Manchester United clinched their place in the second round of this season’s Champions League as group winners on Tuesday night with a 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford.
The draw takes place this Monday and there are six possible teams we could face in the next round. They are as follows:
The German giants finished runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain in group B with 15 points, missing out on top spot on head-to-head goal difference. Since Jupp Heynckes replaced Carlo Ancelotti in early October the Bavarians have won 10 of their 12 competitive games, with one of those two failures being a draw at RB Leipzig in the cup which they subsequently won on penalties.
Bayern Munich would arguably be the toughest tie in the second round given how well they are playing under Heynckes, who was previously replaced by Pep Guardiola after winning the treble. They are currently six points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and come February when the Champions League recommences they may well be much further ahead with the ability to rest players in their domestic games.
Another team we’d ideally like to avoid in the early knockout rounds are the defending Italian champions. Juventus have reached the final in this competition for two of the past three seasons and closed the gap on Napoli to one point in Serie A last weekend with a 1-0 win over the then league leaders.
With the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Paulo Dybala, Giorgio Chiellini, Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuain, Douglas Costa and Miralem Pjanic in their side it would be understandable why most teams would like to avoid the Old Lady. They finished runners-up in their group to Barcelona after they were thrashed 3-0 at the Camp Nou in their opening group game.
The Spanish outfit were defending Europa League winners last season before we lifted the trophy in May. Although they’ve only dropped points at home in one La Liga game so far this season their performances in the Champions League haven’t been so impressive. Sevilla were held 3-3 at home by Liverpool, 2-2 at Anfield, thrashed 5-1 at Spartak Moscow and even held 1-1 at Maribor.
Sergio Rico is a highly-rated goalkeeper whilst Steven N’Zonzi has thrived since joining from Stoke City. Wissam Ben Yedder is a decent striker whilst they have former Manchester City duo Jesus Navas and Nolito on their books. I’d be very confident of reaching the quarter-finals if we drew Sevilla.
Taking a maximum nine points at home in their group which included victories over Napoli and Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk have reached the knockout stages for only the second time in five seasons. However, they weren’t so impressive on their travels in losing 2-0 at City and 3-0 in Naples.
Their squad is predominately made up of Ukrainians and Brazilians and they are of course one of Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s former clubs. They have the ageing Andriy Pyatov in goal whilst Taison, Fred, Bernard and Marlos are some of their talented attacking Brazilians.
I think all seven group winners that can be drawn against FC Porto would bite your hand off to face the Portuguese side in the second round. Though they top their domestic league this season they are not the same team they were a decade or so ago.
Yacine Brahimi is a talented attacking midfielder in their side whilst Vincent Aboubakar is looking better in his second spell with Porto, but I’m still not convinced the striker is ready to play in an elite league, certainly not for a top team. Would be nice to see football legend Iker Casillas at Old Trafford once again.
As well as Porto, Real Madrid are the second former Jose Mourinho side that we could face in the next round. Though they are the defending champions and winners in three of the past four seasons, they look far short of the team they were last season. This is backed up by being eight points behind Barcelona in La Liga and taking just one point off Tottenham Hotspur in their group.
Zinedine Zidane has plenty of time between now and February to get his team back to their best and if they’re out of the La Liga title race come February then he can fully concentrate on defending the Champions League trophy.
We cannot be drawn against FC Basel as they were in the same group as us and we cannot face Chelsea because teams from the same nation avoid each other in the second round.
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