ve made the semi-finals in their tenth consecutive season in the competition – a frankly pathetic effort for a club with their resources. But as with PSG, there is a certain sense of inevitability about it. How can a club with so much money, so much talent, with that manager, not eventually cobble together enough decent performances to win it?
This is as good as year as any.