Chelsea’s potential opponents in the Last 16

Having won Group E with one game to spare, Chelsea found out in Matchday Six their seven potential Last 16 opponents.

After last season’s humbling at the same stage by eventual winners, Bayern Munich, Chelsea fans will be delighted to know that they cannot meet the German giants until the quarter-finals.

However, the likes of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona did fail to win their group, so the options for Chelsea are not short of Europe’s elite.

However, had Chelsea finished second in Group E, their list of opponents could have been much more daunting. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain represents a far tougher list than the potential options.

Lampard’s side didn’t have an ideal start to life in the Premier League this season but have come right. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY EUROSPORT.

Below, we look at the seven teams Frank Lampard’s men could face as Last 16 opponents.

Atletico Madrid

Runners-up behind Bayern Munich in Group A, Atletico Madrid are probably the most difficult potential draw. Top of La Liga having conceded just two goals to date, their miserly defence and imperious two-legged knockout record under Diego Simeone present a formidable challenge.

Since Simeone took charge in 2011, Atletico have lost only one two-legged knockout tie in Europe to a team that Cristiano Ronaldo did not play for, this against Rubin Kazan in the 2012-13 Europa League, a competition Chelsea went on to win.

Such a record highlights just how difficult the Madrid side are to beat.

While their defensive unit is lauded, Luis Suarez and Joao Felix have forged an excellent relationship so far. Suarez’ departure from Barcelona was controversial, yet Atletico have been the biggest beneficiary.

Suarez has history with Chelsea and the Uruguayan would relish the chance to hurt the Blues. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY THE NATIONAL.

Five goals and an assist from seven La Liga games highlight his impact. Meanwhile, Portuguese sensation Felix provides a layer of stardust to compliment the well-oiled defensive machine. His 8 goals and 2 assists from 16 appearances in La Liga and the Champions League highlight his star quality.

Atletico Madrid are probably the team to avoid in the Last 16 for Chelsea, despite positive memories of their last trip to the Wanda Metropolitano in 2017. Certainly, there would be more favourable draws than the La Liga table-toppers.

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Borussia Monchengladbach are currently seventh in the Bundesliga having won four, drawn four and lost two of their ten league games so far. Having finished second behind Real Madrid in Group B, they represent an interesting proposition.

The star man is Alassane Plea.

Alassane Plea scored a superb long-range goal to rescue a point for Borussia Mönchengladbach in a 2-2 draw away to Freiburg on Matchday 10. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY THE BUNDESLIGA.

With three goals and an assist from his five Champions League games this season, the Frenchman is a huge goal threat for the Germans. The supporting cast of Marcus Thuram and Florian Neuhaus also provide quality in the forward areas.

Manager Marco Rose is highly-rated in Germany. His side play an expansive, attacking game. Gladbach games average 3.5 goals per game in the Bundesliga, highlighting their propensity to be open and expansive.

Gladbach are an inconsistent side and inexperience at Champions League level. However, they have an attacking impetus to make them dangerous in a one-off match. Despite this, Chelsea would expect to qualify should they draw Marco Rose’s side.

Porto

Sat third in the Liga NOS in Portugal and runners-up from Group C behind Manchester City, Porto are Champions League veterans.

Midfielder Sergio Oliveira has been the Dragons’ star man this season. Oliveira has seven goals and three assists in 14 appearances across league and Champions League this season. Oliveira, plus Otavio and Moussa Marega, are the real attacking threats in the Porto side, while Jesus Corona provides trickery on the wing.

In defence, ex-Newcastle man Chancel Mbemba has stood-out. Mbemba has played in all of Porto’s 15 league and Champions League outings this season. The veteran defender, Pepe is a key figure in the squad, however he is currently recovering from a foot injury. On-loan Chelsea defender Malang Sarr has also impressed in defence.

Head Coach Sergio Conceicao is highly rated in Europe, with links to Juventus surfacing before the Italian champions hired Andrea Pirlo. Despite Conceicao’s reputation, his Porto side is probably the weakest left in the competition. Chelsea would be very happy to draw the Portuguese side.

Atalanta

Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta were on everybody’s lips in last season’s competition. Their swashbuckling attacking style was the talk of Europe as they narrowly missed out on a Semifinal place.

This campaign, Atalanta recovered from a poor start in Group D. Victories away at Liverpool  in Matchday Four and Ajax in Matchday Six saw them qualify for the knockout stages for the second consecutive season.

