UEFA Champions League: Power Ratings; Who's Going Strong? Who's Gone Pete Tong?
The Champions League fixtures for the Last-16 have been decided in Nyon, Switzerland.
I personally am having a bit of a chuckle at one particular fixture which was announced. Those of you who know me as a Spurs fan will know straight away which one I'm talking about.
But for those who don't, Arsenal ended up being drawn against that old nemesis of theirs - Barcelona.
The Catalans have been a thorn in Arsenal's side twice in recent years. Barcelona defeated Arsenal in the 2005/2006 Champions League Final in Paris and last year humiliated them 4-1 at the Nou Camp to make a 6-3 aggregate. The first leg saw Arsenal reverse a 2-0 defecit to get a well earned 2-2 draw at the Emirates.
With all that said, I have to say I would've been edgy at any opponents we were drawn against. Spurs have been drawn with AC Milan. It means another trip to the San Siro, but on the plus side, Spurs will be at home for the 2nd leg, where they remain undefeated in their Champions League campaign and have scored at least two goals in every game.
In this slideshow, I will go through each team in order of when they were drawn and give them a rating rather than a ranking as each of them have a fair chance of winning it. After all, they've made it to this stage haven't they...
GROUP STAGE FORM - LWLWWD
AS Roma had a very shaky run in the group stages. The Giallorossi lost away to Bayern Munich and embarrassingly lost 1-3 at home to FC Basel. But whatever didn't kill them only made them stronger.
Straight after losing to Basel at home, they went to FC Basel for the return fixture and beat them 3-2 for a small nugget of vengeance. Off the back of that important win, they defeated Bayern Munich 3-2 at the Stadio Olimpico to put themselves into the runners-up spot of Group E, but it was a far cry from Bayern's points tally. Roma's slow start left a five point gulf between them and eventual group winners Bayern.
Roma's narrow goal margin of +1 in each of their victories may cost them a decent run in this year's tournament as one more goal against them in a leg could have them eliminated, but going by their form in their last three group games, there may be a surprise result left in them.
POWER RATING - 3/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WWLWWW
I don't actually know the full song that follows the above phrase, but it is part of a song. Feel free to tell me what song it is. Might even have a listen!
I just thought it was clever and I have reason to chant that so enthusiastically.Shakhtar Donetsk have a had a stormer of a Champions League campaign so far and even beat Werder Bremen to the UEFA Cup [now known as the 'Europa League'] last year. Not only that, they've done it with some style thanks to manager Mircea Lucescu injecting an energetic brand of flowing football into the team. Placing former Gunner Eduardo Da Silva into the mix gave them that extra edge in front of goal.
Eduardo will come in even more useful as the tournament progresses. He scored a rather meaningless goal in a heavy 5-1 defeat away to Arsenal, but scored the winning goal in the return fixture at the Donbass Stadium to give Shakhtar a 2-1 win over his former club.
Their defeat to Arsenal was the only loss sustained out of all their group games. Still, they have looked very much unaffected by it. The Miners have gone from strength to strength. A 1-0 victory over Partizan Belgrade started things off and the group stage ran very much in their favour. Braga were trounced 3-0 at home by Shakhtar, as were Partizan on their second meeting.
Shakhtar are one of the dark horses of this competition. They have been in the Champions League before, but have frequently made an early exit from the group stage. Only recently have they made a larger step forward in this tournament.
Lots of quality football from them in recent years, I hope to see more of it. They have shown ability to despatch more experienced competitors such as Arsenal, but we'll have to wait and see if they can continue to do so when the stakes get higher and opponents get more serious.
POWER RATING - 4/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WDLDWL
AC Milan have not had their finest start to the tournament, which dramatically contrasts with their current position in Serie A. In the Italian side's domestic league, they are sitting pretty in 1st place, but only three points in front of 2nd-placed Napoli. Maybe I've missed a trick by not considering where their priorities lie. It appears to me that the Italian League is what Milan are primarily aiming for.
Milan went through a high and a low throughout the group stages. They started with a home win against AJ Auxerre but Ajax and Real Madrid were very tough to crack either at home or away. Only Auxerre suffered defeat at the hands of Milan. You'd have reason to think that facing Real Madrid twice in a row would have knocked the stuffing out of Milan's campaign. Well it did; and if you look at the group standings after all 12 games, you'd see that Milan were almost eliminated in a fashion which resembles everyone's first thoughts on how Spurs may fare in this tournament - Beating the smaller team comfortably, but choking up when it came to squaring up to the big boys.
Milan only made it into the last 16 thanks to Auxerre beating Ajax 2-1. Spurs may look at that and think too optimistically for Milan's liking.
