The image of Didier Drogba slotting home the winning penalty for Chelsea over Bayern Munich on May 19th is still fresh on many a football fan's mind (even in a summer that staged a rather engrossing Euro 2012 tournament).
Outside of the FA Cup, there may be no longer or more precarious road to glory in club football than the UEFA Champions League.
From the slate of qualifying rounds that begin in late June to the final in late May, the illustrious tournament has become one of the world's most watched yearly sporting events (some 300 million viewers tuned in for the 2011-2012 final).
32 teams from 52 associations make it to the Group Stage. Eight group winners and eight runners-up advance to the knockout round.
Yes, the draw for the Group Stage is not too far off (August 30, 2012), and with so many top players still on the transfer market, predictions at this point could amount to little more than educated dart-throwing. While we may be setting ourselves up for more slideshow scorn in anticipation of next year's prestigious event, we simply don't care how nasty our fellow digital scribes get.
Interwebbers seem to like interactive prediction pieces, and being the devotees of Philly Soul that we are, we take our cues from The O'Jays rather than some snide sports blogger who thinks the Internet sandbox is his alone.
We'll start off with who we see as potential locks and filter our way down to possible surprises/debutantes. In other words, the selections will be made in order of highest qualification probability to lowest.
Calling all respectful, spirited debaters (online bridge and tunnel trolls need not apply), here's an early look at a possible 2013 CL Last XVI.