5) Shakhtar Donetsk
The Ukranian Champions enjoyed their best run in the European competitions since their 2010-11 run to the quarters when eventual winners Barcelona, eliminated them. Possessing some of the most promising talents in their squad, Shakhtar will be motivated to make a difference in the Champions League again. A tie against Roma, might not have been their best wish but still is a better option than playing against PSG or Barcelona. The Ukrainians shocked Manchester City in the final group stage game which will give them immense motivation before the tie against Di Francesco’s side, and if they manage to get past them, there’s no saying that they cannot pull off a surprise this season.
Seeing off competition from the likes of Leipzig, Porto and Monaco in the group stages, Besiktas did remarkably well to finish on the top of the group when most envisioned a last-place finish for the Turks. While finishing first is the top priority, how the position can backfire can be best understood by Besiktas’ draw with Bayern Munich. The German champions were unarguably the winners of the draw and will be heavy favourites to get through, given their impressive run since Heynckes’ return to the helm. However, Besiktas’ finish as group winners means they will not a walk in the park for the Bavarians; moreover, the return leg in Turkey will mean that Bavarians will have to be ready for some of the most hostile atmospheres around Europe. With Alvaro Negredo leading the line for the Turks, they can cause an upset if taken lightly.
Winning two Europa League titles is by no means a fluke, Sevilla have been one of the most consistent sides in Europe. Despite their struggles this season, Sevilla managed to finish second in the group stages while also pulling off a remarkable comeback against Liverpool at home. Their best finish in the Champions League came in the 50s when they finished in the quarterfinals. Therefore, Sevilla would keen on emulating their Europa league form in the Champions League this term. Drawn against United, Sevilla should be fearless given United’s struggles this season, and Mourinho’s predictability means that United will surely park the bus in Spain before firing on all cylinders at Old Trafford. A bit of luck and Sevilla might just go through.
2) AS Roma
The capital club have done well in replacing the likes of Mo Salah and several other departures this summer. While the Egyptian’s loss was a huge one, Jorge Sampaoli’s departure too was a huge dent towards their hopes of bidding for the Serie A title. Nevertheless, Di Francesco has seemingly steadied the ship, and Roma are again in the contention. They have gone off the boil in recent months since their epic 3-3 draw against Chelsea at the Bridge when Dzeko once again reminded every one of his qualities. Full of experience and quality on the side, Roma might fancy their chances against Shakhtar and build on from there.
1) Tottenham Hotspurs
For all the talk of Spurs challenging for the Premier League title this time around, they have seemingly saved their best for the European competition this term. Demolishing Dortmund twice and Real Madrid at the Wembley, Spurs have shown their development with the likes of Kane auditioning for a move to the current Spanish champions. With a strong group and Kane leading the line, Pochettino’s side will be fired up for the tie against Juve, who will surely be wary of the threat on the break. If Spurs pull off yet another excellent win and go through, they will surely be favourites for winning the Champions League.