First things first, here’s how the last 16 games of Champions League look like
- Manchester City v Barcelona
- Olympiacos v Manchester United
- AC Milan v Atletico Madrid
- Bayer Leverkusen v Paris Saint-Germain
- Galatasaray v Chelsea
- Schalke v Real Madrid
- Zenit v Borussia Dortmund
- Arsenal v Bayern Munich
Note: teams mentioned second will play the 2nd leg of the tie at home
Your standing in your group, determines who you draw
Some may say that the real Champions League begins in February when the teams line-up for the last 16 matches. Well not entirely true. How the teams perform in the group stages, to a greater degree defines the kind of team they are going to draw. Look at the two stuttering English teams – Chelsea and Manchester United. If not for their positions in their respective groups – the draw couldn’t have been kinder. Yes, there are few exceptions every year, like Barca this year (or Manchester United last year) who may feel that they have drawn the worst possible opponent after finishing 1st in their group. But, truth be told, that’s the price Manchester City and Pellegerini is paying for not doing their math right in the final group game. This year’s Champions League has been particularly harsh on Arsenal, who after coming out 2nd in the group of death have been rewarded with a tie against Bayern Munich. If Arsenal’s habit of drawing (and losing) to eventual winners is set to continue, then Munich must be feeling ecstatic at the prospect of becoming the first team in the history of Champions League to retain the crown.
Some easy games?
Barring Barca and Bayern, rest of the seeded teams have a relatively easy draw and they have to play really bad to go out at this stage. One can’t see someone like Olympiacos posing serious threat to Manchester United even after taking Man United’s form (or lack of it) into consideration. Same goes for Schalke, even after considering Real Madrid’s recent awful record on German soil. Zenit v/s BVB and Leverkusen v/s PSG also look one sided. The games that could potentially throw a surprise could be Galatasaray v/s Chelsea and/or Milan v/s Atletico. Galatasary has already seen off Juventus’s challenge and in Drogba, they have a striker who knows a thing or two about Chelsea. Milan, although have been in poor form domestically, have always been a bit more competitive in Europe and they have the pedigree and experience to stretch Atletico.
Prospects of heavy weight clashes in QFs
In past few years, one had to wait until the semi-final stage to witness real heavy weights of European football match up against each other, barring few exceptions. With due respect to Lyon, Schalke, Benfica etc, quarter-final/semi-final ties against these teams weren’t as fanciful, not at least for a neutral. But the way Champions League is shaping up this year looks like we will have a number of mouth-watering ties in the quarter final itself. Assuming there are no surprises in the last 16, the quarter final draw could look like – Barca, Man Utd, Atletico, PSG, Chelsea, Real Madrid, BVB and Bayern. Wish February could come sooner!