Liverpool will look to learn lessons from Manchester United’s defeat against 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 led to them dropping into the Europa League. Manchester City were handed the kindest assignment, 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 against 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.
“I think most people will say it’s the toughest draw that we could have had when you go on current form in La Liga, European experience, quality of team and play,” said Frank Lampard. “But all draws are difficult in the Champions League. We have to have belief in ourselves. We’re going to have to beat these sort of teams if you’re going to win the Champions League.
“I watched them knock Liverpool out last year, who are obviously a great team and have that experience and quality in the squad. They are one of the toughest teams we could have drawn on paper. But we’ll have to turn up and do our job and be confident we can beat them.”
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 Paris Saint-Germain, finalists last season. 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 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.
“I learned [when coaching there] in Germany how big and important and historic they are,” said Guardiola. “It’s a club that I respect a lot, the beauty they have when playing football, they went through a tough group, and made an incredible couple of [group] games against Shakhtar Donetsk after they’d beaten Real Madrid.”
Elsewhere the reigning champions, Bayern Munich, will be confident of beating Lazio. Atalanta, who secured a famous win against 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.