The Champions League round of 16 draw for the 2021/22 campaign has been concluded.
While there has already been plenty of drama in Europe’s premier competition this season, football fans are acutely aware that the knockout stages are where the tournament really cranks into gear.
With half of the qualified teams either jettisoned from continental football or sent crashing down to the Europa League, only the top contenders are left to slug it out for a chance to lift ‘Big Ears’ in May.
Champions League draw
The round of 16 draw is always a particularly fascinating part of the Champions League format because we haven’t quite reached the stage where the fixtures are chosen completely at random.
Clubs from the same nation still can’t face each other and group winners are pitted up against those who finished second in the idea that the very best sides won’t be locking horns quite yet.
So, how did the draw line up before its conclusion on Monday morning? Well, it’s fair to say that we were treated to some mouth-watering propositions with European giants wherever you looked.
Meanwhile, the runners up stacked up as: Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, Sporting CP, Inter Milan, Benfica, Villarreal, Red Bull Salzburg and Chelsea.
And that tantalising cocktail of continental juggernauts didn’t disappoint when it was shaken and stirred into the mix during UEFA’s ceremony at their headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Full fixtures revealed
Benfica vs Real Madrid
Villarreal vs Manchester City
Atletico Madrid vs Bayern Munich
Red Bull Salzburg vs Liverpool
Inter Milan vs Ajax
Sporting CP vs Juventus
Chelsea vs Lille
Manchester United vs Paris Saint-Germain
Messi and Ronaldo reunite
Naturally, by far and away the most interesting narrative to emerge from the draw is that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will be slugging it out for only the second time since 2018.
Clashes between the prolific Ballon d’Or winners have been few and far between on the back of Ronaldo’s departure from Spain, so we really have been treated with United drawing PSG.
However, it isn’t the only tantalising fixture to have been drawn from the hat with Atletico and Bayern slogging it out in a blockbuster clash, while Inter vs Ajax makes for a fascinating match-up.
But on the whole, the Premier League sides can feel pretty satisfied with their fixtures because Chelsea, City and Liverpool have received favourable draws in the grand scheme of things.