The Champions League has been whittled down to 16 teams and on Monday Europe’s elite found out who they will battle it out with in order to reach the quarter-finals.
As usual the draw at Uefa’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland threw out some mouthwatering last 16 ties for when Europe’s top club competition returns in February next year.
Euronew’s Gleb Shatunovsky and David Martin give a quick run-down of the two-legged match-ups for the first knockout stage of the 2013/2014 Champions league.
David Martin: ‘‘Holders Bayern Munich face Arsenal in one of the most exciting knockout ties. The two teams played each other in the same round last season with the Germans advancing on the away goals rule. Both clubs are flying high and are leaders in their domestic leagues.’‘
Martin: ‘‘Manchester City and Barcelona is the other standout game. Messi, Neymar and other ‘Barca’ stars will have their work cut out to eliminate the powerful and mega-rich City managed by Manuel Pellegrini, who boasts players such as Aguero, Silva, Negredo, Jesus Navas and former Barca player Yaya Touré.’‘
Martin: ‘‘It’s an easier draw for Real Madrid as Carlo Ancelotti’s team face Schalke, one of the more manageable rivals in the field. The ‘blancos’, with Cristiano Ronaldo in great shape, are clear favorites but the Spaniards wont be taking Schalke for granted following their recent poor record against German opposition.’‘
Martin: ‘‘Atletico Madrid will do battle with AC Milan, the only Italian team left in the competition. Atletico Madrid are in stunning form this season, with Diego Costa playing the leading role. Milan, who seem to be in a perennial transition phase do, however, boast world class players in Balotelli, Robinho and Kakà.’‘
Gleb Shatunovsky: ‘‘In the process of rebuilding the team and suffering somewhat of a season wobble Zenit St Petersburg were drawn against last season’s runners up Borussia Dortmund, who are suffering a crisis of form of their own with almost half of the team out injured. The Russian’s and German’s chances now largely depend on who can put their crisis behind them first before February.’‘
Shatunovsky: ‘‘In a Manchester United v Olympiakos clash both teams will be happy with the draw. Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure last season Man United, under new coach David Moyes, appear to have lost their fear factor. Olympiakos are comfortably leading the Greek Superleague and with Javier Saviola spearheading their attack they could prove to be a dark horse.’‘
Shatunovsky: ‘‘There’s a similar feel to Chelsea – Galatasaray. The Londoners have not been overly impressive for their standards this term while the Turks showed character beating Juventus in their final group game to eliminate the Italian champions.’‘
Shatunovsky: ‘‘Paris Saint-Germain luckily avoided the two unseeded English heavyweights City and Arsenal and will play against a more welcomed opponent in Bayer Leverkusen who are already labeled as the underdogs. But, second in the Bundesliga this season behind Bayern Munich, they are underdogs with huge potential for causing an upset.’‘
The seeded teams will be on their travels for the first leg only to host the deciding second leg at home. The Champions League returns with the first legs starting on 18 February.