Champions League Last 16 Draw: Ranking the Biggest Rivalries Among the Draws
Last week, UEFA released its eight matchups for the Champions League round of 16 play, which starts next February.
Among the matchups were several marquette matchups, including Barcelona v AC Milan, Bayern Munich v Arsenal and Manchester United v Real Madrid.
These matchups between these six European giants were not expected to happen until the quarterfinals or later. However, these fixtures alone do not fully represent what is arguably the greatest round of 16 in Champions League history.
Other contests like Borussia Dortmund v Shakhtar Donetsk and Malaga v Porto will provide us with a great opportunity to watch four fascinating stories about these clubs emerge.
Another circumstance which could emerge from these fixtures could be rivalries. In some of cases with these clubs, a rivalry already exists. This provides us a greater chance to witness a memorable moment in what is football's greatest club tournament.
This precedent is the reason behind this ranking of the eight best matchups of next year's knockout stage.
Although some of these clubs have never met before, my ranking of their matchup will be based upon the likelihood of a strong rivalry emerging from their respective contests.
No 8 Malaga V Porto
No one could have foresaw Malaga winning a Champions League group with AC Milan and Zenit St. Petersburg.
Despite a poor financial situation, the Spanish side will look to continue their unlikely run against Porto, who are making yet another trip to the knockout stage of the Champions League.
This pairing is arguably the least attractive of all eight knockout stage ties. However, the matchup between Malaga's Isco and Porto's James Rodriguez will be entertaining and could be the basis of a future rivalry.
No 7 Paris Saint-Germain V Valencia
Paris Saint-Germain have been one of Europe's most intriguing sides over the last three years.
With wealthy owners, no true rival inside of their city and stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier Pastore, PSG will be destined to become one of the best sides in Europe over the duration of this decade.
PSG's opponent in this matchup is perennial Champions League side Valencia, who nearly won a difficult group containing Bayern Munich.
Valencia does not have a strong financial record and a large majority of the current squad will participate in this tie.
This is a matchup which PSG should win. However, do not be surprised to see Los Che upset their wealthy rivals in this tie.
No 6 Schalke 04 V Galatasaray
Two years ago, Schalke 04 were fending off relegation while advancing to the Champions League semifinal. This season is shaping to be similar to that campaign for Die Königsblauen.
Galatasaray currently sit on top of the table in Turkey and will look to make their second Champions League quarterfinal in the history of the current format.
Neither side has faced each other previously in a competitive match. However, the potential rivalry which could result from this tie comes from two outstanding strikers: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Burak Yilmaz.
These two strikers were superb last season, with each player claiming a golden boot in their respective leagues. Both players combined to score 10 goals in the group stage, including Yilmaz claiming the title of best player of the group stage.
Huntelaar and Yilmaz will have strong performances in what is the best rivalry of strikers in the knockout stage.
No 5 Borussia Dortmund V Shakhtar Donetsk
These two sides have met only twice prior to this matchup. This happened during the third qualifying round of the 2001-2002 Champions League, which Borussia Dortmund won 5-1 on aggregate.
When these two sides meet in Donetsk on Feb. 13, this previous matchup will not matter considering the depth of talent which both sides possess.
The talents of players like Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze, Marco Reus, Willian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will help to make this matchup into one reminiscent of a quarterfinal.
A rivalry between the two clubs will develop through what could be the most entertaining matchup in this year's round of 16.
Although there is a limited history between the two, the various offensive talents on these two clubs will allow for this matchup to thrive.
No 4 Juventus V Celtic
When these two clubs met each other 11 years ago in the Champions League group stage, an unlikely rivalry emerged between Juventus and Celtic which saw two high scoring fixtures which were filled with plenty of drama.
Juventus eventually advanced from this group, though Celtic were just two points behind.
This rivalry will reemerge in this round of 16 matchup with an underdog Celtic side facing a Juventus side.
Celtic were fortunate to advance to reach this stage, becoming the first Scottish side to advance in the Champions League in five years. Juventus did not deserve to top their group, but this matchup could be a great opportunity for them to once again claim glory in European competition.
Considering Celtic's underdog status and Juventus' first trip to the knockout stage of the Champions League in four years, this matchup had added historical implications. This could allow for this rivalry to gain additional meaning.
No 3 Bayern Munich V Arsenal
Although they have both been dominant forces in European football throughout the last decade, Bayern Munich and Arsenal have only met four times.
The last time these two sides faced each other was in the 2005 Champions League, where a 3-1 win by the German's proved to be enough to allow Bayern to advance into the quarterfinals.
This matchup will see an even stronger Bayern side face an Arsenal side which has nothing to lose considering their poor performances in recent years.
For Arsenal, this matchup provides a great opportunity to create the biggest upset of this year's Champions League. Furthermore, former Bayern striker Lukas Podolski a chance to shine against his former club.
No 2 Barcelona V AC Milan
The only matchup in this round of 16 which consists of two sides who have met in a Champions League final, Barcelona and AC Milan are rivals who have become quite familiar with each other.
Since 2000, the two sides have met each other 10 times in Champions League play. This includes four matches since September 2011.
Both sides have developed a long-lasting history with each other due to their group stage meetings and the stars who have played for both sides.
Barcelona's recent dominance has made this rivalry one-sided in recent years. This will be expected to continue considering the rebuilding mode Milan have been in since this past summer.
No 1 Manchester United V Real Madrid
Never before in Champions League history has there been a round of 16 matchup which could have more media attention than the final.
Manchester United and Real Madrid have not faced each other in a competitive match since the 2003 quarterfinal. In the last decade, los blancos purchased David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo from the Red Devils to enhance their roster full of superstars.
Ronaldo's return to face his old club adds another intriguing wrinkle to this matchup.
Outside of Madrid's purchases, the four matchups between these two legendary sides in European play all were exciting fixtures. In each matchup, there was at least five combined goals between the two sides.
In the last matchup between the two sides in 2003, Brazilian star Ronaldo became the only opposing player to ever record a hat trick at Old Trafford in what was a 4-3 win for United.
This matchup is one which either side could win and will be filled with entertainment and several memorable moments, which should be expected for two of the most popular clubs on the planet.