Papu Gomez is a gifted player and is more than capable of hurting Chelsea’s European progress this season. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY CALCIO D’ANGOLO.

Alejandro Gomez and Josef Ilicic are, undoubtedly, the stars of the Atalanta show. Gomez has five goals and four assists in league and Champions League this season. He also produces 3.1 shots and two key passes per 90, highlighting his attacking influence. Meanwhile, Ilicic has had an injury-plagued season. However, 20 goals in 33 appearances in 2019/20 highlight just how dangerous the Slovenian can be.

Atalanta’s pair of 32-year-old attackers are complimented by Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel, highlighting their plethora of attacking quality. The entertaining Italians are only ninth in Serie A, however, pointing to defensive deficiency. With an average of 3.8 goals per Atalanta game in Serie A, it’s clear that Gasperini’s side is entertaining. Just like Monchengladbach, their attacking prowess makes them a danger, albeit a manageable one.

Lazio

Lazio are another Serie A side struggling to balance commitments in league and Champions League. Sat seventh in Serie A, Simone Inzaghi’s side have been consistently inconsistent despite their qualification from Group F.

Ciro Immobile’s phenomenal goalscoring record underpins this Lazio side. 11 goals in 12 league and Champions League games prove the Italian’s credentials. Immobile has scored in his last nine Lazio matches, an incredible feat.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is a highly-rated midfield player and with three goals and two assists in Serie A this season, he has started well. The Serbian’s ball-carrying ability is particularly eye-catching and Europe’s elite will keep an eye on his performance in the Champions League.

Despite possessing attacking quality, Lazio have a negative goal difference in the league. They scraped through to the Last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-2 home draw to Club Brugge in Matchday Six. The Roman outfit should not pose Chelsea too much threat, should the pair be drawn together.

Barcelona

While Lazio wouldn’t present fearsome opponents, Barcelona would. Despite languishing in ninth in La Liga, Barcelona have too much individual talent to count them out. Finishing behind Juventus in Group G, the Catalan giants linger in the list of possible opponents.

You cannot mention Barcelona without talking about Lionel Messi. Arguably the best player in history, Messi’s record speaks for itself with over 500 career goals and six Ballon d’Or titles. Despite a sub-par season, Messi cannot be written off such is his incredible talent and pedigree.

With a supporting cast of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho, just to name a few, Barcelona’s individuals are so dangerous in one-off matches. At any given moment, just one of these players can win a game on their own, much like Chelsea’s attack.

Ronald Koeman’s side are in poor form, with boardroom unrest unsettling the whole club. However, they are Barcelona. A resumption of rivalry with one of Europe’s biggest clubs would present a tough draw for Chelsea. However, it isn’t as tough as it would have been in years gone by, despite Messi’s presence.

RB Leipzig

Julien Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig are the final potential opponent for Chelsea, following their terrific victory over Manchester United. Group H was devilishly difficult, with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United along with Lelpzig, so the Germans will see it as an accomplishment in itself to qualify.

Last season’s Semifinalists lost Timo Werner to Chelsea in the summer, so a return for Werner to Germany would create its own narrative were they to be drawn as Last 16 opponents. While Werner has excited fans in London, Leipzig have managed to adapt without him, scoring 21 in 10 Bundesliga games.

Goals have been spread around the side, with Angelino their top scorer on four from left-wing-back. The likes of Dani Olmo, Justin Kluivert and the potential arrival of Dominik Szoboszlai would provide a further attacking dimension. Defensively, Dayot Upamecano is highly-rated and likely to be the next major departure from the Red Bull side.

Leipzig would present a difficult tie, with Nagelsmann’s tactical nous arguably their major strength. He is a coach who maximises his personnel whilst playing an expansive game. Last season’s Semifinal run remains fresh in the mind and Leipzig are not to be dismissed as a threat to go deep in the competition once again.

Verdict

In terms of opponents, the list of difficulty could be seen as below:

Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Leipzig, Atalanta, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Lazio, Porto.

Chelsea will want to avoid Spanish opposition and could consider themselves unlucky were they to draw Atletico or Barcelona as Last 16 opponents.

Any other draw would be considered favourable and Frank Lampard’s men should go into the draw feeling bullish about their chances. This is an exciting Chelsea side who can go deep into this season’s Champions League.

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