Winners and Losers from UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Draw
Arsenal’s penalty for dropping a dud away to Napoli on Matchday 6 of the UEFA Champions League group stage is a Round of 16 encounter with Bayern Munich.
Manchester City, who beat Bayern 3-2 on December 10 but took their foot off the gas when manager Manuel Pellegrini lost track of Group D’s goal difference, will face Barcelona in the next round of Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
Conversely, Manchester United have been handed a relatively straightforward assignment against Olympiacos as a reward for winning Group A, while record champions Real Madrid should have little problem with Group E runners-up Schalke, who are currently sixth in the Bundesliga.
It’s always worthwhile to top one’s bracket, as doing so goes a long way in ensuring at least an extra pair of matches in the lucrative Champions League.
The following slides will reveal the winners and losers from Monday’s Round of 16 draw in Nyon, Switzerland. Not surprisingly, they fall on either side of the first-place/runners-up divide.
Round of 16 ties
AC Milan–Atletico Madrid
Bayer Leverkusen–Paris Saint-Germain
Zenit St. Petersburg–Borussia Dortmund
Biggest Winner: Manchester United
On Sunday, they put in their best performance of their Premier League season to date. On Monday, they were tied to Olympiacos in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.
Considering their recent form, that constitutes two very good days for Manchester United. Despite entering the campaign as Premier League champions, they sit eighth in the English top flight after 16 rounds.
Olympiacos, meanwhile, have yet to lose in the Greek Superleague and are eight points clear of second-place PAOK.
But the matchup is nothing short of a big win for United, and the three-time European champions will no doubt be thinking their luck may have finally turned.
This is not to disrespect Olympiacos, but the Piraeus side barely progressed from a weak group and were beaten home and away by Paris Saint-Germain.
Top scorer Konstantinos Mitroglou got his only three goals of the tournament on October 2 against Anderlecht.
Biggest Loser: Arsenal
Given that a 3-0 defeat away to Napoli last week would have seen them bounced from the Champions League at the first hurdle, Arsenal, who instead lost by a pair of goals at the San Paolo, might have just been happy to have been involved in Monday’s draw.
As it happened, the Premier League leaders couldn’t have wished for a worse fate: a home-and-away series against reigning Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal title holders Bayern Munich.
With the Bundesliga schedule approaching its halfway point, Bayern are seven points clear of second-place Bayer Leverkusen and have conceded only eight goals from 16 matches. And until Manchester City put three past them on Matchday 6, they had allowed just two goals during the group stage.
If it’s possible, Bayern have been even more of a pleasure to watch under manager Pep Guardiola than they were during Jupp Heynckes’ final, record-breaking season at the club. It’s worth noting that they eliminated Arsenal from this competition almost a year ago.
Of course, the Gunners would point to their 2-0 win at Allianz Arena in the 2012-13 Round of 16 as proof they can challenge the German heavyweights once again.
Big Winners: Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid are unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions and lead La Liga in goals scored. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are in blistering form, feasting on whatever opponents are placed in their path. Schalke are likely to be little more than a speed bump for the nine-time European champions.
Elsewhere, given that Paris Saint-Germain could have wound up with AC Milan, Arsenal or Manchester City, they’ll no doubt be pleased with their draw of Bayer Leverkusen. The Bundesliga side found themselves on the receiving end of a pair of heavy losses against Manchester United during the group stage and don’t seem to have the depth to spread themselves over two competitions.
Big Losers: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund
They are level with Barcelona atop La Liga and have the best defensive record in the Spanish top flight, and yet Atletico Madrid would surely have preferred a Round of 16 pairing with the likes of Galatasaray, Schalke or Bayer Leverkusen to one against an AC Milan side that always seems to rise to the occasion in the Champions League. The Rossoneri may be struggling domestically, but they can never be ruled out in Europe.
Injury-ravaged Borussia Dortmund won’t relish the thought of a mid-winter trip to Russia. Going into Monday’s draw, Dortmund had won just one of their previous five Bundesliga matches, and they left it to the last day to progress from their Champions League group, albeit in first place.
That said, Zenit have lost just once at home in 14 matches in all competitions this season, turning Petrovsky Stadium into a virtual fortress.