Champions League draw: Ranking the round of 16 fixtures

After a botched draw, UEFA did a do-over that resulted in the following round of 16 pairings. Here’s a ranking of the eight matches. 

French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain will face Real Madrid, and not Manchester United as previously expected, after UEFA on Monday admitted that they had botched that initial draw.

We may not see a Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo matchup this season in Europe’s top club competition, although you never know should both PSG and Man U advance, but there are nonetheless eight encounters worth your time.

The round of 16 starts on Feb. 15 and feature a home-and-away format. The draw for the quarterfinals and semifinals will be held on March 18.

Champions League rule change

It should be noted that starting this season, the away goals rule has been abolished. If a game is level after two games, it goes to extra time. If the teams are still tied after an additional 30 minutes, it will decided via a penalty-kick shootout.

Here’s how the eight round of 16 contests rank.

8. Chelsea vs. Lille

It’s a battle between the French champions and the defending UCL winners. Chelsea are in the driver’s seat heading into this one, but never underestimate an upset at this stage of the competition.

7. Benfica vs. Ajax

This is a clash reminiscent of another era in European soccer. There was a time in the 1960’s and 1970’s when Ajax and Benfica were the cream of the crop. This throwback game brings some prestige back to these two clubs as both try to win Europe’s top prize once again.

6. Sporting vs. Manchester City

Manchester City got lucky with a relatively easy draw after being pitted against Portugal’s Sporting. Man City are just too stacked. Barring an upset, the English club should sail to the quarterfinals.

5. FC Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich

This clash of Austrian and German teams should be an interesting one, but does anyone really think Bayern can’t win? The Bavarian giants have it all and Robert Lewandowski has looked great up front for them once again this season.

4. Villareal vs. Juventus

Juventus appear the favorites heading into this one, but Villareal have proven they are a tough team to play against.

3. Atletico Madrid vs. Manchester United

Atletico and Manchester United are two teams that were considered outsiders at the start of this competition. Atleti has what it takes to win this one, but don’t ever rule out a club that features Ronaldo in the lineup. The Portugal star has been known to score some big goals over the years in this tournament. Atletico, you’ve been warned.

2. Inter Milan vs. Liverpool

These are the two teams in great form as of late. Inter Milan are first in Serie A, while Liverpool are second in the Premier League and undefeated in the UCL. Can Mo Salah continue his scoring ways against a stingy Inter backline is one of the many storylines to emerge from this hotly-contested fixture.

1. PSG vs. Real Madrid 

The biggest game of the round, PSG features plenty of attacking punch in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Standing in their way is Real Madrid, a team always among the favorites in this tournament. Expect plenty of action, drama and goals in a game that could very well have been a final.