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Excitement as Manchester City draw, Barca and Napoli set for dream tie in Champions League quarter-finals predictions

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The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League was made in UEFA’s Nyon headquarters this morning and Europe’s big guns will have largely liked the outcome.

England’s two remaining representatives, Arsenal and Manchester City, were handed kind draws in Porto and Copenhagen, while Real Madrid were paired with RB Leipzig.

Of the more established big guns, Barcelona face arguably the toughest task, having been paired with last season’s Italian champions Napoli.

Here, our experts cast their eye over the draw and what could happen next.

Which game are you most excited about?

  • Oliver Kay: Napoli vs Barcelona. Both clubs are experiencing hangovers from last season’s title success, but what better than a tie like that to get them going? In terms of individual talent, tactical intrigue and the atmosphere expected in Naples in particular, this tie sticks out. Second choice: Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Sociedad.
  • James Horncastle: Maurizio Sarri will be disappointed. The Lazio manager wanted the chance to coach at the Camp Nou. Nevertheless, Lazio vs Bayern Munich sees him face Thomas Tuchel, pitting a couple of cantankerous ex-Chelsea coaches against each other in the ‘Miroslav Klose-ico’. Inter Milan vs Atletico Madrid is also Simone Inzaghi vs ex-Interista Diego Simeone and looks delicately poised, particularly because last year’s finalists face one of the better vintages of Simeone’s Atleti.
  • Laia Cervello Herrero: Barcelona vs Napoli. It could be an interesting match, especially given how Xavi’s team are faring. They are unpredictable and that makes the match more attractive. It will also be the first time in three years that we will see Barca in the knockout stage of the Champions League. Victor Osimhen and Giacomo Raspadori pose a threat to Barcelona (Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
  • Liam Tharme: PSG vs Real Sociedad. Two teams that will go toe-to-toe, playing out and pressing. Don’t expect this to be a typically cagey knockout game. PSG just about squeezed through their group — even if Group F was the hardest of the lot — and will need a statement performance. They have looked vulnerable when pressed high and La Real will certainly do that.
  • Sebastian Stafford-Bloor: Peter Bosz against Borussia Dortmund. Now flying at PSV Eindhoven, Bosz lasted half a season at the Westfalenstadion in 2017 and the way his Dortmund side fell apart still impacts how he’s viewed. Bosz is a punchline to some and he will be thrilled to take his brilliant PSV side (16 wins from 16 in the Eredivisie) to Germany. Fascinating — and that’s without even considering the questions surrounding Edin Terzic’s future.

Key dates

  • Round of 16: February 13/14/20/21 and March 5/6/12/13
  • Quarter-finals: April 9/10 and 16/17
  • Semi-finals: April 30/May 1 and May 7/8
  • Final (Wembley): June 1

Who will be happiest with the draw?

  • Oliver Kay: Manchester City. No disrespect to Copenhagen, but that is the opponent all the group winners wanted. The Danish team were a real surprise package in the group stage, but they will find City a rather tougher proposition than their neighbours.
  • James Horncastle: City, as usual. I look forward to Stefan Ortega, Micah Hamilton, Oscar Bobb and Mahamadou Susoho helping the treble winners reach the quarter-finals. Serie A leads this season’s UEFA co-efficient sweepstakes and, alongside Ligue 1, still has a full contingent of teams across UEFA’s three competitions. The draws look tough for Italy’s representatives but in the Champions League, Barcelona are not what they used to be and Inter got the ‘right’ team from Madrid, too.
  • Laia Cervello Herrero: City, without a doubt. They’ve been drawn with the lowest-ranked opponents and they still have the tag of reigning Champions League winners. They can already see themselves in the quarter-finals.
  • Liam Tharme: Presumably City, even if they did draw in Copenhagen in the group stages last season. They have missed the big hitters and get the bonus of a chance to eliminate the team that went through in place of their city rivals — not that they needed to justify which of the Manchester teams is faring better. Manchester City were held in Copenhagen last year (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
  • Sebastian Stafford-Bloor: Bayern Munich. Tuchel will probably have two or three new players to weave into his first team at the end of the transfer window and this tie, against Sarri’s underwhelming Lazio, should offer a chance to grow into the latter stages of the tournament. Bayern’s worst-case scenario would have been a fast-paced, vertical opponent, and Lazio certainly aren’t that.

Which ‘giant’ could be in the most trouble?

  • Oliver Kay: Barcelona, although I would still put them as slight favourites to overcome Napoli. It’s a funny season. None of the heavyweights are performing particularly well, so it’s possible to imagine any one of Barcelona, Bayern or Real Madrid coming unstuck — plus PSG, whom I’m not going to categorise as giants.
  • James Horncastle: The underwhelming Barcelona. Will Xavi still be in charge come February? Robert Lewandowski seems a shadow of himself. Of course, a lot can change in two months. But a Spalletti-less Napoli still has enough skill to win the ‘Maradona derby’.
  • Laia Cervello Herrero: Real Sociedad have shown a great level in La Liga and the Champions League and they have a chance against PSG, who are not having the best season.
  • Liam Tharme: PSG, for all the reasons I mentioned above. Luis Enrique was brought in as a project coach — which is reflected in their summer signings, more youth and less galactico-y — but PSG have gone out in the last 16 in the past two seasons (though to bigger European clubs, in Bayern Munich and Manchester City). If they lose to Real Sociedad, it will probably be down to tactiics. Luis Enrique is under pressure at PSG (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Sebastian Stafford-Bloor: The draw didn’t create too much jeopardy, but it’s probably Barcelona. Napoli are not what they were under Spalletti, but Xavi’s Barca have so little life in them — and so few goals. You can imagine them losing in Naples.

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