On Friday, UEFA held the draw for the Champions League playoff, the final round before the famous group stage. The draw was divided into two pots – one for league champions and one for teams who qualified through other routes. While many people start paying attention to the Champions League after this round, the playoffs have intriguing match-ups with some interesting possible upsets.
We at Soccer Minnows have taken a look at the draws and broken them down based on likely result. Agree or disagree? Sound off!
Clear favorites v. Soccer minnows
Celtic v. Hapoel Beer Sheva
The Scottish champs have struggled some in this tournament already, and now they face maybe the longest travel of anyone in the tournament. Hapoel are the defending Israeli champs and knocked out Olympiacos, a regular in the group stage. They are known for their stout defense, which will be a good test for Celtic. In addition, their home field (which seats a little over 16,000) is near the Gaza Strip, which will make for a tough trip for the away leg.
Chance of an upset: Worth watching
Steaua Bucharest v. Manchester City
Pep Guardiola beings his City Champions League managerial career against the Romanian champs. Bucharest has a fine European history, and this year advanced past Sparta Praha 3-1 to reach this point. It is hard to see City tripping up at this stage with so much expectation on this club, even with a tough trip to Romania.
Chance of an upset: Slim to none, and slim is walking to the door
Ajax v. FC Rostov
The European legends will be traveling to Russia in the second leg as they face the Russian league runner-ups. Rostov already have a major notch on their belt this tournament as they knocked out Anderlect 4-2 in the previous round. These teams have never faced each other, so this could be a sneaky good tie.
Chance of an upset: Considerable if Ajax are distracted
Battles Among the Giants
Villareal v. Monaco
Villareal are heavy favorites in this draw – especially in the first leg – but this match-up of recent contender versus historical name will be some good soccer.
Porto v. Roma
Probably the best match for TV, the Italian side is looking to make a dent in Europe at the same time as challenging Juventus in Serie A. Porto is always a strong side in Europe, and is the slight favorite in this tie of two teams nobody in their pod wanted to draw.
Smaller Sides Looking for their Moment
Dundalk v. Legia Warsaw
Little Dundalk’s miracle quest to become the first Irish team to make the group stages sees them face a tough but manageable draw against the Polish champions. The first leg will take place at the Aviva Stadium, quite the scene for the small Irish club.
BSC Young Boys v. Borussia Monchengladbach
Another match-up of two sides who have never faced each other, the first leg may be determinate in this tie. Young Boys play on artificial turf and the German side have already expressed concern about the pitch. If they can minimize any negatives in the first leg, against a club that knocked out usual suspect Shakhtar Donetsk, they stand a great chance of advancing
GNK Dinamo Zagreb v. Red Bull/FC Salzburg
Salzburg will be looking to reverse history in this tie; these two clubs were drawn together in the 2014/2015 group stage with Dinamo thrashing the Austrians twice.
FC Copenhagen v. A.P.O.E.l
History is kind in this draw to the Cyprus side, as they defeated Copenhagen in the 2009 playoff to advance to the group stage. They have the second match at home and have already knocked off a tough Scandinavian side in Rosenborg in the previous round by scoring three times in stoppage time
PFC Ludogorets v. FC Viktoria Plzen
The Bulgarian champion is looking to return to the group stage for only the second time ever, and first since two years ago. The Czech champ has won more than half of the European matches it has played all time.