Their attacking options are robust with Jankulovski on the left wing, Pato, Robinho and on-loan Zlatan Ibrahimovich from Barcelona but I must point out that during this year's champions league, even with all the tremendous quality of their forwards, Milan haven't scored more than two goals in any group game between them. It may affect them on the away fixture.
Also, there have been quite a few injuries to the Milan squad. However, Spurs have their fair share of injuries so Milan may still be alright!
The demands of Serie A may force Massimiliano Allegri to rest one or two players.
Nonetheless, I still expect the likes of Pato and Robinho to give Dawson, Gallas and Bassong some real competition.
POWER RATING - 3/5
e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'
GROUP STAGE FORM - DWLWWD
Group A was the toughest group Spurs could have hoped for. But if anything, it's only galvanised the side more as they're now used to what their potential opponents are about. The squad also know they can beat the best teams in Europe if they put their mind to it.
Spurs are the 'Rubin Kazan' of this year's tournament. Not so much for beating a big team away from home, but beating a big team when most had doubted their credentials leading up to the tournament.
Looking back over the scorelines of Spurs' group games, I couldn't have asked for a better group to be honest. It only forced better football out of Bale, Modric, Gallas and Gomes when it counted.
Admittedly, Spurs' first ever Champions League campaign was nearly ruined before it began in the playoff stage against Young Boys [of Bern]. The away trip was more of a Gory night than a Glory night for Spurs as they found themselves on the back foot. In the first half, cheap loss of possession and bad positioning in the defence allowed three goals to effortlessly slip past Gomes in the first half. Bassong replied before half time with a header. Near the end of the game, Pavlyuchenko reduced the deficit further with a great strike from distance to make it 3-2 at full time, but still leave Spurs with all to do in the second leg.
At White Hart Lane, it was a totally different story. I was there to witness it for myself. The Young Boys hardly strung an attack together. Spurs dominated from start to finish. A hat-trick for Peter Crouch with a controversial goal from Jermain Defoe thrown in for good measure.
Spurs are a Jekyll-Hyde team at the moment. The Hyde side comes out on away games while the Jekyll side comes out at home games. Spurs didn't win a single away game in the group stage or the playoffs; yet they remain undefeated at home, even against Italian treble champions [and current title holders] Internazionale and Dutch Eredivisie champions FC Twente Enschede.
Against Inter Milan at the San Siro, Spurs floundered for a full 45 minutes and were being torn to shreds by Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o. It was 4-0 by half time, so inevitable thoughts about being destroyed 8-0 by the end were firmly in the minds of Spurs fans everywhere.
What was completely against the grain was a newfound 'not-quite-done-yet' attitude in the second half....well...Gareth Bale anyway. The defence did tighten up, but the man of the moment for the Lilywhites was Bale, who took advantage of what can only be described as a bout of Inter tiredness and got three goals within the final ten minutes using the same open space. - Hyde
On the rematch White Hart Lane, he made an example of right-back Maicon once again to put goals on a plate for Crouch and Pavlyuchenko. - Jekyll
The icing on the top of the cake was that Spurs had come out on top of the group.
Moving onto Spurs' chances of winning the tournament, as I said before, great at home, but highly concerning away. I have to say, if it wasn't for the fact Spurs are at home for the second leg, the last 16 may have been my idea of where the fairytale would end. Gareth Bale has sustained a back injury and is a major doubt for Tuesday's game. However, Van Der Vaart may be available and Niko Kranjcar has filled the left wing position with superb zest, despite the constant poo-pooing of him from his manager.
Pavlyuchenko may also start in place of the injured Peter Crouch, which is fine by me as he widens Spurs' attacking options from wing attack to central play.
As for AC Milan, the big concern for their squad will be the absence of first-team favourites such as Gianluca Zambrotta, Andre Pirlo and ex-Tottenham fringe player Kevin-Prince Boateng. However, both teams will have some of their best players remaining.
For AC Milan, top players like Ibrahimovich, Ronaldinho, Robinho and Pato should be available.
For Tottenham Hotspur, Defoe, Dawson, Gomes and Lennon will be available.
With all these injured players in both teams, the game is anyone's to win. So it actually makes the fixture all the more juicy and exciting.
An away win at the San Siro is the key to Spurs' progression into the Quarter-Finals. Then at home, it should be plain sailing. Any stage after the last 16 which Spurs get into will only mean a major bonus to fans and extra kudos points from other clubs in the football world.
My mouth is watering already!
