UEFA Champions League: Predicting the Final 16 Teams
The Champions League is getting serious now as we enter the final stages of the group phase in the competition. It is fair to say that a number of high-profiled teams are fighting for their lives in the competition.
Therefore, there is the possibility of one or two surprises as we look forward to which teams are likely to make up the final 16. So, sit back, relax and enjoy this slideshow on my predictions for the knockout phase.
Group A (Porto and Paris Saint-Germain to Qualify)
Group A already looks fairly settled. The only real question is on who will win the group between Porto and PSG. Dynamo Kyiv and GNK Dinamo Zagreb have purely and simply lacked the quality of their more illustrious opposition.
However, this was always likely to be the case even before a ball had been kicked in anger. The top two can enjoy playing their final two games knowing that their place in the next stage is all but assured.
Group B (Schalke 04 and Arsenal to Qualify)
Group B is fascinatingly poised with three teams still with every chance of advancing to the next stage. German side Schalke 04 seem to be in a reasonably good place to win the group. Although, it should be noted that the three teams in contention are currently only separated by two points.
Arsenal and Olympiacos are very close in the group. But I think Arsenal will just manage to squeeze through. Arsene Wenger knows that finishing in the top four of the Premier League this season will be tough to achieve. So will want to remain in this competition as long as possible, just in case his team aren't there next season.
I would also add that Arsenal have the upper hand by being one point ahead meaning it is very much theirs to lose.
Group C ( Malaga CF and AC Milan to Qualify)
Group C is another tight group where all four teams will feel they still have a chance to qualify. The only real near certainty is that Malaga will win the group; they are already five points clear of second place AC Milan.
RSC Anderlecht and Zenit St Petersburg make up the rest of the group. But I fully expect Milan's quality to come through as they hold off the challenge in the final two games. Nevertheless, it will be a case of squeezing through rather than qualifying comfortably.
Group D (Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid to Qualify)
I think it is quite amazing that this is Group D, because this is certainly the group of death. And whatever happens in the last two games big clubs are going home. It would be nice to think Manchester City could turn their form around, but after taking two points from their opening four games, the job has simply become too big.
It will be an interesting conclusion to the group, but it's hard to look beyond the current top two of Dortmund and Real Madrid going through.
Group E (Chelsea and Juventus to Qualify)
I think it's fair to say that Shakhtar Donetsk have been the real surprise package of this group. They may be currently top of the group, but they are up against some serious quality in Chelsea and Juventus. Therefore, I think they may just miss out. Although, I expect it to be close and go right down to the wire.
However, the fact that only one point separates the top three teams could turn out to be fatal for Shakhtar Donetsk.
Group F (Bayern Munich and Valencia to Qualify)
BATE Borisov still have an outside chance of qualifying from this group. But I think this group has pretty much gone as expected, with the possible exception of BATE Borisov doing better than expected. However, the quality of Bayern Munich and Valencia should be more than enough to see them over the line.
Group G (Barcelona and Celtic to Qualify)
I think the biggest surprise in this group is how well Celtic have performed, especially after the victory over Barcelona. Although Benfica will still feel they have a shot in the group, I think that it is fairly clear that the top two teams will be ones advancing.
This may well be beyond what Celtic would have been hoping for, but they will enjoy the experience and look to progress as far as they possibly can.
Group H (Manchester United and Galatasaray to Qualify)
Manchester United have been the only English club that have looked comfortable in the Champions League this season. But Sir Alex Ferguson's team have plenty of experience of winning this competition. And Ferguson will be thinking about securing the Premier League title as well as winning the Champions League.
Man Utd have their position at the head of the group secured. But it is less clear who will join them in the knockout phase. I am going to punt for Galatasaray, because they are currently in second place and will do all they can to stay there.