UEFA held its Champions League Round of 16 draw at a maddeningly early 6 a.m. EST Monday.
The draw works as follows: teams that finished first in group play are put in Pot 1 and are randomly drawn to play against teams that finished second in Pot 2.
A couple of powerhouse teams were placed in Pot 2 (Liverpool, Ajax, Atletico Madrid) as well as one comically dysfunctional global brand (Manchester United), providing a fair amount of intrigue to the draw.
Also, three of the four English teams that advanced face-off against German squads, lending its way to tired and lame WW2 call-backs already.
Here’s a look at the matchups, odds, and analysis.
Champions Leagues Futures (BetStars Sportsbook)
|Paris St.-Germain (PSG)||France||7/1|
Schalke 04 vs. Manchester City
(These ties offer little intrigue / seem like foregone conclusions)
Manchester City is the current odds-on favorite to win the Champions League (13/5 at BetStars) and have arguably the easiest Round of 16 matchup against Schalke 04.
FiveThirtyEight has City as the top-ranked global team (and favorites at 19% to win the Champions League) right now and Schalke at #49. That 48-team difference is the biggest match-up disparity by far in the Round of 16.
Schalke is closer to relegation than to the top 4 in the Bundesliga this season. They qualified mostly by being in the weakest group (D, won by Porto). Manchester City could rest many of their key starters and still comfortably win this one.
Even playing at home, Schalke is the biggest Leg 1 underdog at +600 to win.
Lyon vs. Barcelona
Barcelona is fourth overall in the Global Club Rankings and Lyon is #34. Unlike Schalke, Lyon is having a respectable Ligue Un season (which isn’t saying that much, it’s Ligue Un), resting third in the table.
Barcelona is Barcelona though, and Lionel Messi is still doing stuff like this. The Camp Nou club is around 9/2 to win the Champions League, and FiveThirtyEight has them second favorite at 14%.
Lyon is at +550 to win Leg 1, not far behind Schalke.
If a Champions League Match Falls in the Woods and No One Is There, Does it Make a Sound?
(This tie won’t be watched outside of Italy and Portugal, and even that’s being generous)
Roma vs. Porto
If you’re a Porto fan or player, buy a lottery ticket.
First, Porto gets placed in by far the easiest group, ending atop the table with the most points of any club. Then, Porto gets one of the weaker Round of 16 opponents in last year’s semi-finalist, Roma.
People are bagging on Porto a bit too much though. Porto has gone a dozen games without a defeat and are confident. They’re a respectable #22 in the Global Club Rankings to free-falling Roma at #31.
However, Roma is +100 to win Leg 1 against Porto’s +290 (and +240 for a draw). Both teams are around 100/1 to win the Champions League. It’ll be an even match that ultimately Porto should be able to squeak by and be the sacrificial lamb for somebody in the Quarters.
Manchester United Needs Its Own Category
Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Has there ever been a sports franchise that has so many people as simultaneously ecstatic and angry as Manchester United this year?
The Red Devils are like the New York Yankees, the biggest brand with the most die-hard fans…and most passionate haters.
Still, what they ’re going through this season is starting to get depressing…
…if it was any club other than Manchester United.
The reality is, who knows what’s going to happen. Will ManU manager Jose Mourinho be sacked by February? Will ManU acquire some much-needed talent during the transfer window eligible to play in the Champions League? Will a frustrated Paul Pogba go streaking during Leg 1 in protest of his benching? Almost anything is on the table.
Except a Manchester United win, if everything remains status quo.
BetStars has PSG at 7/1 to United at 50/1 to win the Champions League.
And betting markets have PSG at +110 to win Leg 1 at Old Trafford to ManU’s +250.
Given Manchester United’s shaky backline and PSG’s dynamic forward trio, this one could get ugly.
Matches with Upset Potential
(These ties could surprise)
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund
This one may be the most underrated match-up of the bunch.
While barely qualifying for the Round of 16 and ending up in Pot 2, Tottenham is higher ranked in the Global Club Rankings than Dortmund (#11 to #13) and their futures reflect that as well (25/1 to around 30/1).
However, Dortmund (also known by most Americans as “that team that Pulisic guy is on”) are in fine form, crushing the Bundesliga and sitting atop the table this late for the first time since Jurgen Klopp was doing things like this on their sideline.
If you tune in, expect to see a lot of goals. Don’t expect to see a lot of Pulisic though, as he’s not a regular starter right now for BVB.
Atlético Madrid vs. Juventus
That collective “oh per l’amor di scopare” you heard from Allianz Stadium was when Juventus drew Atlético Madrid.
This is another evenly matched pairing. Atlético steps up in Cup play, winning last year’s Europa League and making the Champions League finals two of the last five years.
Juventus is Juventus and have that preening prima donna Cristiano Ronaldo doing what he does best: scoring a goal a game and crushing souls.
Futures markets have Juventus heavily favored for a Champions League title than Atlético (6/1 to 20/1). While FiveThirtyEight has Atlético Madrid favored to win Leg 1, they expect Juventus to advance. This is one to watch though if you’re looking for some Round of 16 value.
Ajax vs. Real Madrid
This one is pretty straight-forward: Ajax is on the rise and in good form, and Real Madrid is not.
Ajax is at 7% to win the Champions League compared to 5% for last year’s victor in Madrid.
Real Madrid get the “Dallas Cowboys / Pittsburgh Steelers” treatment on futures being a very public team, listed at 12/1 to Ajax’s 80/1. Ajax’s Round of 16 odds reflect a heavy lean on Real Madrid as well. Some of that is understandable as well, given how Luka Modric and Gareth Bale have recently performed on the biggest global stages.
However, unless Real Madrid find last year’s form by February, this one could easily see Ajax advancing.
(This tie could be semi-final or finals match-up any other year, including this one)
Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich
This match-up pits Global Club Ranking #2 (Bayern) vs. #3 (Liverpool). Bayern made the semifinals last year. Liverpool made the finals last year and could’ve won it all had it not been for Sergio Ramos cheap-shotting Loris Karius and Mohammed Salah.
Both teams can score at elite clips. Both teams will be missing key contributors for Leg 1 (Thomas Mueller for Bayern, Virgil van Dijk for Liverpool).
Liverpool is off to a historical start in the Premier League, sitting atop the table without a defeat. Bayern Munich is chasing BVB in the Bundesliga, but are finding their form of late.
Liverpool’s futures at BetStars are 11/1 to Bayern Munich’s 12/1. FiveThirtyEight has Liverpool at a 9% chance to win the Champions League to Bayern’s 10%. Anfield has been a fortress all year for Liverpool, and has them at +100 to win Leg 1.
It’s rare to get two of the top teams on the planet matched in the Round of 16. If the winner of this doesn’t draw Porto or Roma in the Quarters, they’ve done something to piss off the soccer gods. Buckle up for this one.