We have reached the Round of 16 in the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League just as we reach the European club football break leading into the Qatar 2022 World Cup, and the match-ups are RB Leipzig v Manchester City, Club Brugge v Benfica, Liverpool v Real Madrid, AC Milan v Tottenham, Eintracht Frankfurt v Napoli, Chelsea v Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan v Porto, and PSG v Bayern Munich. The two-legged ties will be played from February 15th to March 15th.
The competition’s top goal scorers are Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and PSG’s Kylian Mbappe at seven each, while the top assist men are Liverpool’s Diogo Jota, PSG’s Lionel Messi, and Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo, all at four assists.
The two big matchups are PSG-Bayern and Liverpool-Real, with the latter matchup having all fans salivating about seeing two rematches of last year’s final. The two teams are having very different seasons with Madrid just a half-step off the pace in La Liga while Liverpool is in eighth place on the Premier League table.
Both PSG and Bayern lead their respective leagues and had undefeated group-stage performances in this year’s continental competition. Furthermore, their lineups are so replete with Qatar-bound players that how they are (form, health, mentally) upon returning will be a huge factor in their clubs’ prospects next year.
The World Cup break will be a one-of factor (we surely all hope, right?), but its post-tournament effects on this year’s Champions League could be massive. Think of the potential transfers that could take place in January, as mentioned in a previous article: Among the many movers might be Cristiano Ronaldo, Frenkie de Jong, Neymar, Firmino, Lionel Messi, Vitinha, Christian Pulisic, and any number of top performers in Qatar who currently feature for second tier cup competitors and/or second tier clubs. Similarly, those who expected to attend and were prevented by injury might reconsider options upon recovery as they see their stock decline or become stagnant in relation to cup participants, particularly if they are teammates.
Then, of course, come the normal post-World Cup feuds or non-such (remember Ronaldo v Wayne Rooney in Germany’s World Cup 2006?). Rooney recalled: “The next three years were our best as a partnership [at Manchester United] and brought three titles and the Champions League. My red card in Gelsenkirchen was the starting point.” Those effects can be immediate and turn the continental club competition on its head. A lot to look forward to and think about in 2023.
Photo: UEFA Champions League logo, Shutterstock ID: 501142186, by Review News