The crème de la crème of European club football watched on with bated breath earlier today as the draw for the Last 16 of 2020/21 Champions League took place in Nyon, where eight mouth-watering two-legged continental contests were determined and scheduled for dates in February and March next year.
With opponents confirmed and itineraries drawn up, clubs can start plotting their course to the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul where dreams of lifting Jürg Stadelmann’s iconic trophy next May will be realised for the tournament’s outstanding team.
There are no easy games or opponents from here on in, as the footballing elite charge head first into the knockout phase in an explosion of world-class stardust. Check out our rundown of the ties to look out for below.
Full Champions League Last 16 draw
- Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Manchester City
- Lazio vs Bayern Munich
- Atlético Madrid vs Chelsea
- RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
- Porto vs Juventus
- Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
- Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund
- Atalanta vs Real Madrid
First legs to be played on 16, 17, 23 and 24 February, with second legs on 9, 10, 16 and 17 March 2021.
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Frank Lampard’s expensively assembled Chelsea team coasted through a group they shared with Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes, though a double date with Diego Simeone’s notoriously tough to topple Atletico Madrid in the Champions League’s Last 16 represents a massive step up in quality.
Simeone’s battle-hardened Colchoneros famously knocked defending champions Liverpool out of last year’s tournament, and though Chelsea got the better of the La Liga giants when the clubs shared a group in 2017/18, the Blues have undergone a major personnel reshuffle since.
This season, only Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have beaten Atletico in 19 competitive fixtures involving Los Rojiblancos, and Chelsea will have to push the upper limit of their potential to reach the Quarter Final’s at the Spanish side’s expense.
Barcelona vs Paris St. Germain
Prodigal son Neymar returns to his former stomping ground in February when last year’s beaten finalists PSG make the short hop to Catalonia to face five times winners Barcelona in what is undoubtedly the showpiece showdown from the Last 16 draw.
This star-studded tie immediately conjures up memories of when these continental behemoths were last paired in the Champions League back in 2017, where one of the greatest ever second-leg comebacks was witnessed.
Four goals down from the first fixture in Paris, a Barca team – inspired by Neymar’s brilliance – struck three goals in the dying embers to run up a massive 6-1 victory against the shellshocked Parisians.
Revenge will be high on the agenda for PSG this time around, and that man Neymar, has the ability play the protagonist’s role again.
The underdog pick
Atalanta vs Real Madrid
Record 13-times champions Real Madrid needed a Matchday 6 victory over fellow Last 16 combatants Borussia Monchengladbach to book their place in the knockout phase of the competition, though the unconvincing Los Blancos might have a tough task cementing their berth in the quarter finals.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta team lost just once in six games en-route to finishing second behind Liverpool in Group D, and La Dea’s superb 2-0 win over the Reds at Anfield on Matchday 4 highlights just how dangerous and unpredictable the free-scoring Serie A side can be.
Atalanta defied the odds to reach the quarter finals of last season’s Champions League, and they might have made it one step further had two injury time PSG efforts not denied them the chance in Lisbon.
Real Madrid – who have already been beaten five times this term – look far from invincible in 2020/21, and Atalanta look capable of springing another continental surprise in the New Year.
Goals galore match-up
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
Julian Nagelsmann’s exciting RB Leipzig outfit unexpectedly reached the semi finals of last year’s competition, and Die Roten Bullen remain something of a dark horse in this year’s iteration of the Champions League.
The Bundesliga side squeezed out of their group alongside PSG and ahead of Manchester United, though Leipzig shipped 12 goals in their six fixtures, including seven over two meetings with the ousted Red Devils.
RB can be a joy to watch then their slick, one-touch passing clicks into gear, though Liverpool’s fearsome threesome of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah could run riot in the open spaces they will enjoy if the Reds can pick their way through Leipzig’s high press.