The draws for the next phases of UEFA’s club competitions took place today, and Portugal’s four remaining representatives will be mainly pleased with the outcome.
In the Champions League Benfica will play Club Brugge, while FC Porto take on Inter Milan for a place in the quarter-finals.
In the Europa League Sporting were paired with Danish outfit Midtjylland, while Braga will play Italian club Fiorentina in the Conference League.
Champions League progress?
Having topped their respective groups, Benfica and FC Porto went into the draw as seeded teams and therefore with a higher chance of getting a more favourable opponent in the round of sixteen than the group runners-up, although Liverpool and PSG (for Porto) were possible adversaries.
Both Portuguese clubs will be relatively happy with the outcome. Benfica take on Club Brugge. The Belgian outfit were one of the surprise teams in this year’s competition, beating Porto 4-0 at the Dragão early in their campaign. However, they appeared to fade somewhat, with the Dragons exacting revenge by winning 4-0 in Belgium in the return match, and Brugge dropped to second place in the group on the last matchday after a goalless draw at Bayer Leverkusen.
Benfica reached the quarter-finals of the competition last season and will be confident of repeating the achievement this year after a brilliant Group H campaign in which Roger Schmidt’s side outgunned PSG and Juventus to top the section.
FC Porto have been given a sterner task, theoretically at least, as they face Inter Milan. The Italians are not having the best of seasons domestically. They are currently in seventh place in Serie A. However, in the Champions League it is a different story, Simone Inzaghi’s team coming through an extremely tough group with ten points, winning and drawing against Barcelona to knock the Catalans out of the competition.
Porto have done well against Italian teams since Sérgio Conceição has been at the helm, with the 47-year-old coach drawing on his profound knowledge of Italian football having spent the best years of his playing career there – including a two-season spell at Inter.
The Dragons started their Group B campaign poorly before reeling off 4 successive wins to top the group in style, and they will certainly not be overawed by the Nerazzurri.
Elsewhere, the draw threw up two blockbuster ties in Liverpool v Real Madrid (a repeat of last year’s final) and PSG v Bayern Munich (a repeat of the 2020 final in Lisbon).
Full Champions League round of 16 draw
RB Leipzig v Manchester City
Club Brugge v SL Benfica
Liverpool v Real Madrid
AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur
Eintracht Frankfurt v Napoli
Borussia Dortmund v Chelsea
Inter Milan v FC Porto
PSG v Bayern Munich
Europa League: destination Denmark
Sporting have been maddeningly inconsistent this season, winning and drawing against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, but losing to the likes of Chaves, Arouca and Varzim domestically.
Rúben Amorim will be hoping that during the extended break for the World Cup, he can iron out the team’s problems. Should the Lions resume 2022/23 strongly, they will be confident of making it to the next round of the Europa League having been drawn against FC Midtjylland in the playoff.
Curiously, the Danish team have already played opposition from Lisbon this season, having lost 4-1 (away) and 3-1 (home) against Benfica in Champions League qualifying. With Midtjylland currently languishing in 8th place in the Danish Super league, Sporting will fancy their chances of making progress.
Braga’s Italian job
Braga’s 10 points in the Europa League group phase was insufficient to avoid elimination from the competition, with the Guerreiros dropping into the Conference League.
Artur Jorge’s team landed Fiorentina in today’s playoff draw, one of the tougher opponents they could have faced, at least in theory.
Nevertheless, the Italians are not enjoying the strongest of seasons. They are currently sitting in 12th place in Serie A. The two teams have never met previously and a close-fought tie appears in the offing.
By Tom Kundert