Chelsea face Real Madrid, Man City get Atletico and Liverpool play Benfica

With the Champions League round of 16 done and dusted, it’s time for the quarter-final and semi-final draws.

That means taking a (digital) trip to the grandiose House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland, where Uefa are headquartered. It also means a bowl full of rattling plastic balls, suited football dignitaries with rictus grins and at least one indifferent former pro to do the honours, making it one of the game’s most enduringly surreal rituals.

The eight teams in the quarter-finals are Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Villarreal. There will be no Italian representative at this stage for the second season running and no French representative for the third time in the last five seasons, which is a pretty bad run given that there was at least one in the previous six.

The draw will plot each team’s potential route to the final, while there will also be a draw to allocate the ‘home’ team for the decider at the Stade de France for procedural reasons. 

The quarter finals will commence on Tuesday April 5 and Wednesday April 6, with the second legs the following week. The semi-final first legs will be held on April 26 and 27, with the second legs on May 3 and 4, before the grand finale on May 28.

The quarter-final and semi-final draws are open, meaning teams from the same country could feasibly be thrown together. The first team drawn plays the first leg at home, with the second team hosting the second leg.

Manchester City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich are the favourites but, despite their ongoing crisis off the field, it would be remiss to dismiss holders Chelsea. While Real Madrid are not quite as formidable as they were during their golden years under the management of Zinedine Zidane, they will fancy themselves to secure a record 14th European title.

Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Villarreal look like outsiders but, having beaten Manchester United, Ajax and Juventus respectively in the last 16, each of them is capable of springing a nasty surprise on an unwary opponent. Let’s get those plastic balls rattling, then, and find out which sides will be slugging it out for a shot at European glory.