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Easiest Opponent for Title Holder Manchester City in UEFA Champions League “Last-16 Draw”

Nyon, Manchester, Milan (19/12 – 31)

The group phase of the 2023-2024 UEFA Champions League is to conclude this month. Names of the sixteen clubs who will compete in the knock-out phase have been released. On Monday, 18 December 2023, UEFA conducted the draw for the last-16 round, at their headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

Defending champion Manchester City came out from the draw with the biggest smile as they will face off with the arguably easiest opponent. Pep Guardiola’s team will Danish champion Copenhagen, who were down at 37th in the UEFA club coefficient ranking. As the current title holder, Manchester City is Number One in that ranking. This means a pairing of Manchester City vs. Copenhagen is the most lopsided one in the draw.

“It’s the most difficult draw possible,” admitted Copenhagen Coach Jacob Neestrup. “Manchester City are a team that is complete in their collective play and armed with great individuals. They are the best club team in the world.”

With a team worth 1.26 billion Euro in market value, Manchester City is the priciest team of the last 16. That number is nearly 20 times higher than that of the Copenhagen squad, which only shows a modest worth of 66.35 million Euro. Add that to the fact that Manchester City has progressed from the round of 16 in each of the last six seasons in the Champions League.

The last time Copenhagen played in the last-16 in the Champions League was in the 2010-2011 season. They were beaten by Chelsea, with a 0-2 aggregate. That was also their best season in the UEFA competition.

Nielsen’s Gracenote has been analyzing the data since the Champions League last-16 draw was made. They give Manchester City a 97% chance of reaching the quarter-finals while Copenhagen has just a 3% chance of advancing. Compared to Manchester City, other seeded teams in the draw will face tougher opponents.

Unlucky Atletico Madrid, who ranked 13 in UEFA, draws a black ball to face Inter Milan (ranked 6 in UEFA), last season’s runner-up.  “We know how complicated the Champions League is; every match presents new challenges and different issues,” Atletico’s coach, Diego Simeone, mused. “Last year Inter went on a great journey in this competition. It will be a very difficult match.”

Inter Milan also recognized that a tough challenge awaits them. “Atletico are a difficult team to face. There were so many great teams; we knew it could be a complicated draw,” admitted Inter vice-president, Javier Zanetti.” “We have great respect for Atletico: we know their history and their culture. They will be difficult to beat.”

Bayern Munich (2) paired with Lazio (35). Barcelona (12) will clash with Italian champion Napoli (17), in one of the most heart-stopping matches in the round of 16. Arsenal (21) got a favorable draw against Porto (19) but must be careful, because their opponent has a strong tradition in the competition.

Real Sociedad (38) is the surprise team in the group phase, as they finished above Inter Milan and Benfica in Group D. But in the round of 16, they oppose a very difficult Paris Saint-Germain (4). Borussia Dortmund (11) will face PSV Eindhoven (31) and Real Madrid (3) could step on a potential banana skin in the form of RB Leipzig (7).

The first legs of the round of 16 will be played on 13, 14, 20, and 21 February, and the second legs will be played on 5, 6, 12, and 13 March 2024.