The last 16 for this season’s Champions League was finalised this week as the group stage drew to a close with the big guns loaded and ready for the knockout phase.
Real Madrid, winners in the last two seasons, head the field with Barcelona and Bayern Munich in hot pursuit and all five British clubs having booked their places.
Here, we take a look at the contenders and their chances of making it all the way to Kiev in May ahead of next week’s draw.
Only four teams – Barcelona, Besiktas, Liverpool and Tottenham – emerged from the group stage undefeated with Spurs’ return of five victories and a draw giving them the highest points tally of 16, four of them at the expense of runners-up Real Madrid. Group B rivals Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich, as well as Manchester duo City and United, finished with 15, although both City and PSG surrendered perfect records with defeat on matchday 6. Chelsea’s final-day home draw with Atletico Madrid cost them top spot in Group C, which was won by Roma with just 11 points, and the Blues will join Basel, Bayern, Juventus, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Porto and Real Madrid in the runners-up pot.
The draw could throw up some interesting showdowns for Manchester United with champions Real and Bayern, the side they famously beat in dramatic fashion in the 1999 final, among the possibilities, while a last 16 clash between PSG and Real would end the hopes of one of the main contenders. Barcelona, last winners in 2015, could land 2013 champions Bayern, while a Liverpool v Juventus match-up would inevitably rekindle poignant memories of the Heysel tragedy.
Best of British
The presence of five Premier League sides in the draw – the first time any nation has achieved the feat – will spark hope that an English club can end a six-year wait for Champions League glory. Chelsea will have to get past either PSG, Barcelona or Besiktas to reach the quarter-finals, while Spurs are the only one of the four group winners who cannot land Real. All four could yet draw Bayern, as well as Juventus and Porto, with Sevilla a possibility for all but Liverpool and Shakhtar potential opponents for United, Liverpool and Tottenham.
Pick a winner
Big-spending PSG have been installed as the bookmakers’ favourites to claim the trophy for the first time and it would be a brave man who bet against a team spearheaded by Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani. Serial winners Barcelona and Real also figure prominently, the latter with Cristiano Ronaldo having become the first man to score in every group game as they attempt to complete a first hat-trick in the Champions League era. However, spearheading the English challenge this time around, Manchester City have written themselves into the equation under Pep Guardiola and with playmaker Kevin de Bruyne in the form of his life, they could have a major say this time around.