The 16 teams left standing in UEFA’s Champions League will learn their fate in the first knockout round when the draw is made in Nyon, Switzerland on Monday. With the group stage done and dusted, those that have survived know there is now no room for error as they seek a place in May’s final at Milan’s San Siro Stadium.
Three-time European champions Manchester United were the biggest casualties in the opening phase, but there remains plenty of pedigree in the Round of 16. In all there will be seven past winners of the event in Monday’s draw, including the trio that has dominated the event in recent years -- Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
All three strolled to first place in their group, suggesting they will once again dominate the tournament’s latter stages. And they will be kept apart for the time being, with the eight group winners to be drawn against the eight runners-up. Teams from the same group and the same national association will also be unable to face off at this stage.
The three English teams left standing will receive the benefit of being among the top seeds, including for the first time Manchester City. Having exited at the Round of 16 for the past two seasons when finishing second-place in their group, their elevated status will come as a considerable relief. Joining them in the favorable seeding pot will be Wolfsburg, who will be playing in the Champions League knockout phase for the first time.
Emerging as group winners is far from a guarantee of a kind draw in the last 16, however. Among the second place teams are quarterfinalists for the last three years, Paris Saint-Germain, boasting a squad that is the envy of most of Europe. Joining them are last season’s beaten finalists Juventus, as well as current Premier League leaders Arsenal. Having bowed out at the Round of 16 for the last five years when finishing as runners-up, Arsene Wenger and his side will have to hope it’s a case of sixth-time lucky.
They have already survived plenty of drama, after overcoming defeats in their first two group matches, before getting a decisive 3-0 victory at Olympiakos on the final matchday. Still, Arsenal’s recovery was surpassed by that of Gent. Having gained entry to the Champions League for the first time by claiming their maiden Belgium title last season, their stay looked set to be a short one when taking just a solitary point from their opening three matches. Instead they reeled off three successive victories to claim a spot as the most likely entry in Monday’s draw.
Zenit St Petersburg
Draw time: 6 a.m. EST
TV channel: Fox Sports 1
Live stream: Uefa.com