Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain both dominated the headlines, and their opponents, as the Champions League returned on Tuesday.
The Spanish champions ran out 2-0 winners against Manchester City, while the French champions recorded a 4-0 victory at Bayer Leverkusen, virtually assuring them both of their place in the last eight. However, Barca will be made to fight harder in the return leg than PSG will.
There are still six ties to get underway, and the potential for upsets is high as the likes of AC Milan and Manchester United find themselves out of form.
Below we predict who can expect to make it through to the quarterfinals, as well as how much of an easy ride they can expect to have.
|Manchester City vs. Barcelona||0-2||Barcelona|
|Bayer Leverkusen vs. PSG||0-4||PSG|
|Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich||Bayern Munich|
|AC Milan vs. Atletico Madrid||Atletico Madrid|
|Zenit vs. Borussia Dortmund||Borussia Dortmund|
|Olympiacos vs. Manchester United||Manchester United|
|Galatasaray vs. Chelsea||Chelsea|
|Schalke vs. Real Madrid||Real Madrid|
Even if Sergio Aguero returns and City hit top gear, it is going to require Barcelona to have a major off day for them to lose a two-goal advantage at the Camp Nou. Per ESPN FC, Barca have lost only once at home this season, and even then it was only by a one-goal margin.
Similarly, PSG, with four away goals, look absolutely nailed on to make the quarterfinals.
Oliver Kay, a reporter for the Times, believes City performed far better than they have been given credit for against Barcelona:
Chelsea and Real Madrid, who play Galatasaray and Schalke respectively, can also expect to secure their safe passage with something to spare. Both will prove too strong for their mid-level opponents and should be aiming for the last eight at the minimum. In the case of Real there remains a real desire to win La Decima soon.
Schalke and Galatasaray's best showing in the competition is one semi-final appearance each, and neither side look capable of repeating that with their current sides. Gala, who sit third in the Turkish Super Lig, are reliant on veteran Didier Drogba, while manager Roberto Mancini failed to succeed in his two attempts at the competition with Man City.
Schalke, meanwhile, are fourth in the Bundesliga and without star man Julian Draxler due to injury. Another key figure, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, has only just returned from injury.
The remaining four games in the round of 16 all look like being close affairs, starting with Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich. Yes, the European champions ultimately look stronger and more balanced overall than the Premier League side, but Arsene Wenger's side are no pushovers and are coming to a point where it would be surprising if they didn't provide a stern challenge for Bayern over two legs.
Their emergence as genuine title contenders in the Premier League this season has seen them stand alongside Chelsea and Manchester City. Given that City have already beaten Bayern in Germany this term, Arsenal should not fear the Bayern threat, although it is difficult to back against the reigning champions.
John Cross of the Mirror thinks Arsenal have improved since they last played but they will still come up short:
Can remember last year's Arsenal v Bayern at Emirates feeling like men against boys. Still think there's a gap - but it's smaller.— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) February 19, 2014
Milan's challenge against Atletico Madrid is similarly tight to call. Although form in recent seasons, and a player-for-player comparison, favours the Spanish title hopefuls, Milan have the know-how on the European stage and—with Mario Balotelli in the team—anything is possible.
Milan are currently ninth in Serie A, with almost half the amount of points that league leaders Juventus have accumulated. Atletico on the other hand are standing toe-to-toe with Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga and qualified unbeaten from Champions League Group G with five wins in six games.
Zenit Saint Petersburg will provide a tough test for Borussia Dortmund over two legs. Although Jurgen Klopp's side possess the character to go to Zenit and get a result, as they showed by knocking out Shakhtar Donetsk on their way to the final last season, they will have to be on top of their game and defend well against the likes of Hulk.
Unbeaten since returning from the winter break, Dortmund look like they may have got over the slump which let Bayern run away at the top of the Bundesliga. They have scored 10 goals in three league games to hint that they are returning to top form.
In the final game of the round Manchester United won't find it easy to bounce back from their poor domestic form against a confident Olympiacos side who sit 20 points clear at the top of the Greek league.
United lost to relegation-threatened Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, were knocked out of the FA Cup by Swansea and have two wins in seven in the league, having lost to Stoke and been held by Fulham at Old Trafford.
Former United striker Michael Owen thinks they could also find it difficult against the Greek side:
You'd normally say United were certainties against Olympiakos but there are no gimmies for Moyes at present. Still fancy them to progress.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) February 17, 2014
Wayne Rooney, who has been indifferent of late, will need to come good for David Moyes if the Scot is to avoid another embarrassing cup exit.