After what was one of the most muddled draws, not only in football’s history, but also in the whole of sport, the first round of knockout matches in the Champions League have finally been decided. There was an apparent mix-up, that led to UEFA having to redo the draw, after there was an error with the Manchester United ball. With all that palaver now over, there are some truly mammoth ties lying ahead in the round of sixteen for football fans to look forward to.
The first-leg matches will take place between the 15th and 23rd of February 2022, and then the return fixtures will be between the 8th and 16th of March.
A Fair way off then, and in football, a couple of months is a long time, especially when it’s over the busy Christmas fixture period. So, it’s hard to gauge exactly what state each squad will be in next time the Champions League anthem blares out at each of their stadiums.
That being said, let’s take a look at three of the most mouthwatering clashes that are due to take place in early 2022.
Atletico Madrid v Manchester United
If there’s one team that knows how to wind up its opponents to a level that causes them to self-destruct, then that’s Diego Simone’s Atletico Madrid. Manchester United then will have to make sure they employ all of their composure, whilst keeping their wits about them, to have any chance of knocking out the devilishly difficult Spanish side.
Atletico fans though will also be especially wary of the threat that their old nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo will pose. The veteran striker spent a trophy-laden nine seasons at their arch-rivals Real Madrid, and the Portuguese superstar had many magical moments during that time putting their side to the sword. On the flip side, there will be no one whose fans will be happier to dump out of the competition, and they will be ecstatic if Ronaldo and his United teammates fail.
PSG v Real Madrid
This is easily the biggest tie of the round, and what a seismic showdown it could prove to be. On the one side, you have the most successful team in the competition, the Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have won the most treasured prize in European football an incredible thirteen times.
Then on the other, you have one of the most insanely rich teams in world football, PSG, who are absolutely desperate to win the competition for the first time in their history.
PSG made some serious signings last summer to try and get their squad to a level where they can sweep aside all opponents.
It will be interesting to see them come up against such a formidable foe so early in the tournament then. Will they self-destruct, as many expect of them, or will they be able to put Madrid to the sword, and prove to the naysayers that this is the year they finally get their hands on the trophy?
One thing’s for sure, there will be many millions of people worldwide glued to their screens watching this powerhouse of a game. It’s also going to be extremely popular with bettors across the globe, especially within the massive betting market that is Asia.
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Inter Milan v Liverpool
The last time these two juggernauts of European football faced off against each other was way back in 2008 when the Premier League club managed to swat aside their Italian opposition with relative ease.
Many pundits are predicting a repeat showing fourteen years later, with Liverpool looking devastatingly good throughout the group stage, becoming the first English side in history to win all six of their matches.
This definitely leaves Inter Milan the clear long shot for this fixture, but just because they’re the underdog doesn’t mean they can’t cause Liverpool problems. People often question whether an underdog can still win the Champions League, yet one side that could buck that trend is Inter.
They have a strong squad and have also sampled the taste of winning after they took the Serie A title last season. If they can somehow squeeze their way past the rampant attacking force of Liverpool, then there’s no reason they couldn’t go all the way.