Chelsea’s CL Hopes in Balance Amid Stiff Atletico Test

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We look ahead to the Champions League and Europa League clashes featuring Premier League clubs.

Olivier Giroud gestures in frustration after Chelsea Liverpool match

The draws for the Champions League last 16 and Europa League last 32 were made on Monday and, as ever, there are some intriguing match-ups, including a tough test for Chelsea against European stalwarts Atletico Madrid.

Three of the four English clubs in the Champions League made it through to the knockout stage, with only Manchester United bowing out early – the Red Devils returning to Europa League action in 2021 instead.

Canny Atletico a Real Test

Chelsea’s two-legged last-16 tie against Atletico stands out and it’s sure to be a test of Frank Lampard’s improving side as they take on the dogged Spaniards, who are well used to lining up at this stage of the competition.

After progressing to the final twice in three years in 2014 and 2016 (when they went on to lose twice to city rivals Real Madrid), Diego Simeone’s men have only made it to the last four once since – when they were knocked out again by Real at that stage in 2017, but you can normally take their place in the last 16 for granted.

And they will fancy their chances of eliminating a Chelsea side that remain in somewhat of a transition under Lampard. Simeone’s men know how to dig out results and knocked Chelsea out in the 2014 semis. They have the required nous to get the better of the Premier League team once again, starting with a solid home win to nil, on offer at 53/20.

Reds Face Leipzig for First Time

Six-time European champions Liverpool will play RB Leipzig in another tricky test. These two have never met in a competitive game before and the Germans will hope to do what they did to United in the group stage by getting the better of the Reds.

However, Liverpool have plenty of big-game experience under their belts and, despite ongoing injury problems, they will expect to make the quarter-finals over two games. Liverpool are away first and are on offer at a tempting 6/5 to win the first leg.

Straightforward for City

Manchester City’s quest for a first-ever European Cup continues with another Anglo-German clash when Pep Guardiola’s side take on Borussia Monchengladbach. It would be a big surprise if the Bundesliga side prevail here and City shouldn’t have too many problems against a club who haven’t been this far in Europe since 1978. City to win the first leg at 20/27 appeals.

Arguably, the tie of the round sees Barcelona, who remain out of sorts under Ronald Koeman, take on French champions Paris Saint-Germain. The Ligue 1 giants are a tempting to . The remainder of the draw sees Real Madrid go up against Atalanta, reigning champions Bayern Munich will face Lazio, Borussia Dortmund have been paired with Sevilla and Porto face a difficult task against Italian champions Juventus.

United Handed Tough EL draw

In the Europa League, United have been given a tough draw when they face Spanish outfit Real Sociedad, who are currently top of La Liga, while Arsenal, whose perfect European form this season is in stark contrast to their mounting domestic problems, also have a tough assignment against Portuguese giants Benfica.

Tottenham and Leicester should both have enough to get past Wolfsberger and Slavia Prague respectively, while Rangers, who have been superb this season under Steven Gerrard, will fancy their chances over two legs against Belgian side Royal Antwerp.

Spurs are 5/1 to win the Europa League but the smart money in the outright market at this stage might be on someone like Napoli, who are 12/1 to lift the trophy and have been handed a favourable draw against Spanish outfit Granada.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Rob has around 20 years journalism experience and has written and commentated on the likes of football, cricket and rugby. He also has an impressive background in racquet sports and regularly provides content on the likes of tennis and badminton.

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