The Biggest Winners & Losers of the Champions League Redraw
23:54 GMT 13.12.2021 (Updated: 23:55 GMT 13.12.2021)
The world’s most prestigious club football competition, the UEFA Champions League, is not immune to technical difficulties. A technical error that omitted Atletico Madrid as a potential opponent for Manchester United has forced a redraw of the round-of-16 matches.
The original voided draw pitted Benfica vs. Real Madrid, Villarreal vs. Manchester City, Atletico Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, FC Salzburg vs. Liverpool, Inter Milan vs. Ajax, Sporting CP vs. Juventus, Chelsea vs. Lille, and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester United.
© REUTERS / UEFASoccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Draw - Nyon, Switzerland - December 13, 2021 The result of the Champions League 2021/22 Round of 16 Draw is displayed on the screen at the UEFA headquarters UEFA
Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Draw - Nyon, Switzerland - December 13, 2021 The result of the Champions League 2021/22 Round of 16 Draw is displayed on the screen at the UEFA headquarters UEFA
The Champions League round-of-16 will pair group winners against group runners-up. Teams from the same group and same league cannot face-off in the round-of-16. Atletico Madrid, of Spain’s La Liga, finished runner-up in Group B and should have been a prospective opponent of Manchester United, of England’s Premier League, who won Group F.
The Champions League redraw will see FC Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich, Sporting CP vs. Manchester City, Benfica vs. Ajax, Chelsea vs. Lille, Atletico Madrid vs. Manchester United, Villarreal vs. Juventus, Inter Milan vs. Liverpool, and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Madrid.
© REUTERS / UEFASoccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Draw - Nyon, Switzerland - December 13, 2021 The result of the Champions League 2021/22 Round of 16 Draw is displayed on the screen at the UEFA headquarters
Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 Draw - Nyon, Switzerland - December 13, 2021 The result of the Champions League 2021/22 Round of 16 Draw is displayed on the screen at the UEFA headquarters
The redraw only saw one match-up remain the same, Chelsea vs. Lille. The new draw significantly altered the chances of some clubs making a deep run, while others saw their odds improve significantly. Real Madrid, who went from facing Benfica to PSG, have lobbied that their initial draw was actually legal because they couldn’t have drawn either Manchester United or Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid aren’t wrong to want to face Benfica over PSG. Using FiveThirtyEight's Soccer Power Index, which uses game performances, transfer value, and advanced metrics to rank over 645 clubs, the following are predicted to be the four biggest winners and losers of the Champions League redraw.
4 Biggest Winners of the Champions League redraw
Chelsea landing Lille twice in the Champions League draw is like winning two lotteries back-to-back. Chelsea finished runner-up in Group H and the other three English clubs all won their groups. At the draw, the only teams Chelsea could draw were Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Ajax, and Lille.
According to SPI, Lille is the weakest team remaining in the Champions League, while Munich, Real, and Ajax are all in the top-seven. Chelsea hit the jackpot on their draw twice and should waltz into the round-of-eight.
Ajax’s performances in the Champions League has put the rest of Europe on notice. The Amsterdam side won all six of their matches, and in a dominant fashion, scoring 20 goals and only conceding five. While they currently sit second in the Eredivisie, their +45 goal differential in 16 matches suggests a dominant side.
Ajax’s initial draw against Inter Milan would have still seen them as the favorite, but only slightly. Ajax’s SPI of 89 is the fourth-best, but Inter’s 86.4 has them sixth. Instead of a heavy-weight fight in the round-of-16, Ajax, courtesy of the redraw, will face Benfica.
Benfica is the third-weakest team in the Champions League, according to SPI, at 76, and Ajax’s drop in opponent SPI rating of 10.4 is the third biggest. There’s a reason Real Madrid were lobbying to face Benfica, and now that Ajax gets to, they should have no problem heading to the final eight.
Villarreal, winners of the Europa League and the Yellow Submarine, were massive winners in the redraw. They went from facing Manchester City, the second highest-rated team in the world, to Juventus, the 14th highest-rated club.
