The chaos that was the final seven minutes at Camp Nou on Wednesday will live long in the memory but if Barcelona are eliminated in the next stage then it will have all been for naught. After only reaching the quarter-finals last year – when they were eliminated by Atletico Madrid – the Catalans may feel they have something to prove on the European stage, and could provide Luis Enrique with a showpiece swansong.
The draw for the last eight will take place on March 17, after the Round of 16 has been completed and there will be at least two Spanish teams in it, Barca’s heroics obscuring Real Madrid’s safe progression against Napoli the night before. Atletico and Sevilla hold respective first-leg leads over Bayer Leverkusen and Leicester City, the former more secure than the latter, but there should be a full complement of Spanish sides in the hat later this month.
With that in mind, Football Espana asked on Twitter which of the four LaLiga sides you expect to last longest in this year’s edition of the competition?
— footballespana (@footballespana_) March 9, 2017
After more than 700 votes it’s Barca favoured to go furthest, edging it from Madrid. Atletico take third place just ahead of Sevilla, but it’s clear that they are considered underdogs despite their European pedigree.
Indeed, last year’s Champions League Final was a Madrid derby, the second such fixture in three years, while Sevilla are the reigning Europa League holders, having claimed the trophy in three consecutive seasons and five times in a decade when the old UEFA Cup is considered.
But Atletico have been beaten both times by their neighbours and their last European trophy came in 2012, when they lifted the Europa League. Sevilla, meanwhile, were only able to make it three Europa League wins in a row last season because they bombed out of the Champions League, finishing third behind Manchester City and Juventus.
Outside of Spain, the likes of the Old Lady, runaway leaders of Serie A and Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga pace-setters and one of the other teams also guaranteed a last eight place, look strong. Borussia Dortmund, similarly through to the draw already, can’t be discounted with the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The winners of the Manchester City-Monaco tie might be dark horses too.
The draw will prove pivotal and with no country protection, we could see a situation where two LaLiga teams are pitted against each other, reducing the possibility of another Spanish Champions League winner – each of the last three and four of the last 10 winners have been from Spain – but perhaps it’s only fair LaLiga lets some of the other countries have a chance of winning now and then.