Barcelona vs. PSG, Messi vs. Neymar headlines Champions League draw

The path to the 2020-21 Champions League final in Istanbul has now reached the knockout phase and the draw for the round of 16 has thrown up some truly heavyweight encounters, with Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain emerging as the outstanding tie with Lionel Messi and Neymar going head-to-head for a place in the quarterfinals.

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea will see Diego Costa return to Stamford Bridge for Diego Simeone’s side, while Cristiano Ronaldo has the chance to play in Portugal once again following Juventus‘ pairing with FC Porto.

Reigning champions Bayern Munich will expect to overcome Lazio to reach the quarterfinals, while Real Madrid and Manchester City will believe they have a strong chance to progress at the expense of Atalanta and Borussia Monchengladbach respectively. There is also an intriguing match-ups between RB Leipzig and Liverpool, while reigning Europa League champions Sevilla take on Borussia Dortmund.

But ties which look like they may go a certain way now could be a completely different story by the time the games come around in February. So much can change — form, fitness, managers — while the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic ensures that nothing can be taken for granted. But with two months until the Champions League returns, here is ESPN’s way-too-early look at how the ties will shape up and play out.

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Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City



ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss Man City’s draw with Borussia Monchengladbach.

Manchester City have become an experienced Champions League force under Pep Guardiola, but they have never gone beyond the quarterfinals under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach and have only reached the semifinals once, under Manuel Pellegrini, in 2015-16. At some point, it surely has to be their year. City have made an unconvincing start in the Premier League this season, but they cruised through Group C with five wins and a draw and will be relieved to have avoided the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the round of 16.

But Gladbach will worry Guardiola because of their unpredictability. Marco Rose’s team hit 10 past Shakhtar Donetsk over their two group games and held Real Madrid to a draw in Germany before losing their final two games at home to Inter Milan and in Madrid. French striker Alassane Plea is the threat to City, having scored five goals in the group stage, but the reality is that the English team should win this tie comfortably.

Who qualifies?: Manchester City

Lazio vs. Bayern Munich

It will be the shock of the 2020-21 Champions League so far if Lazio, in the knockout phase for the first time since 1999-2000, can eliminate champions Bayern when the two clubs meet for the first time in competitive action. Simone Inzaghi’s team were unbeaten in Group F, finishing runners-up to Dortmund, but they managed just two victories in…

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