Rebranded in 1992 as the Champions League, but played since 1955, the European Cup is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world of football. It is followed by millions of fans from across Europe as well as internationally with the final being the most watched sporting event in the world.
The 2017/18 tournament is now reaching the final stages with just 16 teams left in the competition and domestic attention in the UK being drawn to the fact that five British clubs remain.
With that in mind, the question on everyone’s lips is, could the coveted trophy be played for by two English teams in the final?
Which teams are in the last 16?
After another hotly contested year in the group stages, the last 16 teams have now been determined for the 2017/2018 competition. This year’s final cut includes some familiar names representing nine European countries, including
- Spain (Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla)
- Switzerland (Basel)
- Germany (Bayern Munich)
- Turkey (FC Shakhtar Donetsk)
- Ukraine (Beşiktaş)
- Italy (Juventus and Roma)
- France (Paris St Germaine)
- Portugal (FC Porto)
However, the English Premier League has contributed the highest number of teams with five clubs; Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.
Four of the five English clubs qualified by finishing top of their groups with only Chelsea reaching the knockout stages as runners-up.
The first legs of the next matches will be played on 13/14 and 20/21 February 2018 with the return legs occurring on 6/7 and 13/14 March 2018.
All clubs are playing teams from outside of their association with the confirmed matches being played between:
- Bayern v Beşiktaş
- Juventus v Tottenham
- Chelsea v Barcelona
- Basel v Manchester City
- Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma
- Porto v Liverpool
- Real Madrid v Paris
- Sevilla v Manchester United
Chelsea has received the hardest draw of the last 16 against Barcelona but all four other English clubs have good chances of advancing to the quarter finals given their current form.
There are no guarantees in football and banana skins are common, particularly if teams underestimate their opponents. Manchester United would do well to remember this when they face Sevilla; considered outsiders, Spain’s oldest football club could fare well against Jose Mourinho’s team on the night.
Depending on how the draw goes on 16th March, there is a very real likelihood that the final of the 2018 Champions League will be between two English clubs.
Which team has the best chance of winning?
All 16 teams have reached the tournament with impressive records in their respective domestic leagues last season reflecting the highest calibre of professional football in Europe. However, there is no denying the attention that Manchester City is receiving in the current domestic competition season.
Undefeated in the Premier League so far, the club has never won the Champions League. The furthest Manchester City has reached in the tournament was the semi-finals stages in 2016 when they lost 1-0 to Real Madrid. Looking at the odds, the fans that make sports bets are certainly confident about the club’s chances and the Sky Blues are the clear favourites to lift the trophy.
Expectations of European success are always high with clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona. The two teams share 9 Champions League titles from the last 17 years. Real Madrid will certainly be looking to retain the trophy having won both the 2016 and 2017 tournaments.
Barcelona, Liverpool, Beşiktaş and Tottenham are the only teams left in the competition who have yet to lose a match. Of the four, it is Barcelona and Liverpool who have generated the highest hopes of securing a win with bookies giving Beşiktaş some of the longest odds of the tournament. Only Basel are considered to have less chance of lifting the European Cup.
Manchester United has won the European Cup on three separate occasions, most recently in 2008 and is the second favourite English club in the running for the title.
Joint second favourites as we head into the last 16 are Bayern Munich and Paris St Germaine.
The football legend, Jimmy Greaves once said: “Football is a funny old game’ and part of the appeal of the European Cup is the fact it produces exceptional, and sometimes surprising, results.
However the next stage of the European Cup pans out, one thing is for certain; all eyes will be on the possibility that the trophy could be coming home to England.