The UEFA Champions League last 16 draw has been kind to football fans with some extremely tasty ties being thrown up for our enjoyment. Whether it be clashes between the giants of the modern game as Real Madrid clash with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea take on Barcelona, or games between sides that have never met competitively before as Juventus play Tottenham and Sevilla face Manchester United, there is plenty to look forward to.
However, in terms of looking at the draw from the Spanish clubs’ point of view, there is a very good chance that all of them could be eliminated from the first knockout stage this time around. The first Liga El Clasico of the season will take place on Saturday with much speculation over which way the tie will go and whether the Spanish champions can battle their way back into the title race, with full Real Madrid v Barcelona betting odds on 888Sport.
Madrid face a PSG side hell-bent on avenging last season’s capitulation at Camp Nou with a forward line that could probably now be regarded as better than ‘BBC’ in Neymar, Edison Cavani and Kylian Mbappe. They will certainly need to summon that extra bit of verve considering their inconsistency so far in this campaign.
As for Barca, they will need to overcome their old nemesis Chelsea - the two clubs have played out some thrilling ties in European football history and this one should be no different. The Catalans are flying at the top of La Liga but with regards to their performances, they have yet to really convince under Ernersto Valverde. It will be a tough test against a strong Chelsea side who will want to progress in this competition given that Antonio Conte has already conceded defeat in their defence of the Premier League title.
Sevilla will do very well to get past a Manchester United side possessing the pace and power that they often struggle against, and their overall performances have not lit up La Liga so far this season, despite a solid league position.
With Atletico Madrid already out the picture after their failure to navigate through a difficult group, this draw shows that perhaps the Spanish period of dominance in European competition is coming to an end. Spanish teams have won the past four Champions League trophies and four of the last six Europa League titles, but it is only so long before the money of the English game and the lavish spending of PSG has an effect on this hegemony.
England has become the first country to have five teams in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and thanks to four out of those five topping their respective groups, it is now likely that at least three of them will progress and build momentum going into the next round.
There is no question that Spanish clubs will continue to compete at the top end of the European game, but the enormous TV deals and the millions being poured into clubs is starting to have a reaction that will be seen even more in the years to come.