Champions League last 16: break through each of the knockout matches

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Copenhagen vs Manchester City: The merriment of the Post-Fergie Wilderness Years™ is so multi-faceted that it can be difficult to keep track of it all, but there’s something beautiful about Manchester United’s capitulation in Copenhagen, which so easily set up a Big Cup tie for the England’s most recent treble winners. FCK will of course do their best, and there may even be banners and chants. But now that the most important football genius of our generation has discovered big boys and defenders who can defend, this seems even less likely to work than before. Sheikh Mansour’s inspiring fairy tale continues with another match that no one will remember. But he loves football so much!

Leipzig vs Real Madrid: Are Real Madrid – Real Madrid! – the treats? Because here we are, the last bastion of Franco-charged, training ground-selling, $-upper-£eague-shilling righteousness defending all that is good about the game against a soft drink sales vehicle with AI-generated players who don’t stand a chance of beating them.

PSG vs Real Sociedad: Or the lame food derby, as a column that wants to encourage its readers would explain; Fortunately, the Daily doesn’t have the courage to do that. On the pitch, of course, the biggest fun will be in wondering how and when Paris collapses, but that won’t be in this tie because that’s not how it works. On the positive side, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the president of PSG and also chairman of the European Club Association, is a reassuring presence on whom we can safely rely to protect the game for the good of all.

Lazio vs Bayern: We’re all friends here, so let’s be clear: Harry Kane signing for Bayern and not winning anything would tickle a dead man. Oh, football! How affirmatively you bring out the worst in one! In any case, with eight league defeats already this season, Lazio – a club less known for its sense of humor – has no intention of making the world laugh, so Bayern will be getting closer to fate: another blow against City.

PSV vs Dortmund: Both will be backing themselves to win the handclap which, as any mature adult can attest, is what is truly tested in elite sport. Otherwise, Barcelona legend Luuk de Jong leads the PSV attack, while Narrative must surely hope their back four prove vulnerable to Jadon Sancho’s unique brand of slow-motion invention.

Inter vs Atlético: We’ve had to deal with a lot of wild events in recent years – never has life felt so believable. But despite all your demagogues, pandemics and dead monarchs of this world, nothing – Nothing – is stranger than the fact that the team running away from Serie A in 2024 regularly features Matteo Darmian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while Marko Arnautovic and Davy Klaasen grace their bench. Atlético, on the other hand, are not what they used to be, but in acquiring both Álvaro Morata (albeit adept for now) and Memphis Depay, Diego Simeone has shrewdly ensured his constant brilliance, and with that prowling on the touchline, anything is possible.

Porto vs Arsenal: In the Primeira Liga this season, Porto are bottom of the three-team table, seven points behind Sporting, in second place, and Benfica, who are leading. Arsenal, meanwhile, are as pleased with themselves as they are at this stage of any season – barring the seasons where they collectively stage psychodrama on the internet. But while his team is in many important respects less terrible than many of the remaining players in this competition, when Mikel Arteta was captain at Arsenal, he spent the money he collected from player fines on a watch for Ivan Gazidis.

Napoli vs Barcelona: Rarely have the champions of Italy and Spain made their competitions so ridiculous. Napoli are eighth in Serie A, 25 points behind the leaders, while Barcelona are third in La Liga, ten behind the leaders, with a lame-duck manager and a what-the-absolute-duck bench manager. No one, least of all the Daily, is happy about this.


Join Scott Murray from 8pm GMT for the exciting minute-by-minute Big Cup coverage of FC Copenhagen 1-3 Manchester City, while Daniel Harris will be on deck for RB Leipzig 1-2 Real Madrid.


“I’m not really in the mood to be brutally honest about it [highlighting] positive things and try to find things to say that would cheer me up because I don’t know what could be said that would cheer me up. What can I say that will cheer up the players? I could say, with the players we have back and these guys doing so well, it bodes well for the future with the fourteen games we have left.” – Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is struggling to find straws to cling to after Conor Gallagher’s extra-time double earned Chelsea a 3-1 comeback win, their 14th successive victory against the Eagles. And this doesn’t really sound like a vote of confidence.


Taking the example of Ivory Coast, who sacked their manager during the Afcon group stage and still won the trophy, should England consider sacking Gareth Southgate midway through the Euros in the hope that we can achieve the same result? –Patrick Fuller.

Will the fired Jean-Louis Gasset still get a winner’s bonus? –Tony Walsh.

The more I hear about Bayer Leverkusen, the more I want them to loosen Bayern’s iron grip on the Bundesliga. The city is named after a chemist who created an artificial blue dye. Its population is less than half that of Leicester. And it’s twinned with Bracknell, of all places. Can you imagine many more unlikely clubs that will topple the über-rich Munichs? They may be playing in black and red, but I’m shouting, ‘Come on, you Artificial Blues!’” – Mark McFadden.

I don’t want to be picky, but generally it’s Mark, not ‘Ian’, Bright who sits next to Steve Parish (yesterday’s Football Daily letters). It struck me that as there is an Ian Bright (economist) with quite a high profile, I may have been mistaken and in fact Ian Bright had replaced Mark to give Parish some much needed insights into the Premier League’s economics” – Russell D Pulford (and 1,056 others).

Send letters to Today’s winner of our Prizeless Letter of the Day is… Patrick Fuller.

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