Liverpool will look to learn lessons from Manchester United’s defeat to RB Leipzig last week after landing the Germans in the last 16 of the Champions League, while Chelsea face a tough task to reach the quarter-finals after being pitted against Atlético Madrid.
Three English teams took part in the draw for the knockout stages, with United the notable absentees after their humbling by Leipzig in their final group game saw them drop into the Europa League. Manchester City landed the kindest assignment, earning a tie with Borussia Mönchengladbach, but there were tough draws for Liverpool and Chelsea.
First-time semi-finalists in last year’s competition, Leipzig will not be intimidated by facing Liverpool. Julian Nagelsmann’s side have fared well against Premier League opponents of late, thumping Tottenham in the last 16 last season before overwhelming Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s United with a fast start at the Red Bull Arena last Tuesday, and will be confident of posing Jürgen Klopp’s side some awkward questions.
Although Liverpool boast the greater experience in the competition, winning it for the sixth time in 2019, it will be intriguing to see how Klopp fares against another German coach. The 33-year-old Nagelsmann is 20 years younger than his Liverpool counterpart and boosted his credentials as one of the brightest young managers in Europe when he outwitted Solskjaer to finish second in Group H.
At least Liverpool have avoided a meeting with Atlético, who knocked them out at this stage last season. Instead that task falls to Chelsea, who lost to Diego Simeone’s side in the semi-finals in 2014. Second in La Liga and tough to break down, Atlético will be no pushovers. Chelsea, who spent heavily in the summer, will have to be at their best to grind the Spaniards down.
Perhaps Chelsea might have been happier facing Barcelona, who are a shadow of their former selves at the moment. In one of the ties of the round, however, the struggling La Liga giants discovered the cost of finishing second to Juventus in their group when they were drawn against last season’s beaten finalists, Paris Saint-Germain. Neymar, who joined PSG from Barcelona in 2017, will be desperate to steal the limelight from Lionel Messi and shine against his former club.
In different circumstances Messi might have been wearing the light blue of City this season. Yet despite failing to sign the Barcelona forward last summer, Pep Guardiola will still feel that he has enough attacking talent to see off Gladbach, who reached the knockout stages for the first time after pipping Shakhtar Donetsk and Internazionale to second place in their group.
Elsewhere the reigning champions, Bayern Munich, will be confident of beating Lazio. Atalanta, who earned a famous win over Liverpool at Anfield last month, will adopt a fearless approach against Real Madrid, who only sealed qualification after beating Gladbach last week. Sevilla will be tough opponents for Borussia Dortmund, who have placed Edin Terzic in caretaker charge after firing Lucien Favre, while Juventus will face Porto.