Decoding the European knockout draws
European knockout draws, Real Madrid vs Liverpool, Barcelona vs Man Utd

Decoding the European knockout draws

The group stages of the Champions League, the Europa League and the Europa Conference League are now over and the first set of European knockout draws have been made.

We have analysed how the balls came out and what the pairings mean for each team’s prospects this season.

Who has the toughest draw?

We can use each club’s latest UEFA coefficient to identify which ties are the most – and least – balanced from the European knockout draws.

In the Champions League, the eight group winners have been drawn against the eight runners-up.

We will witness another chapter in Liverpool and Real Madrid’s recent rivalry, which is one of the most balanced ties of the round.

The other three Premier League teams – Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham – won their groups and represent tough draws for their continental opponents in Leipzig, Dortmund and Milan respectively.

In the Europa and Conference Leagues, the eight group winners have already qualified for the Round of 16.

However, the eight group runners-up must each play off against one of the third-placed teams from the Champions League for the right to join them.

Juventus are struggling at the moment but have been handed the easiest possible Europa League draw in Nantes, based on coefficients.

The most intriguing tie – between Barcelona and Manchester United – is also the most finely balanced.

Basel have the best coefficient of any group runner-up in the Conference League and have been gifted a straightforward draw against out-of-form Trabzonspor.

Another of the strongest teams is Braga, who also appear to have a favourable task against an inconsistent Fiorentina side.

What can we learn from the group stage?

In the last 10 Champions League seasons, group winners have been around three times as likely as runners-up to make the semi-finals.

Seven in every 10 ties in the round of 16 see a group winner defeat a runner-up.

Combining the recently-formed Conference League with the Europa League, third-placed teams dropping into the play-offs have more or less matched group winners in reaching the latter stages of the competition.

Group runners-up have struggled the most, with six in 10 failing to get through the first knockout round.

Will recent results have an impact?

With at least six months having passed since European clubs qualified for this season’s continental competitions, it is worth checking whose performances have dipped since then.

Liverpool and Chelsea have both been crowned champions of Europe in recent seasons but have been disappointing in the Premier League this term, sitting in eighth and seventh respectively.

Meanwhile, six-time Europa League winners Sevilla qualified for the Champions League last season but they are currently battling relegation in La Liga.

The same fate has befallen Leverkusen in Germany, while Nantes are also uncomfortably close to the Ligue 1 trap door.

The sole Premier League representative in the Conference League, West Ham, are currently just two points above the relegation places.

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