Despite a 2-1 loss away to RB Leipzig on matchday six, Manchester City managed to top their group ahead of Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in the Champions League. That’s because despite going behind, City managed an impressive comeback with a fine performance in the second half against PSG in matchday five. Two goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus within 13 minutes of each other, doing enough to give them the win and force Messi, MBappe and Neymar through in second place.
Whilst qualification will have been the main target for Pep Guardiola, topping the group will have been the cherry on the cake. Before a ball was kicked, PSG were favourites for the tournament at 3.6/1 with City just behind with odds of 3.8/1. However, having beaten PSG to top spot has meant you can now make a wager for Man City at the top betting sites with odds of 3/1 for winning the tournament, making them outright favourites. That’s because finishing top not only earns the club more money, but also offers up an easier tie in the next round.
That’s because the next round of fixtures pair up the winners of the group stages against the runners up, with two specific rules. In this round, you cannot face another team from your own country, which means City will not face Chelsea who finished behind Juventus in their group. You can also not face the team that progressed to the knockout stages from your own group, meaning another meeting between City and PSG is not on the cards just yet. But who could City face?
The official draw for the next round takes place on Monday 13th December, where officials will draw teams randomly from two separate pots, the winners and the runners up. As mentioned above, City cannot be drawn against fellow premier league side Chelsea, or their group runners-up PSG. However, once they pass this round, every team becomes fair game, and there are no restrictions on who a team can face.
With those two sides ruled out, who are the potential opponents going forward?
Out of all the sides available, Atletico Madrid will be one that City will be looking to avoid. Last season’s La Liga champions are the highest-ranked runners up in the competition at 39/1, and Diego Simeone is known for having a team that is hard to break down and who will try and catch you on the counter. However, they did struggle in their Group, which was dubbed the ‘Group of Death’ this year, leaving it until the final matchday to secure their place in the knockout stages, thanks to Liverpool beating AC Milan, who coincidentally became the first English team to win every group game in the Champions League group stages.
Whilst it may have been a surprise for some to see Benfica progressing from a group with Bayern Munich and Barcelona, we have to remember Barcelona are not the powerhouse they once were. Nevertheless, they earned their place in the knockout stages, and will be a tough tie for City, despite being one of the lower ranked sides left in the competition at 250/1. What will be nice for City fans though, is a couple of fixtures again will mean they get to see their former defender Nicolas Otamendi once more, after he made a move to the Portuguese side.
Last year’s Serie A champions would’ve posed a bigger threat had they held onto star striker Romelu Lukaku, who helped them end a period of dominance by Juventus in Italy. However, despite his exit, they’re still competing for the Italian title again this year and have qualified behind Real Madrid in this season’s champions league campaign. They’ll be one of the tougher opponents that City could face at 60/1 to win the Champions League, but fans sure would love a trip to the world famous San Siro to see their team take on one of Europe’s former elite sides.
Dubbed the easiest group of the tournament, although it was equally the most balanced as well, RB Salzburg finished second to Lille in a group that also contained Sevilla and Wolfsburg. It all came down to their final game to secure their place, where they beat Sevilla, who went down to 10 men, 1-0. Despite progressing though, they weren’t racking up the goals, only managing to bag eight, and shifting six themselves. If there was ever a team that City wanted pulled out of the draw, at odds of 250/1 it would be this fixture.
Formerly known as Sporting Lisbon, Sporting Club Portugal managed to progress from a tough side that also featured Ajax and Borussia Dortmund which made it a surprise to see them at 500/1 to win the tournament. The latter though were missing star man Erling Braut Haaland, and it really showed in the way they failed to dominate teams like they usually would. This gave Sporting a great chance at progression and they grabbed it with both hands. They are arguably tougher opposition than fellow Portuguese side Benfica, currently being above them in their domestic league.
Villareal qualified for this year’s tournament by winning the Europa League in the last campaign, having failed to finish in any of the qualification places for European competition last season. And domestically, they’re performing even worse this year, sitting 14th in La Liga at the time of writing this. That said, they’ve been performing much better in the champions league this year and will be one of the tougher teams that City could draw at 179/1, especially with the pace they possess. They’ve just not quite been all that clinical this season, but form is temporary so that could easily change at any moment.
No matter who City get, they will be favourites to win, as they’re favourites to win the whole tournament. That said, City have been in this position before and they got burned last time out when they met Chelsea in last season’s final. Pep and the boys will be expecting to go one further this time, but the likes of Bayern and Liverpool won’t make it easy to go all the way, and City will be taking it one game at a time. However, this could be City’s best chance yet to finally claim a European Cup.