We’re a little under a month away from the resumption of the Champions League. The knockout stages begin in February and are usually the most awaited part of the competition. The group stages threw up some surprises- the likes of Manchester United and Ajax not qualifying for the Round of 16, and in the case of Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan, knocked out of Europe altogether. All four German sides who entered the competition progressed, as did all four Spanish sides.
Round of 16 draw
Gladbach (Puma) vs Manchester City (Puma)
Lazio (Macron) vs Bayern Munich (Adidas)
Atletico Madrid (Nike) vs Chelsea (Nike)
Leipzig (Nike) vs Liverpool (Nike)
Porto (New Balance) vs Juventus (Adidas)
Barcelona (Nike) vs PSG (Nike)
Sevilla (Nike) vs Dortmund (Puma)
Atalanta (Joma) vs Real Madrid (Adidas)
Nike (7)- Atleti, Chelsea, Leipzig, Liverpool, Barca, PSG, Sevilla
Puma (3) – Gladbach, Man City, Dortmund
Adidas (3)- Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid
Macron (1)- Lazio
Joma (1)- Atalanta
New Balance (1)- Porto
The draw, as you can see, is dominated by Nike- they outfit twice as many teams competing in the knockout stages as compared to bitter rivals Adidas, who have been reduced to having just 3 of the 16 left in the competition.
However, there are as many as three Nike “derbies” in the Round of 16- Atleti v Chelsea, Barca v PSG and Leipzig-Liverpool are all clashes between teams having the same manufacturer. The only Nike team facing a different manufacturer is Sevilla, who are up against Puma outfitted Dortmund.
Apart from Dortmund, there are two other Puma sides left in the competition- Gladbach and Man City and they’ll square off against each other. Pep Guardiola’s side are currently second favourites behind defending champions Bayern to win the competition- they are priced at 4/1 in the Champions League betting at 888, suggesting that they will be in the latter stages of the competition, but they will need to ensure defensive fragilities don’t let them down, as has been the case in previous years.
Gladbach, who surprised one and all by qualifying ahead of both Shakhtar and Inter, will however not go down without a fight. It’s also one of two Anglo-German clashes in the competition.
The three Nike derbies are amongst the tastiest clashes in the Round of 16 for a neutral- especially Atletico vs Chelsea and Barcelona vs PSG. The former is a battle between two evenly matched teams, with Diego Simeone’s Atleti noted for their defensive steel, and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea known for their youthful attacking style.
The latter is a long-awaited battle- the last time the two teams clashed, PSG won 4-1 in the first leg, only to incredibly lose the return fixture 6-0. Barca under Ronald Koeman no longer have that invincible aura while PSG, who recently appointed Mauricio Pochettino as their new gaffer, will be keen for revenge. The Parisians could perhaps have not picked a better time to play the Catalan giants, and this could also be the last time Lionel Messi turns out for them in this competition, if rumours of his summer departure are to be believed.
The three Adidas sides have all been drawn against opposition who are the sole representatives of their manufacturer left in the competition- Bayern are up against Macron outfitted Lazio, Juve face NB’s Porto while Real Madrid will seek to end the dreams of Atalanta (Joma).
We’re therefore guaranteed to have at least 3 Nike teams in the last eight, and judging by the relatively favourable draw for the Adidas, all three of theirs as well. The key test seems to be Sevilla-Dortmund, which will decide whether we’ll have four Nike teams or two Puma ones in the quarters.