A look at Barca’s possible UCL opponents

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Lionel Messi issued a clarion call at the very beginning of the season where the Champions League was concerned.

That was the priority for Barcelona. No messing about, a stated aim to take home the trophy once again.

Drawn in the ‘group of death,’ the Blaugrana sailed through it, but now the real business begins.

Barcelona have six possible opponents they could draw in the Round of 16…

Liverpool

Without a doubt, Jurgen Klopp’s side are the team everyone wants to avoid.

Going toe to toe with Manchester City in the Premier League, the Reds are playing with the same confidence and swagger that defined their last campaign.

Mo Salah has started to find some form after a slow start to the campaign, and with Virgil Van Dijk shoring up the defence, Liverpool have a great spine to their team.

As dogged and tenacious as they are fluid, there aren’t too many better sides in the competition.

Over two legs, Barcelona should still have the edge as there are weaknesses to be exploited – as Red Star showed – but it will be the toughest test out of the six teams the Catalans could face.

Manchester United

Frankly, it’s a wonder that Jose Mourinho is still in a job, because the United side that he oversees is so far removed from that which Sir Alex Ferguson ruled with an iron fist, it’s a joke.

Some of the best players in the world are plying their trade at Old Trafford, but they look anything but world beaters this season. Some have verbalised that it’s the way the ‘Special One’ airs his dirty linen in public, blaming his players for every conceivable ill, that has turned them against him.

Others have seen that he’s not playing certain exponents in their natural position and therefore, not getting enough out of them.

Whatever the reasons, United are in pretty dire straits at the moment. So, there’s no real pressure on them to deliver, should they draw Barca.

All of the pressure will be on Ernesto Valverde’s side, who’ll be expected to take United to the cleaners.

Mourinho does love a defensive master class, and it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to set his stall out so that Barca have to be dragged down to his level, which will suit both him and his players.

Don’t expect any result to be a foregone conclusion should the Red Devils come out of the hat.

Ajax

Along with Barcelona and Manchester City, Ajax are probably the most technically gifted team left in the tournament.

In Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, the Dutch have two players that Barca themselves retain a keen interest in, if the price is right.

Therefore, a good performance here, should Ajax be the team drawn, could arguably swing the balance in favour of one or both ending up at the Camp Nou.

In Andre Onana, they possess a former La Masia keeper, who might just be worth a shout as Barca’s reserve custodian if Jasper Cillessen decides to move to pastures new.

Lasse Schone, Kasper Dolberg and Donny van de Beek are three more hugely talented young players in Ajax’s ranks… but do the Dutch have enough to beat the Catalans?

Roma

Though they’re not having as good a season as the last, the mere mention of Roma will give Ernesto Valverde nightmares.

Leading 4-1 from the first leg of their quarter-final in 2017/18, the Catalans inexplicably allowed complacency to creep into their game, and they were completely outmuscled and out-played during the second leg in Rome.

An unbelievable 3-0 victory for the Italians saw them progress on away goals, leading many to suggest that Valverde would fall on his sword after the second leg.

Playing Roma again would at least offer a shot at immediate redemption and banish the painful memories of the last campaign.

However, with the likes of Edin Dzeko, Justin Kluivert, Steven Nzonzi and Cengiz Under in their ranks, the Giallorossi will be no pushovers.

Schalke

One of the weakest teams left in the competition and, with respect, the team that everyone will want to play.

There simply isn’t enough quality in the Germans ranks for them to mount a serious challenge in the latter part of the tournament, and with only two wins from their last seven games, their form hasn’t really improved across the season.

Maybe the winter break changes the dynamics, but they’re no match for a Barcelona containing Messi, Suarez and Dembele et al.

Lyon

The dark horses. Perched in fourth in Ligue 1, Lyon are just one win away from second and with a game in hand.

They’re scoring freely and look a dangerous outfit when they’re in the mood, especially going forward.

Obvious danger men are Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele, but in Pape Cheikh Diop, they have one of the tournament’s outstanding midfielders.

A game against the French side could see Samuel Umtiti lining up against old colleague if fit, and the defender will want his colleagues to prove exactly why he made the move away. Do not forget, you can have Messi and other stars on your Fantasy Champions League Team by clicking here and joining the game: https://www.fantasy-champions-league.com/en/index.php!

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