Champions League: Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and Tottenham permutations


The Champions League knockout round picture has become slightly clearer over the last two nights.

English representatives Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool can go into matchday six next week safe in the knowledge they will be in the competition after Christmas.

Chelsea and City are also assured of topping their group and therefore will be seeded in the draw on November 7.

Liverpool could find themselves facing Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-16 with it likely they will finish behind Napoli in their group

But by topping their group, Manchester City should swerve the heavyweights in the draw

But by topping their group, Manchester City should swerve the heavyweights in the draw

Tottenham, meanwhile, were a disallowed goal away from beating Sporting Lisbon and booking their last-16 spot, much to the fury of Antonio Conte.

Bayern Munich also know they’re through as group winners, while Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund know they’ll be finishing second and will therefore be unseeded in the last-16 draw.

Other confirmed qualifiers are Napoli, Club Brugge, Porto, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica but we don’t yet know whether they’ll finish first or second.

Chelsea are also guaranteed top spot in their group, which should make for an easier draw

Chelsea are also guaranteed top spot in their group, which should make for an easier draw

All possibilities remain for Tottenham, who saw Harry Kane's late goal disallowed by VAR

All possibilities remain for Tottenham, who saw Harry Kane’s late goal disallowed by VAR

That uncertainty makes it a little difficult for those qualified clubs to imagine who they might be facing in the knockouts – but it’s clear topping your group does eliminate the prospect of running headlong into a heavyweight club.

Many, of course, have already crashed out, with Barcelona, Juventus, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Ajax likely to be playing Europa League football in the new year.

Sportsmail takes a closer look at who each of the four English clubs could draw in the last-16 and who they’ll want to avoid.

LIVERPOOL

Liverpool easily beat Ajax on Wednesday night to secure their progress into the last-16 but it’s likely they will have to settle for second place in Group A.

That’s because leaders Napoli, who are three points ahead, thrashed them 4-1 on matchday one.

The two clubs do meet at Anfield next week but Liverpool will require a thumping victory to top the group on head-to-head record.

Jurgen Klopp will be wary of drawing one of the continent's heavyweights in the next round

Jurgen Klopp will be wary of drawing one of the continent’s heavyweights in the next round

Only a hefty win over Napoli on matchday six - of a 4-1 scoreline or better - would see them top

Only a hefty win over Napoli on matchday six – of a 4-1 scoreline or better – would see them top

So assuming Jurgen Klopp’s side do finish second, the potential last-16 opponents they’ll definitely want to avoid are Real Madrid, who beat them in last season’s final, and Bayern Munich, who have been in rampant form.

The Reds would also want to swerve Paris Saint-Germain, as well, who could yet top Group H ahead of Benfica.

They cannot play a fellow English club in the last-16, which actually opens up a series of kinder options.

Darwin Nunez was on target as Liverpool beat Ajax 3-0 to secure their place in the last-16

Darwin Nunez was on target as Liverpool beat Ajax 3-0 to secure their place in the last-16

Napoli have been in rampant form, winning all five games so far, and should finish in first

Napoli have been in rampant form, winning all five games so far, and should finish in first

Liverpool certainly wouldn’t be too disappointed to draw Benfica, nor one of Porto or Club Brugge from Group B. Likewise one of Sporting Lisbon, Eintracht Frankfurt or Marseille from the wide-open Group D.

There’s a clear divide in Liverpool’s case between last-16 opponents they’d definitely not want this soon in the competition and those who they should overcome.

Potential opponents if they finish first (group-by-group) — Porto/Club Brugge, Inter Milan, Sporting Lisbon/Eintracht Frankfurt/Marseille, AC Milan/Red Bull Salzburg, RB Leipzig/Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Dortmund, PSG/Benfica

Potential opponents if they finish second – Club Brugge/Porto, Bayern Munich, Sporting Lisbon/Eintracht Frankfurt/Marseille, Real Madrid, PSG/Benfica

CHELSEA

It’s nice and straightforward for Chelsea, who confirmed top spot in Group E with Tuesday night’s 2-1 win away to Red Bull Salzburg. That means they will be seeded in the draw.

