Everything you need to know ahead of the Champions League round of 16

The field has been cut in half and the teams have had the winter to prepare: the knock-out rounds of the UEFA Champions League are here.

This will be the first edition to see the introduction of video assistant referees (VAR), which will be a talking point, but the ties that have been drawn out of the hat are juicy enough to make that a minor story.

Here's the lowdown on all eight of the round of 16 match-ups.

Manchester United vs Paris Saint-Germain

Last season both of these teams were knocked out of this competition at the round of 16 stage. So one of them is guaranteed improvement on a year ago.

Neither will see that modest improvement as a major achievement though. United, who have won the competition three times, have a history of challenging for titles.

PSG, on the other hand, have dominated French domestic competition but have struggled to translate that to Champions League success. They’ve now qualified from the group stage in seven seasons in a row, but haven’t made it past the quarter-finals.


 

AS Roma vs FC Porto

Coincidentally, last season Porto were knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16 by Liverpool, the team Roma played in the semi-final.

This time, though, Porto have the advantage of playing the crucial second leg at home, having finished top of Group D.

It’s a handy boost against a team who got to the final four last season, but Porto won the Champions League in 2003/04 – propelling then-manager José Mourinho to worldwide attention.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Borussia Dortmund

This is only the fourth time that Tottenham have been in the Champions League, and they haven’t had an easy time so far.

Their group also featured FC Barcelona, Inter, and PSV Eindhoven, and now they face Dortmund, who won the competition back in the 1996/97 season.

In more recent history, Dortmund reached the final in the 2012/13 season, where they were beaten by FC Bayern, and have reached the quarter-finals twice since then.

Ajax vs Real Madrid

Compared to most other clubs, Ajax’s four Champions League titles would be impressive. Drawn against Real Madrid — with three in the last three years and 13 in total — their success is dwarfed.

Ajax won three-in-a-row themselves back in the early 1970s, playing a style of ‘Total Football’ that is the spiritual father to the way many of today’s great teams, like Barcelona and Manchester City, play.

As far as winning streaks in the competition can go, no team in history can match Madrid’s five-in-a-row from 1956 to 1960, a team that included greats like Alfredo di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás.

This is a tie dripping with history, but is the first time Ajax have reached the knock-out rounds of the competition since 2006.

Liverpool vs FC Bayern

Another tie dripping with history. There have only been five teams to have won five or more Champions League trophies, and two of them are right here (the others being Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Barcelona).

Like Real Madrid and Ajax, Bayern won three titles on the bounce, from 1974-76 but, since then, have had hard luck with Champions League finals. After the ‘70s, they won only two out of seven.

This ‘always the bridesmaid’ luck has extended even further. Since winning their most recent title in 2012/13, Bayern have reached the semi-finals four times in five years, yet not reached a single final in the time.

For Liverpool, recent history has been just the opposite. Last season saw them enter the Champions League for the first time since 2014/15 and they went all the way to the last match, losing to Real Madrid in Kyiv.

Bayern also have the top-scorer of the 2018/19 season so far, with Robert Lewandowski already on eight goals.

Olympique Lyonnais vs FC Barcelona

This is Lyon’s first trip to the knock-out rounds of the Champions League since 2011/12, and they face a team they haven’t beaten in six attempts. What’s more, Barcelona have not been eliminated at the round of 16 stage since 2006/07.

However, Lyon have shown they can cause big clubs trouble, winning and drawing against Manchester City in the group stage.

The last time the teams faced each other in European competition was on Barcelona’s way to winning the 2009 title. Barcelona won their round of 16 tie 6-3 on aggregate.

Atlético de Madrid vs Juventus

For a club as domestically successful as Juventus — seven Serie A titles in a row, 34 in total — Champions League success has eluded them. The Italian side have only won two of the nine finals they’ve been in, including two in the last four years (vs Barcelona in 2015 and vs Real Madrid in 2018).

Atlético fans will be able to empathise though; Los Colchoneros were runners-up in 2014 and 2016, and didn’t win their only previous final either, back in 1973/74.

Both teams will want to progress further in the competition than 2017/18. Atleti already have, having gone out at the group stage last season before winning the UEFA Europa League; Juventus, meanwhile, reached the quarter-finals but were knocked out by Atlético’s neighbours and eventual winners, Real Madrid.

The tie means a return to Turin for Atlético new-boy Álvaro Morata while Mario Mand┼żuki─ç called Atleti home before moving to Italy.

FC Schalke vs Manchester City

This is the sixth season in a row that Manchester City have reached the knock-out round of the Champions League, but they’ve only made it past this stage on two of the previous five occasions.

One of those occasions was their run to the semi-finals in 2015/16, where they lost to eventual winners Real Madrid, so they’re not unfamiliar to the latter stages of the competition.

Schalke have also reached a semi-final in recent memory, back in 2010/11, but have only reached the round of 16 three times since then and not progressed past it.

It will be a return home for City’s Leroy Sané, who spent most of his youth academy years at Schalke, and played for them for two seasons as a professional before leaving for Manchester.


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