The UEFA Champions League has reached the knockout stages. 16 of the best clubs in Europe and fans around the globe awaited the Round of 16 draws on Monday, with the results serving up major excitement and a few surprises along the way.
The draw for this particular round is always intriguing because of the timing in the calendar. With the winter break approaching for many leagues and the January transfer period just around the corner, every team involved could have a much different look and confidence to them by the time February arrives.
We review the matchups and what to watch for when the tournament resumes in 2017.
Real Madrid vs. Napoli
February 15th – Estadio Santiago Bernabeu – Madrid, Spain
March 7th – Stadio San Paolo – Naples, Italy
The defending European champions may not have topped their group, but Real Madrid should feel pleased with their chances against Serie A side Napoli. Los Blancos are currently riding a 35-match unbeaten streak across all competitions.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have been sharp at the top of the line-up, with the injured Gareth Bale possibly returning by the time the Champions League matches begin. A solid midfield has helped to keep manager Zinedine Zidane’s side in top form for most of the current campaign.
Currently fourth in their domestic league and winners of Group B, Napoli will need to be at their very best to advance.
Manager Maurizio Sarri will be relying on Marek Hamsik, Arkadiusz Milik and former Real Madrid forward Jose Callejon to bring a strong attack at the Bernabeu in the first leg.
Manchester City vs. AS Monaco
February 21st – Etihad Stadium – Manchester, England
March 15th – Stade Louis II – Fontvieille, Monaco
The UEFA coefficients have rarely been kind to Manchester City during recent years in this competition, and finishing runners-up to Barcelona in Group C seemed to set up another season of difficulties. But City and manager Pep Guardiola should be able to successfully navigate the challenge posed by AS Monaco.
Guardiola’s possession-based approach has seen many of his players improve their overall form, especially Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. Although they have struggled recently in the Premier League after a flying start, City will certainly be the favorites to advance.
Currently sitting second in Ligue 1, Monaco’s attack featuring strikers Radamel Falcao and Valere Germain do have the capability of scoring in bunches. The club will need their defense led by Fabinho to keep their shape and not be broken down by Guardiola’s passing system.
Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal
February 15th – Allianz Arena – Munch, Germany
March 7th – Emirates Stadium – London, England
It just had to this matchup, didn’t it?
After five consecutive seasons as group runners-up, Arsenal topped the Group A standings but was drawn against Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich. Bayern eliminated the Gunners from the Champions League in 2013 and 2014.
Manager Arsene Wenger’s side have looked strong this season, with a 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League only recently coming to an end. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil both have the capability to break down any opposing side.
Recent history strongly favors Bayern. Still finding their feet in some respects under manager Carlo Ancelotti, the Bavarians will be looking forward to a stern test from Arsenal.
Benfica vs. Borussia Dortmund
February 14th – Estadio da Luz – Lisbon, Portugal
March 8th – Westfalenstadion – Dortmund, Germany
Borussia Dortmund was able to top a group featuring the defending champions and do so with style along the way. Portuguese side Benfica will need to be prepared for Dortmund’s fast-paced and frenetic type of play.
Dortmund’s victory over Polish club Legia Warsaw in the group stage summarizes manager Thomas Tuchel’s approach perfectly. The electric 8-4 win was the highest scoring match in the tournament’s history. US international Christian Pulisic is part of a relentless attack that can be overwhelming for any opposition.
Benfica currently lead their domestic league and feature a talented midfield, but will likely struggle to keep up with the Dortmund front-line.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona
February 14th – Parc des Princes – Paris, France
March 8th – Camp Nou – Barcelona, Spain
After capturing the top spot in Group C, Barcelona head into a high-profile clash with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.
The Blaugrana dominated their Champions League group but have struggled to keep pace with Real Madrid in La Liga. PSG will need to prepare for the best front-line in world football in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar.
PSG manager Unai Emery will look to forward Edinson Cavani to continue his strong run of form and strike on the counter when needed against a compact Barcelona squad.
FC Porto vs. Juventus
February 22nd – Estadio do Dragao – Porto, Portugal
March 14th – Juventus Stadium – Turin, Italy
Defending Italian Serie A champions Juventus will feel confident about reaching the Champions League quarter-finals after being drawn against Portugal’s FC Porto.
The Bianconeri dominated their group (4-2-0) and have one of the world’s best strikers in Gonzalo Higuain. Manager Massimiliano Allegri has Juventus on top of Serie A and in sparkling form overall.
Porto will be counting on former Champions League and World Cup winner Iker Casillas to perform well in front of goal and provide leadership for a young squad.
Sevilla FC vs. Leicester City
February 22nd – Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan – Seville, Spain
March 14th – King Power Stadium – Leicester, England
Last season’s Premier League champions continue to surprise, this time advancing to the knockout rounds by winning their group in Leicester City’s first-ever Champions League appearance. Strong opposition awaits in La Liga side, Sevilla.
The Foxes have not had as much success domestically this campaign and will need Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to be in top form. A disciplined Sevilla midfield led by French international Steven N’Zonzi can be a challenge to break down.
Leicester City will look to keep on making history in 2017.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid
February 21st – BayArena – Leverkusen, Germany
March 15th – Estadio Vicente Calderon – Madrid, Spain
Last season’s runners-up look to make their way back to the final, as Atletico Madrid will meet Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen over two legs.
Los Rojiblancos and manager Diego Simeone have seen rivals Real Madrid build a sizeable lead in the league standings in Spain but performed well during the Champions League group stage. The attack led by Antoine Griezmann can cause problems for any defense.
Leverkusen and Mexican international Javier Hernandez will utilize their high-press system that has been successful in the Bundesliga to break down a tough and physical Atletico squad.
All of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matches will be broadcast live on FOX Sports television.