The last day of the group stage of Champions League has given all its verdicts, or almost: except for the direct clash between Villarreal-Atalanta for the second place in group F, the teams that will take part in the knockout stages of the Champions League are known. There will be no Milan, who closed the round of death with Liverpool, Atletico and Porto in the last place, There will be no clamorous Barcelona either, relegated to the Europa League playoffs with Benfica to celebrate behind Bayern Munich (the blaugrana had not been out in the Champions League groups since 2000/01). Instead, there will certainly be Juventus and Inter, respectively first in group H (ahead of Chelsea) and second in group D (behind Real Madrid), and the two teams present themselves at the Nyon ballot box (Monday at 12 noon) with decidedly different perspectives.
JUVE, ONLY ONE NIGHTMARE – Zenit’s incredible 3-3 in full recovery with Chelsea gave Allegri an unexpected first place and which allows the Bianconeri to look at the draw with cautious optimism. In fact, with the Blues who cannot be drawn as opponents in the group, there is only one team to be considered a real bugbear: the Paris Saint Germain, the team that all the top seeds (except the City that have already faced it) would like to avoid. Definitely softer fish would be the Benfica, the Salzburg, possibly the Villarreal and above all it Sporting. And theAtletico Madrid? On paper, Simeone’s team would have everything to be feared, but what is shown in the group, especially in the home defeat against Milan, suggests that the battleship of a few years ago is just a memory and that now the colchoneros have more than one crack from exploit: 4 stars of difficulty, but with reserve.
INTER, HOW MANY DANGERS – Definitely different for Inzaghi’s Inter, who in the second round will certainly have to do without Barella for the first leg due to disqualification (to be seen for the return match based on the referee’s report) and has a large pool of super rivals to fish. Starting with the scary trio Bayern Munich, Liverpool (both with full points in the groups) and Manchester City: these are the three most formidable opponents and that Inzaghi and the players would probably save themselves at least in the second round. More affordable the Manchester United, which has Ronaldo and other absolute champions such as Bruno Fernandes and Pogba, but is inconsistent in performance and is changing skin with the arrival of Rangnick. The most ‘soft’ draws for the Nerazzurri would be the Little, won the royal rumble final of group G, andAjax dominator of group C (full score). More affordable opponents on paper but not to be underestimated especially for the offensive potential: the French have the Canadian bomber on their side Jonathan David (followed by Inter himself) but they will probably lose Jonathan Ikoné (which has an understanding with Fiorentina), the Dutch instead have their trust in Sebastien Haller, top scorer in this Champions League with 10 goals, scored in all six group stage matches. Criteria that would then also apply to Atalanta in case of qualification, with one difference: Gasperini’s team could not draw United (already faced in the group) but could have to deal with the Real Madrid, which with Ancelotti is returning to shine dragged by the experience of the veterans Benzema-Kroos-Modric and by the overwhelming quality of Vinicius.
SERIES HEADS AND DIFFICULTY COEFFICIENT
Bavaria Monaco *****
Manchester City *****
Manchester United **** (could not meet Atalanta)
Real Madrid **** (cannot meet Inter, potentially Atalanta)
NOT SERIAL HEADS AND DIFFICULTY COEFFICIENT
Paris Saint Germain *****
Atletico Madrid ****
Chelsea ***** (cannot meet Juve)
Villarreal *** / Atalanta
THE DRAW – The draw for the pairings for the second round will be staged on Monday 13 December (12 noon) in Nyon, at the Uefa headquarters. The seeded teams (qualified first) will play the second leg at home. According to the criteria, teams from the same country or group cannot be played in the round of 16. The first leg of the second round will be played between 15 and 22 February, return between 8 and 16 March. The away goal rule, which can be valid for double, has been eliminated, the matches that in the double comparison remain tied for the number of goals scored between home and away will go to extra time and in the event of a further draw it will go to penalties.
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