Liverpool will face a familiar and formidable obstacle in the Champions League next year after the draw for the last 16 pitted them against the holders, Real Madrid.
The repeat of last season’s final was the stand-out tie from Monday’s draw at Uefa’s headquarters in Nyon, where Paris Saint-Germain were paired with Bayern Munich in another heavyweight contest. There were more favourable draws for England’s other representatives in the last 16, with Manchester City facing RB Leipzig, Tottenham meeting Milan and Chelsea playing Borussia Dortmund.
That trio of Premier League clubs will all be away in the first leg, to be staged across 14, 15, 21 and 22 February, having won their respective groups. The second legs will be played three weeks later on 7, 8, 14 and 15 March.
Liverpool finished second in Group A and have landed the toughest assignment of the English clubs as a consequence. The last-16 tie will be the fourth time Klopp’s team have met Real in six seasons, with the Spanish club prevailing on the three previous occasions; The 2022 and 2018 finals plus the 2021 quarter-final, played behind closed doors. Vinicius Junior’s goal settled the last encounter in Paris, where the appalling treatment of supporters by the local authorities and Uefa overshadowed European football’s showpiece occasion.
City will be confident of maintaining their quest for a first Champions League title after drawing Leipzig, whom they defeated 6-3 at home in the group stage last season before losing a dead-rubber in Germany 2-1. Txiki Begiristin, City’s director of football, admitted Pep Guardiola’s team “don’t like” coming up against German opposition with a box-to-box style but noted that some favorites to win the competition will be out by the quarter-finals stage.
Begiristain said of Leipzig: “They are growing as a club and growing as a project. This is German football – very open, box-to-box game, which we don’t like too much, because we always like to have the control – so it’s going to be difficult this kind of football. We were able to win the home game, but we struggled a lot. We have to be very careful.”
He added: “Some big names and big clubs are already out – some of them are now not playing in Europe because they were last in the group. It shows how difficult it is in this competition. Liverpool and Real Madrid are two unbelievable clubs, and they were two of the candidates to win, but one will be out. But still the ones who are there in the quarter-finals are going to deserve to be there. We want to be one of them.”
Spurs face the Italian champions, Milan, whom Antonio Conte has defeated more times in his managerial career than any other club (10 in all competitions), while Dortmund should pose a difficult test for Graham Potter in the Chelsea manager’s first Champions League campaign.
The other ties pit Club Brugge against Benfica, Eintracht Frankfurt against Napoli and Internazionale against Porto.