The last-16 draw of the UEFA Champions League will be conducted on Monday (15 December) at Nyon, Switzerland with Real Madrid leading the top eight seeds.
Having finished the group stages with six wins out of six (one of five teams with this accolade. AC Milan, PSG, CSKA Moscow and Barcelona being the others), a positive goal difference which other teams in our group didn’t achieve plus a record equalling 11 point gap at the top of the group, things look on the up for Los Blancos. But this is where things get tougher as we enter the knock out stages in our attempt at becoming the first team to win the European top honour two years in a row.
At this stage in the competition, two teams from the same association cannot be drawn to face each other. Additionally, teams who were in the group stages together, cannot be paired to face each other again.
Taking these things into consideration, Real Madrid’s possible opponents are: Juventus (Italy), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Arsenal (England), Manchester City (England), PSG (France), Schalke 04 (Germany), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine).
First leg will be played away (17/18 and 24/25 February) and return leg at the Bernabeu (10/11 and 17/18 March).
A brief look at each of the possible opponents:
Juventus (Group A)
Once a formidable force in Europe, Juventus have become a pale shadow in comparison. Nonetheless, buoyed by quality talent such as French youngster Paul Pogba, former Athletic Club de Bilbao player Fernando Llorente and Argentina’s Carlos Tevez plus “our own” Alvaro Morata and not to to forget, the ever classy Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo, they will be tough adversaries. Finishing behind Atletico Madrid in the group stages, Juve faced shocks such as 1-0 loss away to Real Madrid legend Michel’s Olympiacos.
Bayer Leverkusen (Group C)
For me, Leverkusen is, and will always be, the team against which Zinedine Zidane scored *that* goal to win us the ninth Champions League. Getting into the competition through the qualifiers, Leverkusen will quite easily be the underdogs and will have a mountain to climb. They’ve gone out in their last four attempts at this stage in the competition ever since that 2002 final and if paired with Real Madrid, it won’t get any easier to break that streak. In a highly low scoring group, Leverkusen scored seven and conceded four to finish behind Monaco who only conceded one.
Arsenal (Group D)
Their jittery performances in the league notwithstanding, Arsenal have been in good form in the Champions League. The Londoners finished second only on goal difference to Borussia Dortmund with 15 goals scored (Real Madrid scored 16). They didn’t start well with a disappointing 2-0 loss to Dortmund but were on the up since then. Their problems lie in defence and susceptible to crumble under pressure as they did against Anderlecht where they were 3-0 up but finished the game at 3-3. Alexis Sánchez, former Barcelona player, is arguably their best player at the moment and one to watch out for.
Manchester City (Group E)
Quite the opposite of Arsenal, City have been a force to reckon with in domestic competitions for a few years now but fall disappointingly when in Europe. This year they had to stage a huge comeback to get to the last-16 stage thanks in part to the dip in form of AS Roma. With two points after four games, City looked to be on the edge of exiting once again but clawed their way back in. Down 2-0 at home to the mighty Bayern, the Citizens staged a fantastic comeback to win 3-2 with Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero grabbing a hat-trick. Needing a positive result on the final matchday and a favourable result in the other game, City got their 2-0 win to Roma and a ticket to keep their European hopes alive. They have former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini at the helm.
PSG (Group F)
PSG only finished second in their group after a final matchday loss (3-1) to Barcelona.Their unbeaten run in all competitions was halted by this loss. Like Manchester City, they are one of the richest clubs in the world and their squad speaks volumes of that. Spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovich in attack, PSG are possibly the toughest opponents at this juncture. If it does come to Real Madrid vs PSG, it will be goals galore and a very meaty tie indeed.
Schalke 04 (Group G)
Last day results brought Schalke to the knockouts as the German club won 1-0 away to Maribor while group leaders Chelsea pipped Sporting CP. Schalke were on the lucky side of things in the group stages on matchday 3 with a controversial 4-3 win over Sporting. Schalke, Raul’s former side, along with Leverkusen will possibly be the easiest opponents for the knockouts.
Shakhtar Donetsk (Group H)
Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano has set multiple records in group stages amassing 9 goals (equalling Cristiano’s group stage record from last season) including five goals against BATE Borisov in one game, four of which came in 17 minutes of the first half. Thanks to his goal scoring prowess, the Ukrainians scored 15 goals in their six games - 12 of them coming against BATE. Other than that, they played out three draws which hurt their chances of finishing top of the group (Porto finished top in the end).