The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stages finished up yesterday with the final round of matches across Europe. Tottenham Hotspur, of course, had already clinched their position as group winners thanks to their last-gasp win over Olympique Marseille. Now, all that’s left is to await the draw for the knock out Round of 16, which is set to take place on Monday, November 7 at 6:00 a.m. ET.
As winners of Group D, Tottenham’s pool of potential opponents is immediately restricted to clubs who finished second in their groups. But there are a few other restrictions as well: Spurs cannot face clubs from their own group (which eliminates Eintracht Frankfurt who finished 2nd in Group D). Spurs also cannot face clubs from their own federation (which eliminates Liverpool, who finished 2nd in Group A).
With that said, here are the clubs whom Spurs could potentially draw, ranked by FiveThirtyEight’s SPI rating and listed from highest to lowest.
- Paris St. Germain (87.5)
- Inter Milan (80.1)
- RB Leipzig (79.2)
- AC Milan (78.8)
- Borussia Dortmund (78.3)
- Club Brugge (66.9)
Let’s take a look at a few of Tottenham’s potential matchups.
The Horror Pick: PSG
All clubs that finished first in their groups — Tottenham included — likely swallowed a bit harder at the conclusion of yesterday’s group stage matches when they saw the final score between Benfica and minnows Maccabi Haifa. Benfica’s 6-1 away win was just enough to send them to the top of the table ahead of PSG; the two ended with identical win-loss records, two draws against each other, and equal goal differentials and total goals scored, which meant the tiebreaker went all the way to away goals scored in the competition. Winner: Benfica.
That’s bad news. PSG are one of the scariest teams in the competition (even with their knack for never going as far in the Champions League as they should), with a host of megastars. This is a team that nobody wants to draw. Someone, however, is and whichever club does will have an incredibly big challenge, but also a huge opportunity for some signature results. After all, in order to be the best you have to beat the best. Why not start now?
The “Safe” Pick: Club Brugge
Why is the word safe in quotes here? Because despite Belgian League’s Club Brugge not being of especially good European pedigree and having the lowest SPI of any club remaining in the competition, the’ve been pretty dang good this season. Stuck in a tough group with Porto, Bayer Leverkusen, and Atletico Madrid, last season’s Belgian champions not only exceeded expectations, they nearly won their group outright, with home wins over Bayer and Atletico, and a staggering 4-0 away win over Porto. Their only blemish was a reverse fixture loss by the same 4-0 score to Porto.
They’ve also done it while only scoring seven goals in the competition, including just four from the strike partnership of Jutglà and Kamal Sowah, which suggests their defense has been pretty stellar. Brugge is the smallest club left on Europe’s biggest stage, and while the numbers say their luck should eventually run out, this would be a understated tricky draw for just about any club.
The Narrative Pick: Inter Milan
If the football gods are especially cruel, they’ll match Spurs up with PSG. If they’re just moderately capricious, they’ll pair Spurs with Inter Milan. What better way to gin up some juicy storylines than to pit Antonio Conte with the club he left after winning a scudetto? Inter would be one of the “easier” clubs for Spurs to draw — they’re currently sixth in Serie A — but this is a team that was put in a group with Bayern and Barcelona, and finished second. Dismiss them at your peril. Conte would have some familiarity with many of the current Inter players from his tenure there, and with manager Simone Inzhagi who was at Lazio before replacing Conte at Inter.
The Fun Pick: Dortmund
This category is way more subjective than any of the others, and what constitutes as “fun” for me may not for you, so obviously YMMV. But Tottenham have a history of facing Dortmund: they were paired in the 2016 Europa League knockouts, in the 2017 Champions League group stage, and again in the 2019 Champions League first knockout round. They’re a fun team to face, have Jude Bellingham, are always a great away trip, and look a little beatable this season. Who doesn’t love a good Spurs-Dortmund match?
The Rest: AC Milan / RB Leipzig
I don’t have especially strong takes on either of these remaining teams. AC Milan won the scudetto last season and are currently third in Serie A; they’d be probably the second toughest draw behind PSG, but it might be fun to have another Joe Jordan Derby. Leipzig is struggling a bit this season in the Bundesliga but they’re always a tough out in Europe. Drawing them would give Spurs a chance to avenge the 2020 Champions League.
So what’s your pick? Are you the go-for-glory type and are rooting for PSG? Would you rather try and pull the team that Spurs can defeat the easiest? And who do you think that would be? Put your reactions and predictions in the comments below.