It’s here, the festive treat the entire world can enjoy - UEFA have swirled their balls and drawn the Champions League round of 16. That means eight mouth-watering clashes involving Europe’s biggest and best clubs, including four English sides.
Here’s a quick heads up on the opponents that the Premier League teams will face in February and March.
Liverpool v Bayern Munich
In arguably the juiciest tie of the round, Jurgen Klopp returns to the Allianz Arena. The new king of the Kop has faced Bayern Munich more times as a manager than any other team. Unfortunately for Liverpool his record needs a bit of burnishing, having lost 16 of the 29 meetings.
Form: Currently trailing league leaders Borussia Dortmund by nine points, Bayern look a mile off the standard we’ve become accustomed to. But while Niko Kovac’s men have had some bad results domestically, they made amends in the Champions League by topping a decent group.
Star Man: In Bobby Lewndowski, the Bavarian side possess the competition’s top marksman. The prodigious Pole bunted home eight times in the group stage, with more braces than a high school disco (3, to be precise).
Any previous: Remarkably, these leviathans of the game have only met each other once in this competition, way back in the 1980/81 semi-final. A 1-1 draw in Germany took the English side through purely via an away goal after a bore-draw at Anfield. Liverpool progressed to the final in Paris where they beat Real Madrid 1-0 to lift the trophy for the third time.
Expectation: Goals goals goals! There’s frankly too much firepower on both sides. Despite last year’s finalists’ imperious form in this campaign so far, their Liverpool’s gurning German is only too aware of the enduring quality Robben, James and Lewandowski posses – this is no foregone conclusion. With Virgil van Dijk suspended for the home-leg, and Joe Gomez returning from a broken leg Bayern will fancy their chances of landing some shots of their own.
Man City v Schalke
This will be seen as one of the jammiest draws around, but frankly there’s little lucky about actually winning your group. Any salty United fans right now might want to consider that. Looking ahead to February, Leroy Sane will make a return to his former club in sensational form and with a point to prove in Germany.
Form: Despite an impressive second place Bundesliga finish in May, Schalke have been in poor form lately, currently languishing sixth from bottom. The Rhinelander’s away form has been particularly duff, winning just one in nine on the road. City will expect an especially easy ride in the second-leg at the Etihad.
Despite making it this far, the Germans were fortunate to be placed in undoubtedly the easiest Champions League group. Their wins came against Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasaray, while managing a 1-1 draw against eventual winners Porto.
Star Man: It’s exactly what Schalke are currently lacking; an outright goal scorer. That midfield enforcer Nabil Bentaleb is their top scorer, managing six goals this season tells its own story. The 24 year-old Algerian graduated from Tottenham Hotspur’s academy in 2014 and has been loaned between the two clubs ever since.
Any previous: Last met in 2008 UEFA Cup and City ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Stephen Ireland and Harry Redknapp’s favourite after dinner yarn, Benjani.
Expectation: City to walk it. With Schalke conceding 21 in 15 league games this season and goalshy up top, we could see this ending as a cricket score.
Spurs v Dortmund
Two side who are no strangers to each other, having faced off in the various European group stage four times in the last two years.
Despite scraping through the group stage by the skin of their teeth, this ambitious Spurs side will believe they can beat anyone/anywhere on their day.
Dortmund however, look their strongest since Herr Klopp left the Rhine.
Form: Dortmund are currently cruising atop the Bundesliga, already nine points clear of the chasing pack. They negotiated the group stage with relative ease battering perernial UCL bridesmaids Atletico Madrid 4-0 before being held to a surprising 0-0 draw at home to Brugge.
It’s at the back where BVB have been most impressive, keeping five clean sheets so far in this European campaign. They’ve conceded the fewest goals of any side in the competition (two).
Star Man: In Paco Alcacer, they have the current Bundesliga top scorer. Now signed permanently from Barcelona, the diminutive frontman has a habit of coming off the bench to swing matches in his sides favour. The Spaniard boasts remarkable return of 10 goals in eight substitute appearances so far this term.
Any Previous: The spoils have been shared equally across four meetings between the two sides. The first Europa League dust up ended in victory for the Germans. Marco Reus scored a brace in their home leg and at White Hart Lane Pierre-Emerick Aubambeyang, now sworn enemy, landed a double of his own.
Last season, The North Londoners turned the tables, convincingly winning the home-leg 3-1 before coming from a goal behind to snatch victory at Signal Iduna Park.
Expectation: Distinct lack of goals. Dortmund will keep it tight in London and will likely outscore Spurs in the reverse fixture.
Man United v PSG
The differences between these two sides are stark. The Parisians have perhaps the most threatening front three in world football right now. United meanwhile simply look there for the taking.
Burdened with the most porous defence in their recent memory, some serious business is required in the January transfer window if they’re to have any hope.
Form: PSG have looked an unstoppable force under Thomas Tuchel. Their only defeat this season came against the German’s former mentor, Klopp, at Anfield on Matchday 1. Even still, they managed to put two goals past last year’s runners-up in each game.
Star Man: Where to start? The thought of Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani bearing down on Jones and Darmian is enough to put United fans off their Christmas dinner.
Any previous? A rare first, they’ve never played each other in European competition. Only met once in a far-from-classic pre-season friendly in 2015. PSG emerged 2-0 winners in a game that featured such heavy hitters such as Sean Goss and Sam Johnston getting a run out for Van Gaal’s red army.