For neutral fans, the Champions League Round of 16 draw gave us exactly what we wanted: blockbuster clashes.
From Manchester City vs. Barcelona to Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich, the draw produced some tasty ties.
As the balls were drawn in Nyon, the value of a club finishing top of their group was immediately evident. As Manchester United and Chelsea sat waiting for a non-seeded team, Arsenal and Man City sweated over perennial European superpowers.
A lot could change between now and Feb. 18, when the knockout rounds get underway, but we've dusted off the crystal ball and taken a stab at some early predictions.
|Round of 16||1st Leg||2nd Leg||Team Advancing|
|Man City vs. Barcelona||Feb. 18||Mar. 12||Barcelona|
|Olympiacos vs. Man United||Feb. 25||Mar. 19||Man United|
|AC Milan vs. Atletico Madrid||Feb. 19||Mar. 11||Atletico Madrid|
|Bayer Leverkusen vs. PSG||Feb. 18||Mar. 12||PSG|
|Galatasaray vs. Chelsea||Feb. 26||Mar. 18||Chelsea|
|Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid||Feb. 26||Mar. 18||Real Madrid|
|Zenit vs. Borussia Dortmund||Feb. 25||Mar. 19||Borussia Dortmund|
|Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich||Feb. 19||Mar. 11||Bayern Munich|
Schedule via uefa.com
Subplots and More Subplots
Bayern Munich will have to overcome Arsenal for a second year in succession if they’re to become the first team since Milan in 1990 to defend a Champions League title.
The German side, who won an unprecedented treble last season, have developed even further under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona boss has stamped his style on the Bundesliga champions, but their performances haven't let up.
The Gunners will take confidence from their 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena last season, but Arsene Wenger will be hoping his side don’t leave themselves with such a mountain to climb this time around.
Manchester City’s Spanish contingent—Alvaro Negredo, David Silva and Jesus Navas—will relish their clash with Barcelona. As will Yaya Toure, who returns to the club where he made a name for himself.
The Spanish trio will be hoping to lead Man City—the only Round of 16 team making their debut at this stage—to an historic win, while also sending a message to Vicente del Bosque. A big performance on a big stage can go a long way in a World Cup year.
Didier Drogba, whose penalty clinched the Champions League title for Chelsea two seasons ago, will return to Stamford Bridge with his current club, Galatasaray.
The Turkish side did well to advance from a group that contained Real Madrid and Juventus, and they will be no pushovers, particularly in front of a raucous crowd at the Turk Telekom Arena.
Last year’s beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund, who qualified top of a very competitive group, will be satisfied with their Round of 16 opponents, Zenit.
The Russian outfit qualified out of Group G with just six points after a dismal 4-1 defeat away to Austria Wien on Matchday 6.
Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain will be content with their respective German opposition. The Spanish club, who are in pursuit of "La Decima," will take on Schalke 04, while the French champions clash with Bayer Leverkusen.
Manchester United will travel to Olympiacos for the first leg of their Round of 16 clash. David Moyes will be quietly content with United’s draw, but they will be wary of the Greeks, who are led by one of Europe’s most in-form strikers, Kostas Mitroglou.
#mufc have a 100 per cent record vs Olympicaos. The Reds won 2-0 away & 3-0 at home in 2001/02; then 4-0 at home & 3-2 away in 2002/03.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 16, 2013
Rounding out the draw are AC Milan and Spanish outfit Atletico Madrid, who have been in impressive form of late.
Diego Simeone’s side, who sit second in La Liga, cruised into the Round of 16 with 16 points from a possible 18 and will fancy their chances against an underachieving Milan side.
The seeded group winners will all play away from home in the first leg on Feb. 18-19 and 25-26, before hosting the reverse fixture three weeks later.