Difficulty Rankings for Chelsea’s Potential Champions League Round of 16 Opponents

Written By Uttiyo Sarkar on December 12, 2019

Chelsea managed to claw their way into the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but it came at a price. Frank Lampard’s side finished 2nd in their group behind Valencia(!) and above last season’s semi-finalists Ajax, who were knocked out (!!!).

However, the journey only gets more difficult. Finishing as group runners-up mean they’ll now have to parley against the very best the competition has to offer. In Monday’s Round of 16 Draw, Chelsea are in risk of being pitted alongside a daunting European heavyweight.

They’ll be matched against the other group winners, consisting of league leaders and former champions. The only silver lining is that due to restrictions, they can’t be pit against Premier League sides Liverpool or Manchester City. The Blues can’t even pray to Lady Luck, as whatever opposition they face will come with its own set of daunting challenges. Here we rank their potential R016 opponents.

RB Leipzig (Difficulty Rating 6/10)

Perhaps the only non-traditional “heavyweight” pairing could be are RB Leipzig. However, even they’re a terrifying prospect. Currently way above Bayern Munich in Bundesliga, they’re managed by the brilliant Julian Nagelsmann, who is younger than Olivier Giroud!

However, that doesn’t take away the fact that the Red Bull-owned side plays a beautiful, incisive attacking style. With German hitman, Timo Werner scoring as he pleases-flanked by the creative Marcel Sabitzer & Christopher N’Kunku-Leipzig will go all guns blazing taking the fight to Lampard’s side.

Their Achilles heel, however, is lack of experience. This side has rarely played a high-intensity Champions League knockout game. They’re also defensively shaky, which could help Christian Pulisic & co rattle them with electric attacks. Lampard will opt for this pairing as it’ll allow him to capitalize on his side’s superior experience and give them better odds to move onto the quarter-finals.

Bayern Munich (Difficulty Rating 7.5/10)

Bayern Munich might be struggling in Bundesliga, but they aced their Champions League group winning all six of their group games! That 7-2 romping of Tottenham Hotspur is enough to send shivers down Chelsea’s spine. The Bavarians have their own superman in Robert Lewandowski, who’s already scored 28 GOALS this season. It’s not even January.

He’s destructive enough to run rings around the Blues’ frail defence. If he’s not enough, Serge Gnabry’s a fiery spark in attack, Thomas Muller brings an unpredictable threat & Philippe Coutinho is the x-factor who knows all too well how to succeed against them.

However, Bayern’s European dominance is papering over the cracks. They’ve been inconsistent in the Bundesliga and are defensively weary. If Chelsea opts for a fearless, full-throttle approach, goals will galore. If lucky, they can pip a famous victory.

Juventus (Difficulty Rating 8/10)

There’s every chance Chelsea get pit against their former boss Maurizio Sarri. Juventus produced some beautiful stuff while topping their group. The seven-time Serie A champions have ridiculous depth in talent, but have been questionable at times under Sarri like Chelsea did last time around.

That being said, the Bianconeri are packed with world-class talents in every department, making them a difficult side to beat. They’ve only lost one game this whole season, playing some majestic attacking soccer. Cristiano Ronaldo loves the spotlight in the knockout rounds.

He loves scoring against Chelsea (remember the 2008 CL final?) and is slowly hitting his devastating stride. Paulo Dybala has a Messi-Esque aura, Aaron Ramsey knows Chelsea inside-out & Matthijs De Ligt’s held a formidable defensive shape. Lampard would want to avoid this match-up, as his side will need to put in extra shifts to even keep up with the Italian giants’ pace.

Paris Saint-Germain (Difficult Rating 8/10)

Even without Neymar & Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain have kicked around everyone’s butts this season. Thomas Tuchel has found the perfect ingredients for success, utilizing his jam-packed squad to the finest. They shoved aside Real Madrid to win Group A & could easily destroy Chelsea.

There’s little doubting how good Neymar or Mbappe are. They can turn around games whenever they please. Mauro Icardi’s soaring, scoring goals left, right & centre. Angel Di Maria is adding that killer touch, while their defensive work has been much improved with former Everton man Idrissa Gueye being their own N’Golo Kante in midfield.

Chelsea have shared a rivalry with PSG in recent years, with controversies being aplenty. However, the Parisians are just too strong at this point, especially whilst picturing their attack against the Blues’ shaky backline. If paired alongside, the only thing Lampard can hope for is for the French side to start bottling again.

Barcelona (Difficulty Rating 8.5/10)

Lionel Messi. There’s only one player needed to explain the threat facing FC Barcelona brings. The Argentine’s playing like a demigod again after winning his SIXTH Balon D’or recently, also inspiring his team-mates to churn out their absolute best.

Barcelona are leading the La Liga table & topped the “Group Of Death” in the Champions League in style. They’re a terrifying prospect to face thanks to how unstoppable Messi becomes, while Luis Suarez & Antoine Griezmann’s menacing presence only amplifies their scary attacking potential.

Chelsea would want to avoid this game so early in the knockout rounds knowing Barca’s prime form in this stage. Lampard did help oust the Spanish giants in 2012 when his side won the Champions League, but imitating that with his inexperienced squad against a prime Messi-led Barca would be a gigantic task.

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Uttiyo Sarkar

An unbiased Manchester United die-hard. Lover of the beautiful game. Addicted to the Premier League and beyond. Hopeful writer in the search for the greater good.

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