Ranking difficulty of European draws for Premier League teams
Chelsea and Arsenal fans will be cursing their luck following the UEFA Champions League last 16 draw on Monday, while Manchester City’s supporters will be smiling smugly.
[ MORE: Full last 16 UCL draw ]
After the Europa League last 32 draw, Liverpool and Manchester United’s fans will be content, while the Tottenham Hotspur faithful could be forgiven for puffing out their cheeks disconsolately.
[ MORE: UEL last 32 draw in full ]
Below is a look at the three PL teams left in each of the Champions League and the Europa League and how tough their opponents may prove in the first knockout round of their respective European competitions which begin again in February.
UEFA Champions League
Opponents: Barcelona (Spain)
Game dates: First leg at Emirates (Feb. 23), Second leg at Nou Camp (Mar. 16)
Biggest threat: Any one of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez
League form: Currently first in La Liga
Why Arsenal can win: They beat Bayern at home this year, so must replicate that all-action display.
Last met: 2011-12 - Barca won 4-3 on aggregate in last 16 after Arsenal had won first leg 2-1 at home.
Toughness ranking: 10/10 - The reigning UCL champs were the last team Arsenal wanted but they have to deal with it after another second place finish in the group stages. If Wenger’s side can come flying out of traps at home in the first leg, they have a chance. They proved against Bayern in the group stage that they can beat the big boys but Messi and Co. are, at times, unstoppable.
Opponents: Paris Saint-Germain (France)
Game dates: First leg at Parc des Princes (Feb. 16), Second leg at Stamford Bridge (Mar. 9)
Biggest threat: Zlatan Ibrahimovic who will be supported by Cavani and Di Maria.
League form: Currently first in Ligue 1.
Why Chelsea can win: If they stay tight at the back in first leg, trio of Hazard, Oscar, Willian will cause problems.
Last met: 2014-15 - 10-man PSG (Zlatan sent off) won last 16 tie in dramatic fashion in extra time at the Bridge.
Toughness ranking: 9/10 - For the third-straight season these teams will meet after Chelsea won a quarterfinal two years ago and PSG got revenge last season. A real rivalry is brewing with the teams separated by just two hours on a train. If underperforming Chelsea can stay tight at the back in the first leg in Paris they will have every chance of advancing. Still, a tough ask against the big-spending French outfit.
Opponents: Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
Game dates: First leg at Olympic Stadium (Feb. 24), Second leg at Etihad (Mar. 15)
Biggest threat: Andriy Yarmolenko is a beast who flies up and down the wing. He will be a huge threat.
League form: Currently 2nd in Ukrainian Premier League.
Why City can win: By late February Aguero, Kompany and others will be back fully fit, a huge plus.
Last met: 2010-11 - Kiev beat City 2-1 on aggregate in Europa League last 16
Toughness ranking: 4/10 - One of the best draws City could have got but they shouldn’t take Kiev lightly. They are tough to break down and in Yarmolenko they possess a talent capable of exposing their full back weaknesses. With the first leg away at a freezing empty (all fans are banned due to incidents of racism from Dynamo supporters in the group stage) stadium in Kiev, City will look to nick an away goal and then bring them back to the Etihad. They will fancy their chances of making the last eight for the first time in club history.
UEFA Europa League
Game dates: First leg at WWK Arena (Feb. 18), Second leg at Anfield (Feb. 25)
Biggest threat: Raul Bobadilla’s goals helped them to a fifth place Bundesliga finish last season.
League form: Currently 13th in the Bundesliga.
Why the Reds can win: With Benteke, Origi, Sturridge, Firmino etc. all ready to roll in 2016, they’ll cause any defense problems.
Last met: Never
Toughness ranking: 3/10 - Jurgen Klopp will know Augsburg well from his time in Germany and Liverpool will come under plenty of criticism if they don’t reach the last 16.
Opponents: FC Midtjylland (Denmark)
Game dates: First leg at MCH Arena (Feb. 18), Second leg at Old Trafford (Feb. 25)
Biggest threat: Duncan Rasmussen holds the ball up well and is the focal point to this attack.
League form: Currently third in Danish Superliga
Why United can win: No disrespect to Midtjylland but this is a huge mismatch in terms of talent. United MUST win.
Last met: Never
Toughness ranking: 5/10 - How seriously United take this competition is paramount. If LVG goes for it full bore, expect a convincing win. If he plays the kids, Midtjylland could make it difficult as they’re strong, physical and reminiscent of a team in the English Championship. This may not be a walkover.
Opponents: Fiorentina (Italy)
Game dates: First leg at Stadio Artemi Franchi (Feb. 18), Second leg at White Hart Lane (Feb. 25)
Biggest threat: Nikola Kalinic is already in double figures this season and will pose a huge threat.
League form: Currently second in Serie A.
Why Spurs can win: They know Fiorentina’s strengths and weaknesses and are a strong squad this season.
Last met: 2014-15 - La Viola knocked Spurs out at this stage last season, 3-1 on aggregate.
Toughness ranking: 8/10 - This will not be easy. Heading to Florence first will make it easier this season, as Pochettino’s side can lock down defensively and try to sneak a vital away goal. Spurs should, just about, have the edge in this one. Then again, Fiorentina are second in Serie A for a reason. Paulo Sousa seems to be taking the squad Vincenzo Montella put together over the last three years to the next level.