A clean sweep of English teams, Scott Parker managing Club Bruges, and a record number of teenage players.
The Champions League knockout stages begin on Tuesday as AC Milan host Tottenham and Paris St-Germain welcome Bayern Munich.
It’s time to jog your memory on who’s still in the competition – and all the reasons you should be following along.
Clean sweeps for Premier League and Bundesliga
- Manchester City v RB Leipzig
- Real Madrid v Liverpool
- Tottenham v AC Milan
- Chelsea v Borussia Dortmund
There’s plenty of English interest for you. For the fifth time in six seasons there are at least four Premier League teams in the Champions League last 16.
Manchester City and Chelsea won their groups, Liverpool advanced with a game to spare, while Tottenham put their fans through the wringer, snatching qualification from the jaws of elimination on matchday six.
England’s top tier isn’t the only league excelling in Europe. There are also four German teams in the knockout stages, including Bayern Munich – the only side to boast a perfect group-stage record.
Italy are represented by three clubs, Portugal have two, Belgium, France and Spain have one. Speaking of Spain…
Liverpool seek Real revenge
La Liga may only have one side in the last 16 for the first time since the tournament was expanded in 1999-2000, but you can’t do much better than the holders and record 14-time winners Real Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side take on Liverpool in a repeat of the 2018 and 2022 finals – and Los Blancos have fond memories of both, winning 3-1 and 1-0.
Liverpool’s best chance of Champions League qualification might be through winning the competition. They sit nine points off the top four in the Premier League.
They will have to end their rotten run against their Spanish rivals to progress, having lost six of the past seven meetings against Real.
Another final repeat
If you like final repeats, you’ll love the prospect of Bayern Munich against PSG.
The pair played each other in the 2020 final with Bayern winning 1-0..
A year later and things got even tighter with their quarter-final finishing 3-3 and the Parisians advancing on away goals – a rule that has now been scrapped.
Can World Cup winner Lionel Messi, alongside losing finalist Kylian Mbappe – if fit- pull off another statement win over the six-time champions?
Parker’s Bruges out to make history
Maybe you’re a romantic and would rather follow the history making underdog.
If so, then Club Bruges could be your second team.
The Belgians advanced ahead of former finalists Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid to reach the knockout stages for the first time since the European Cup became the Champions League.
Ex-Bournemouth and Fulham manager Scott Parker has been at the helm at Jan Breydel Stadium since New Year’s Eve and will be in charge when they face Benfica in the last 16.
As a player Parker made nine appearances in the Champions League, all with Chelsea, playing in five knockout matches in 2004 as the Blues lost to Monaco in the semi-finals.
Frankfurt look to make up for lost time
Or maybe you can get behind Eintracht Frankfurt, taking on Napoli. Their only other European Cup experience was way back in 1959-60.
In the fifth season of the competition Frankfurt made it all the way to the final where they were beaten 7-3 by Real Madrid at Hamden Park.
The German side had defeated Rangers 12-4 over two legs in the last four and 62 years later they beat the Scots on penalties in the Europa League final to qualify for Europe’s premier competition after a six-decade hiatus.
More teenagers than ever before
Over the age of 24 and still dreaming about your Champions League debut? You might want to skip this next section.
During this season’s group stage, 30% of starting places were filled by players aged 23 or under and a record 89 starts were made by teenagers, according to entertainment data analysts Nielsen Gracenote.
Benfica’s Antonio Silva and Red Bull Salzburg’s Maurits Kjaergaard, both aged 19, began all six of their team’s matches.
Few would look past Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham as the best teenager left in the Champions League right now.
The Stourbridge-born 19-year-old, who was superb in midfield for England at the World Cup, netted four goals in five games in the Champions League group stages.
Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala, 19, is also carving up the Champions League, with the midfielder crafting two assists in five group games this season.
If you’re good enough you’re old enough and both will be hoping to make a big impact in the knockouts.
Is it finally Man City or PSG’s year?
Manchester City are favourites to win this season’s Champions League, according to Gracenote. Their Euro Club Index simulations give City a 25% chance of lifting the trophy.
Bayern Munich (17%), holders Real Madrid (14%) and Liverpool (11%) are the other main contenders – with Paris St-Germain next on 6%.
Chelsea have a 5% chance, with Tottenham on just 3%. Club Bruges are the rank outsiders with… a 0% chance, according to the data experts.
City and Benfica are the most likely teams to reach the quarter-finals, each with an 80% likelihood of progressing.
Stat attack from Gracenote
- The number of places in Champions League starting line-ups filled by Brazilian players was at its lowest for 18 seasons in the group stages, while 10 nations had more players starting Champions League matches than World Cup winners Argentina.
- English players occupied 5.68% of starting line-up places in this year’s group phase, the highest proportion of starts made by English players in the Champions League’s history.
- This was the fifth season out of six with more than three goals per match scored in the group phase. This season’s 304 goals were four short of the 2019-2020 record of 308.
- Only one season has had more penalties awarded in the group phase than 2022-2023, but the fewest fouls on record were recorded in this season’s group stage.
- Shooting increased to the third highest on record after two seasons of post-Covid dips. More shots than ever were taken from inside the penalty area.