Even though the teams shared a group in the previous round and were thus ineligible to face one other in the Round of 16, the draw put Manchester United in the same pot with Villareal. Manchester United was initially drawn to play Paris Saint-Germain, which would have provided the world with yet another compelling matchup between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Unfortunately, UEFA voided the draw 90 minutes later, blaming the errors on “a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other.”
The ball should have been placed in the pot of probable opponents for Spanish team Atlético Madrid after UEFA authorities addressed the Manchester United-Villareal error. However, UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti declared mistakenly that Manchester United had already been chosen and that its ball had not been placed in the bowl.
13-time record-holder Real Madrid is unlikely to be pleased with the new draw, given it had been matched with Benfica in the first tie before the difficulties arose – a showdown with Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe of PSG is, on paper, a significantly more difficult tie.
Liverpool is in a similar predicament. After being drawn against Austrian knockout-phase debutants Red Bull Salzburg at first, it now meets Inter, the three-time Serie A champion and current league leader in Italy.
Instead, Salzburg will face Bayern Munich, Manchester City will face Sporting Lisbon, and Benfica will face Ajax.
Villarreal will face Juventus while defending champion Chelsea will face French title-holder Lille in the one tie from the first, botched draw that was rerun later.
The first legs will take place in the second half of February, and the second legs will take place in early March.
● Real Madrid v PSG
Real Madrid had the worst luck, as the Los Blancos were initially assigned to Benfica but were then assigned to PSG as their opponents. This is undoubtedly the most crucial matchup of the round, and it will get the most interest from the football community.
For the time being, Carlo Ancelotti’s experience will be crucial, and that the Spaniards will have the upper hand.
● Bayern Munich v Red Bull Salzburg
Salzburg does not have the odds in their favour. Bayern is far more powerful and the UCL’s favourites so far. Over the last two months, we’ve witnessed them dismantle team after team; thus, the trend should continue against Salzburg.
● Liverpool v Inter Milan
The Reds, along with Bayern Munich and Manchester City, are now one of Europe’s strongest teams and top challengers for the Champions League. On the other hand, Inter is playing well, and the Nerrazzuri’s form is improving.
Still, when looking at the bigger picture, Liverpool is the better team and thus the favourites to win this match.
● Lille v Chelsea
The French champions have enjoyed a strong season thus far, and their performances have vastly improved in recent weeks. They defeated Wolfsburg in the final game of the group stage, securing first place in the assembly.
On the other hand, Chelsea is in a minor crisis, but we believe they should sail through.
● Juventus v Villareal
This will be a fascinating match to watch because Juventus’ current level of play is nowhere near that of, say, the previous two or three years. Emery and his team, on the other hand, demonstrated that they know how to perform in big games.
● Manchester United v Atletico Madrid
After winning La Liga last season, Simeone’s team is deflated and is not performing at the desired level. United is similarly pale and unreliable, but we’ll see what happens with Ralf Rangnick in charge. The Red Devils are quite favourites, but things might change in favour of Atletico.
● Ajax v Benfica
The Eagles qualified for the Round of 16 in the last stage, whereas Ajax was the first team to do it this season. The Dutch powerhouse is in fine form, and expect them to get to the quarterfinals without any difficulty.
● Manchester City v Sporting
The Portuguese team features a decent unit with a few great players, but that’s it. We can’t compare them to City in any facet of the game, and we can’t wager on anything else, but a Citizen’s win here would be ludicrous.