Naturally, the club they’d most want to avoid is PSG with their myriad of attacking threats.

Having played AC Milan in their group, a return trip to the Italian city is possible as they could get Inter Milan. 

Graham Potter has found Champions League football to his liking with three straight wins

Graham Potter has found Champions League football to his liking with three straight wins

Chelsea have secured top spot with a game to spare after their win away to Red Bull Salzburg

Chelsea have secured top spot with a game to spare after their win away to Red Bull Salzburg

Borussia Dortmund would provide an intriguing tie, while other possibilities include one of Club Brugge or Porto, one of Sporting, Eintracht or Marseille, or one of RB Leipzig or Shakhtar Donetsk.

You imagine Chelsea would happily take on any side from that final pool and they have the luxury of relaxing on matchday six (when they host Dinamo Zagreb) and seeing how their list of prospective opponents shakes out.

Potential opponents after finishing first – Napoli, Club Brugge/Porto, Inter Milan, Sporting Lisbon/Eintracht Frankfurt/Marseille, RB Leipzig/Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Dortmund, PSG/Benfica

The problem for all the English clubs is that Paris Saint-Germain could still come first or second

The problem for all the English clubs is that Paris Saint-Germain could still come first or second

MANCHESTER CITY

Man City remain unbeaten after their five games and their goalless draw in Dortmund this week also assured them of top spot.

Considered one of the tournament favourites, Pep Guardiola’s side will fancy their chances against any of their potential last-16 opponents, though avoiding PSG would be handy.

They could face either Milan side, Club Brugge or Porto, Leipzig or Shakhtar, any of a trio from Tottenham’s group, or possibly Benfica.

Pep Guardiola has steered his undefeated  Man City side successfully into the last-16

Pep Guardiola has steered his undefeated  Man City side successfully into the last-16 

City are assured of top position in Group G and will be seeded in the last-16 draw

City are assured of top position in Group G and will be seeded in the last-16 draw

While the neutrals would enjoy a City vs PSG clash, it does feel like it would come a little too early in the tournament.

Potential opponents after finishing first – Napoli, Club Brugge/Porto, Inter Milan, Sporting Lisbon/Eintracht Frankfurt/Marseille, AC Milan/Red Bull Salzburg, RB Leipzig/Shakhtar Donetsk, PSG/Benfica

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 

It would all be so much simpler if Harry Kane’s stoppage time winner against Sporting had counted on Wednesday night.

As it is, Spurs go to Marseille on matchday six topping Group D but in a situation where all four teams can still qualify. Just two points separate them, making for a mouth-watering finale next week.

Spurs will also be without their manager, Antonio Conte, after he was handed a one-match ban for his sending off on Wednesday night.  

It’s a similar pattern to the other English clubs – it would be much easier if Spurs top their group. Finishing second could see them run headlong into Real Madrid, Bayern or Napoli in the next round.

The Italian boss was sent off during Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday

The Italian boss was sent off during Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday

Tottenham lead Group D heading into the final matchday but all four sides can qualify

Tottenham lead Group D heading into the final matchday but all four sides can qualify 

Topping their group could see them end up playing someone like Shakhtar, Red Bull Salzburg or Club Brugge, which would be considered far simpler.

But as with all the English clubs, the potential of drawing PSG will loom large wherever they finish.

Potential opponents if they finish first – Napoli, Club Brugge/Porto, Inter Milan, AC Milan/Red Bull Salzburg, RB Leipzig/Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Dortmund, PSG/Benfica

Potential opponents if they finish second – Napoli, Club Brugge/Porto, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, PSG/Benfica

HOW THE OTHER GROUPS ARE SHAPING UP

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