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Champions League: Out of the pool into the knockout arena

Champions League: Out of the pool into the knockout arena
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Europe’s finest clubs have been whittled down to 16 as the Champions League now looks towards the knockout stages starting in February.

Four teams from the English Premier League, four from Germany’s Bundesliga, including the holders and three title contenders from Spain help make the line up.

Here’s now quick round up of how the group stage ended.

Despite concerns over David Moyes’ lack of experience in Europe Man United’s new boss steered the Red Devils into the knockout stages.

The three-times champions topped Group A with a final victory over Shakhtar Donetsk and were joined in the last 16 by Bayer Leverkusen who finished with a win at Real Sociedad.

Real Madrid and Galatasaray, a sure thing and a surprise.

The ‘Blancos’ progressed having finished at the summit of Group B with Ronaldo setting a new record with 9 goals in the group campaign. Juventus’ dreams however turned to a snowy nightmare at the Turk Telekom Arena losing 1-0 to Galatasaray.

Big-spending Paris St Germain had already qualified as Group C winners prior to their final defeat to Benfica who were hoping to land the runners up spot.

But after Olympiakos beat Anderlecht 3-1 the Portuguese side lost out due to their inferior head-to-head record against their Greek rivals.

Manchester City tripped up the defending champions in front of their home crowd. Bayern Munich had their 10 straight Champions League victory run halted. We can’t talk about a failure for the Germans, but is their European kingdom starting to crumble?”

Although Jose Mourinho recently said his Chelsea side will not win the title The Blues do remain in the hunt for a second European crown in three seasons.

They topped Group E with victory over Steaua Bucharest and go through with Schalke, who leapfrogged Basel into second with their 2-0 win over the Swiss club.

Three teams on the top of Group F, but only two could qualify. Napoli were in touching distance until the final few minutes whilst beating Arsenal when Borussia Dortmund struck to beat Marseille 2-1 and grab second place. It was a bitter night for Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain, who after helping his side win ended the night in tears.

The Spaniards of Atletico Madrid took Group G by storm and capped off a fine group campaign with a 2-0 win over Porto.

Porto’s defeat meant Zenit St Petersburg’s 4-1 thrashing by Austria Vienna was irrelevant as the Russians went through as runners up leaving Paulo Fonseca’s men the small consolation of Europa League football.

AC Milan will be the only club representing the Italian colours in the last 16. The Rossoneri progress as runners up in Group H, Winners Barca ended their run in style demolishing Celtic 6-1 with Neymar signing off with a hat-trick. Messi’s absence not so keenly felt.

With the group stage now completed the remaining 16 teams can look towards the first knockout stage.

The seeded teams will no doubt be hoping to avoid the Premier League teams of Manchester City and Arsenal as well as AC Milan, all in the second pot of the draw .

But at this stage of the competition all clubs are capable of springing a surprise.

The seeded pot for the draw holds some serious European heavyweights with defending champions Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain and who could forget Atletico Madrid a team impressing on the domestic and European stage this season.

The draw for the last 16 takes place in Nyon, Switzerland at 12:00 (CET) Monday.