Just when you thought Uefa couldn’t string out its Champions League last 16 draw ceremony any longer, it found a way.
The extraordinary mix-up that failed to keep the right teams apart forced the governing body to scrap and re-run a draw that had featured a plum tie pitting Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain against Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United.
But the revised draw still contained plenty of intrigue. Here, City A.M. assesses the task ahead of the English teams in the Champions League last 16 – and what might have been.
Atletico Madrid v Man Utd
United’s odds of 16/1 to win the Champions League did not change after the draw was revised, indicating that while Atletico Madrid may lack PSG’s glamour they are not any easier to beat.
Just ask Porto, who they sent packing in a winner-takes-all final group game last week that bore all the hallmarks – good and bad – of Diego Simeone’s fiercely competitive side.
A derby defeat to Real Madrid at the weekend has left their La Liga defence in tatters but that will likely only fire their ambitions of reaching a third Champions League final in a decade.
Although by no means an insurmountable tie for United, Ralf Rangnick would have much preferred a date with old side Salzburg instead.
Chelsea v Lille
The only tie to appear in both the original and revised draw, Chelsea may feel they got off lightly given their other possible opponents were Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Ajax.
Lille are no longer the same side who swiped the Ligue 1 title from under the noses of much richer rivals last year and currently lie 11th in the French top division.
They did well to sneak out of their group given Sevilla could not, have lost just one in 12 games and boast France’s leading scorer in Jonathan David.
Yet with title-winning manager Christoph Galtier long since departed, it’s hard not see Lille as a team going backwards and Chelsea ought to be licking their lips.
Inter Milan v Liverpool
Liverpool were among the biggest losers of the Champions League draw fiasco; initially paired with outsiders Salzburg, they now face the Serie A title winners and current leaders.
After a rocky start following Antonio Conte’s departure and replacement with Simone Inzaghi, they have steadily climbed the table and went top at the weekend with a fifth straight win.
Their squad remains stacked with quality and experience – Edin Dzeko and Lautaro Martinez have both reached double figures for goals already – albeit that they profile older than most.
Over two legs Liverpool will still be fancied to progress, but Betfair lengthened their odds for the trophy from 7/2 to 6/1 after the draw was run for the second time.
Sporting Lisbon v Man City
Sporting haven’t reached the last eight of European club football’s top competition since 1982-83 and, after drawing Manchester City, that looks unlikely to change this year.
Still, there is a danger of underestimating a club that has proven remarkably resilient since the exodus of star players that followed a training ground attack by ultras in 2018.
They won the Portuguese title last season, are only goal difference off the top this term, have won 14 of their last 15 games and beat Borussia Dortmund to a spot in the last 16.
Their chief threat is likely to come from Pedro Goncalves, who replaced Bruno Fernandes as the attacking orchestrator and has eight goals and four assists this season.