This morning’s Champions League last 16 draw will be the last we hear about UEFA competition until it returns again in February. Before that, the Premier League’s festive calendar will take precedence.
Today’s draw featured five English sides who made it to the knockout stages, and if it weren’t for Chelsea’s defeat last midweek, we would have seen five English sides topping their group, too.
Instead, because Antonio Conte’s missed out on top spot, their list of potential opponents was limited severely. Given that four of the seven group winners are from the same country, the English champions had only three possible opponents in this morning’s draw. In the end they got Barcelona.
CONFIRMED: #UCLDraw for the last 16:
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Chelsea’s position in the draw was extreme and unique. Indeed, the tie they ended up drawing was the most likely tie to be pulled out of the hat in the whole of the last 16 draw. As calculated by ticketing company FanSeats, Chelsea had a 44% chance of drawing the La Liga leaders, and in the end there was hardly any suspense: it was nearly as likely to happen as not happen.
Elsewhere, though, and the other English sides who all topped their group were hoping to face softer ties in the likes of Porto and Basel. Liverpool and Manchester City managed to gain such a soft landing, but for Tottenham and Manchester United, they weren’t so lucky. Mauricio Pochettino’s side face Italian giants Juventus, and after already overcoming Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the group stages, there’s no let-up in the giants they’re facing. Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, however, got off a bit lighter. Before the draw was announced, their list of most likely opponents were Real Madrid, Juventus and Sevilla, with the probability of each of those ties coming in at 18.33%. In the end, getting Sevilla was certainly a stroke of luck.
In the end, we’re still months away from these ties taking place and the landscape will certainly change. But for now, it looks like Manchester City and Liverpool are the English sides with the best chance of progressing. Manchester United would be disappointed not to go through, too. But Spurs and Chelsea will have to pull off some huge European nights to make it to the quarter-finals.