UCL draw: Guardiola’s return to Bernabeu, Bayern’s revenge match against Chelsea
The Champions draw for the Round of 16 threw up a few exciting battles with Pep Guardiola's City set to take on Real Madrid and Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool going against the defensive-minded Atletico Madrid mast
The Champions League draw for the last 16 coughed up a few enticing encounters with Pep Guardiola’s quest for Champions League glory with Manchester City taking him to Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu – his old, favourite hunting ground from his Barcelona days.
Even though Guardiola has played down City’s chances of winning the Champions League, he will be under pressure to perform in Europe’s most elite club tournament with the chances of retaining the Premier League title fast dwindling. Liverpool’s dominance in the domestic league has exposed certain frailties in Pep Guardiola’s management, with some blaming the below-average season on his hesitance to build on the squad. Rodri was the only major summer signing for City and the team has at time looked thin at the back.
Despite investing millions, the Manchester club have reached the semi-final stage only once, under Manuel Pellegrini, when they were narrowly beaten by Real Madrid in 2016 – the same team Guardiola’s men will face in the rough of 16. They have been knocked out once in the last 16 and twice in the quarter-finals under the Spaniard.
Real went on to the win the competition that year, the first of three titles in a row. Zinedine Zidane’s achievements in Spain also took the sheen away from Guardiola’s own career in Spain, and given the City manager’s vocal support for the Catalan independence movement, there will be plenty at stake in the two encounters between the teams.
Real aren’t the same team they were in 2016, with the side undergoing a transition, but with the likes of Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Isco slowly getting back in to form, City might still be the underdogs in the encounter.
The revenge match
Bayern Munich drew London-based club Chelsea for the Round of 16 match. The last time the sides met was in the 2012 where the English club beat Bayern in their home ground to win the UEFA Champions League title.
One of Chelsea’s heroes from the night in Munich, Frank Lampard, is their coach as now as he shepherds a young team through a period of transition. Bayern will be the overwhelming favourites to win the match with Robert Lewandowski in the form of his life but a Champions League encounters tend to be cagey affairs. In 2012, Chelsea were not expected to win but they still did though under Lampard the Blues have struggled against top opponents in the Premier League.
Bayern, despite have star-studded line-up, haven’t exactly lit the Bundesliga this season. In fact the team from Munich have rode on Lewandowski’s individual brilliance on many occasions.
Atletico Madrid’s matches against Liverpool will be equally exciting with two teams built around contrasting philosophies taking on each other. Liverpool’s lethal attack against Atletico’s traditionally strong defence makes it the most exciting proposition for the neutral while Thomas Tuchel will take his PSG side to his old home Borussia Dortmund for their Round of 16 match.
Champions League round of 16 draw in full