💫 Four huge Champions League draw talking points | OneFootball

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Padraig Whelan·17 March 2023

💫 Four huge Champions League draw talking points

Article image:💫 Four huge Champions League draw talking points

The Champions League quarter-final and semi-final draws were made on Friday and have given us plenty to talk about.

An unexpected finalist

Article image:💫 Four huge Champions League draw talking points

One of the major criticisms of this competition recently has been the lack of surprises or diversity when it comes to the latter stages.

Aside from Tottenham and arguably Atlético de Madrid in 2016, many of the same faces have populated finals over the last decade.

But with Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayern Munich being forced to fight through each other, it really opens things up on the other side.

Italy seems well-placed to have a representative for the first time since Juventus in 2017 as Napoli, Milan and Inter will compete with Benfica.

Milan haven’t gone that far since 2007, Inter did in 2010 (when both won), Benfica last reached the final in 1990 and Napoli haven’t even reached this point before, let alone a final.

A welcome change.

Doing it the hard way

PSG. Chelsea. Manchester City. Liverpool.

That is the list of teams Real Madrid had to go through to reclaim the trophy they cherish more than any other last season.

It isn’t any easier for them this time.

Having put Liverpool to the sword in the last round, they face a repeat of last year’s quarter-final against Graham Potter’s revitalised Chelsea and, if they win, must overcome Manchester City or Bayern Munich to reach the final.

Yet it still seems almost inevitable that they will be in Istanbul in June. It’s what they do.

Reunions aplenty

Article image:💫 Four huge Champions League draw talking points

You can always trust the draw to throw up some interesting narrative in terms of returns for familiar faces and nowhere is that more evident than Manchester City’s mouthwatering clash with Bayern Munich.

Pep Guardiola, of course, returns to the place where he delivered domestic dominance, Leroy Sané will lock horns with his former club and João Cancelo could also line up against his parent club.

Carlo Ancelotti also takes on an old employer when he brings the holders to Stamford Bridge, where there will again be no love lost for former Blues goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois among the home support.

Finally, João Mário is not a man remembered fondly at Inter. He is still their third most expensive signing ever (forking out just shy of €50m for him) but left after his contract was mutually terminated after five disappointing seasons (most of which were spent out on loan).

But he has been on fire for Benfica this season and seems almost destined to come back to haunt them.

The dream double lives

Napoli fans must feel that this season is a fairytale being written by Diego Maradona from high above.

They didn’t even dare to dream of a title challenge last summer but they have all but wrapped up the Scudetto and could now add an incredible Champions League crown for the most stunning double win ever.

Milan stand in their way first but they will be big favourites for that tie, as they would whoever is next with few teams having been able to find an answer to stopping their devastating duo Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen.

Admittedly, Inter are one of only two teams to beat them in 90 minutes in any competition this season but they have their own problems to face first when they return to Portugal again (and should they win and Benfica spring a surprise it would throw up another semi-final Milan derby).

But it is hard to see anyone stopping Napoli’s relentless charge to the final. And if they get there, who knows?