The greatest club competition in the world is about to host the greatest rivalry in the world of football. Leo Messi is set to take on Cristiano Ronaldo once again in Uefa Champions League, and this time none of the two are in Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts.
Champions League Round of 16 has taken place in Nyon, Switzerland on Monday. As per the rules, no side could face another team from the same national association. Clubs couldn't face opponents they met during the group stage, either.
The biggest clash will definitely be the one where Paris-Saint Germain take on Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will get the chance to rekindle their old rivalry.
Two all-time greats with 12 Ballons d'Or between them last faced each other in the Champions League group stage back in December 2020 when they were on the books of Juventus and Barcelona respectively.
Any meeting between the pair is sure to generate plenty of attention, with both as ambitious as ever to collect major silverware with their current employers.
Ronaldo was pivotal to United topping Group F, scoring six times including two late winners, while PSG finished runners-up behind City in Group A. United last played PSG in the 2020-21 group stages, winning 2-1 in Paris before losing 3-1 at Old Trafford.
The two sides also met in the round of 16 back in 2019, with an injury-time Marcus Rashford penalty helping United advance 3-3 on aggregate.
Not only that, Atletico Madrid have been drawn to face Bayern Munich in what is dubbed to be another big game.
Chelsea were only able to finish as runners-up in their group, but Thomas Tuchel's side will feel that a clash with Ligue 1 title holders Lille presents them with a decent shot at reaching the quarter-finals. The defending champions faced their last 16 opponents in the group stage two years ago, winning both matches against Lille 2-1.
Liverpool were also able to avoid any big-hitters in the last 16, as they prepare to face Austrian opponents, and will be looking to the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to provide inspiration on a continental stage.
Manchester City fell at the final hurdle last season, as Pep Guardiola's long wait for another Champions League crown continues, but they will be heavy favourites to overcome Villarreal – the winners of the 2020-21 Europa League. A mistake initially saw United drawn to play Villarreal, but after that was corrected given both teams played one another in the groups, it was City's name picked to face Villarreal. City, last season's losing finalists, have only played Villarreal twice - in the 2011-12 group stages, which they won 2-1 at home and 3-0 away.
There promise to be plenty of goals in Inter's meeting with Ajax, with both teams boasting attacking options aplenty, while Juventus will be eager to find a spark in Europe that has deserted them domestically in Serie A.
The knockout ties of the Champions League take place over two legs, with seeded teams at home in the second legs.
The first legs are scheduled for 15/16 and /22/23 February, with the second legs on 8/9/ and 15/16 March.
The draw for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final is on Friday, 18 March.
All of those still involved in the competition are looking to make their way to a final showdown at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg on May 28.
Although the Champions League rules have been enforced for years now, this time an important knockout rule has been changed. The so-called away goals rule has been removed, so ties level after 180 minutes will go to extra time irrespective of the number of goals each team has scored at home and away. If the teams still cannot be separated after the additional 30 minutes, the tie will go to a penalty shoot-out.
Uefa Champions League Round of 16 lineup:
SL Benfica vs Real Madrid
Villarreal CF vs Manchester City
Atletico Madrid vs Bayern Munich
FC Salzburg vs Liverpool
Inter Milan vs AFC Ajax
Sporting CP vs Juventus
Chelsea vs LOSC Lille
Paris-Saint Germain vs Manchester United