Villarreal are still the underdogs here, their SPI of 77.2 still trails Juventus’ 79.1, but it pales in comparison to Manchester City’s 93.3 SPI. The swing in SPI of 14.2 points is the second-largest swing.
Juventus’ reputation and strong showing in the Champions League obscures a club that has fallen off after a run of nine consecutive scudettos. Villarreal will still have their work cut out for them, but facing City over the course of two legs was certain death.
#1: Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid may have lost to intra-city rival Real Madrid on Sunday, but they won the Champions League redraw on Monday, so who’s the real winner? Atletico went from facing Bayern Munich, the highest-rated club in the world, to facing Manchester United, who are 17th.
Atletico’s swing in opponent SPI of 15.3 was the largest of all teams and they are the only club to go from underdog to favorite, according to SPI. While Manchester United has the prestige and reputation, they haven’t been a serious threat to win the Champions League in ages and have struggled in the Premier League.
Atletico has had their own struggles in La Liga, a season after winning the competition, but this is really about dodging Munich. Bayern have been utterly dominant in both the Champions League and the Bundesliga. Their ranking as the best side in the world is well deserved.
The Biggest Losers of the Champions League redraw
#4: Paris Saint-Germaine
PSG’s road to a first-ever Champions League trophy took a hit in the redraw. As noted, Manchester United are one of the weaker teams remaining in the Champions League. In fact, according to SPI, they are the weakest group winner that PSG could face in the round-of-16.
Instead, PSG will face Real Madrid, the seventh-rated club in the world. The swing in opponent SPI of +6.8 was the fourth-largest. It should be noted that because PSG finished second in their group they could have faced Liverpool, Ajax, Bayern, or Juventus over the course of the two draws.
PSG have gone from favorites to underdogs, but of the six teams they could have faced, only two, Juventus and Manchester United, would see PSG as the favorite. PSG may be unlucky at the moment, but they avoided rock bottom.
#3: Real Madrid
Two of the biggest losers in the Champions League redraw will face each other in the round-of-16. Real Madrid went from facing Benfica to PSG. Their jump in opponent SPI rating of +7 was the third-largest jump.
According to SPI, Real Madrid are favorites over PSG, but Benfica was a fantastic draw for Los Blancos. And Real Madrid seems to agree, they accused UEFA of “lying” over the problems that led to the redraw.
For a club that has won the competition more than any other club in history the sour grapes won’t garner much sympathy from opponents, but they have a point. Real Madrid were clear losers of the Champions League redraw. Of all the teams that Real could have drawn PSG were the second toughest according to SPI.
There was no way for Liverpool to land a round-of-16 match where they wouldn’t be favorites, but they went from one of the most favorable match-ups to the toughest possible one.
Salzburg, Liverpool’s initial draw, has an SPI of 76.6, while Inter Milan, their new draw, has an SPI of 86.4. The +9.8 jump in opponent SPI rating was the second largest of any team and is a worst-case scenario for Liverpool.
Of all the group runner-ups, Inter has the highest SPI rating. The Italian champions have flown under the radar this season due to the summer departures of Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Conte, but they currently lead Serie A and outplayed Real Madrid in both of their Champions League matches.
Liverpool are the third-rated team by SPI, just a fraction behind Manchester City and Bayern Munich, and will be one of the favorites to win the entire tournament. Inter Milan can upset Liverpool, Salzburg cannot. That’s a big loss.
#1: Sporting CP
Sporting’s Champions League redraw was the epitome of the saying “don’t get your hopes up.” While Sporting are the second-worst team in the Champions League, their initial draw against Juventus was an upset you can dream on. Instead, they’ll be facing Bayern Munich, the best team in the world.
Sporting’s opponent SPI swing of +14.8 is the largest by a wide margin. Their initial draw of Juventus was the second-best draw they could have hoped for, and to end with the absolute worst on the redraw has to sting.