POWER RATING - 3/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WLDWWD
The top of their logo may look like the Bacardi Rum symbol (http://www.sofakingdrunk.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/skd-iphone-27.jpg), but Valencia don't put you to sleep or make you sick with that 'last' shot you thought could keep down; quite the opposite actually.
Valencia right now are just like Barcelona, but 100% less David (that goes for Villa AND Silva).
None of the naughty calories, but all of the same great taste. This team has given Barcelona a run for their money in terms of form and goalscoring ability. Even without David Villa, there's been goals aplenty in their Champions League campaign.
The Orange(s) have obtained one of the best goal differences (+11) in the group stage. They did the double over Bursaspor (0-4 at the Bursa Ataturk stadium and 6-1 at Estadio Mestalla) and apart from Manchester United performing a trademark two-point heist on Valencia's turf in the last ten minutes of normal time, they have topped the group with the goal difference. Unai Emery's injection of classy football in both attack and defence has yielded many goals in their favour whilst keeping concessions to a bare minimum. No more than ONE goal has gone against them in any of their group games so far.
[Must be the wonderful half-time oranges the coaching staff bring with them fresh from the local trees!!]
They may be a poor man's Barcelona, but even that is as good as the rich man's Barcelona (which is Barcelona). It would make for one great final as it would contain two great teams cut from the same cloth.
So, thumbs up to Valiant Valencia. If they carry on like this, they may just end up meeting Barcelona or another big team at Wembley staring at what could be their biggest triumph since the Di Stefano era -The Champions League trophy.
POWER RATING - 4/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - LWWDWL
Football fans concentrate only on their team during a cup campaign (unless their arch rivals have had a torrid time in it of course). But there is always a bit of attention given to the stronger teams.
Sadly I haven't got much to say about Schalke '04, but I'll give it a shot nonetheless.
Corrent me if I'm wrong here; Schalke '04 are in the Champions League for only the fourth time in its history and the furthest they got had been the Quarter Finals in the 2007/08 tournament where they were defeated 1-0 in both legs by Barcelona to make 2-0 to the Catalans on aggregate. This time, Schalke hope to put on a meaner face to advance further, but will have to vanquish another Spanish team in Valencia.
Schalke's away form hasn't been much to Schalke-bout (*BDOOM TSSSH), but at home, Felix Magath's hard-line attitude rubs off on the team more effectively. From the home game scorelines I've seen, there hasn't been any 'grinding out' of results like Manchester United did away in Valencia. The result is either theirs to enjoy or theirs to be sniffed at. At home, Die Königsblauen have given their fellow competitors a torrid time. Even Lyon were thrashed (3-0) and sent home with their French fancies in between their legs.
Just like Spurs, the away form needs sharpening up. On opening day, Lyon nicked a 1-0 victory against Schalke at Lyon's Stade de Gerland and following that, Hapoel Tel Aviv held them to a 0-0 draw.
Their overall campaign will not be grinded out either. They'll either drive themselves forward or be caught 'Knappen' (another pun nickname). Look the nicknames up, they are all Wikipedia-approved ya know!
POWER RATING - 2/5
FC Internazionale Milano (Inter Milan)
GROUP STAGE FORM - DWWLWL
Inter Milan have taken to defending the Champions League title just like the Italian National Team took to defending the World Cup...not as well as expected. However, they did do better than the national team because none of the first team regulars are Italian!
Drew away to FC Twente Enschede on the first matchday, but picked up the pace in time to blast four goals past Werder Bremen without reply and another four past Tottenham Hotspur at the San Siro....but with a loud reply from Bale in the last ten minutes. Bale's ten minutes of madness/fame right at the end of their rampage could have pulled them down many pegs, but they managed to hold onto the win and ultimately deserved the pre-Bale scoreline of 4-0. However, was Maicon's tiredness that night a clear sign of the team's loss of momentum since Mourinho's departure? Or a blip?
It's debatable. Some would say yes as their following game at White Hart Lane was a far cry from the title-winning football which had won them the title in Spain last season, as well as a 4-3 victory against Spurs at the San Siro this season. Gareth Bale continued his work from the previous week by making an example of Maicon for 90 minutes rather than just ten at the end of the game. Furthermore, they only managed to grind out a 1-0 victory against Twente at the San Siro and lost 3-0 to Bremen in the final group game.
However, some would say a win is a win. Also, the quality of Inter's players is still overwhelming and has shown itself throughout. In their emphatic wins against Bremen and Spurs - and even in the 3-1 loss to Spurs - Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito in particular proved their worth and class. Combine that with Wesley Sneijder in attacking midfield and lynchpin Javier Zanetti 'backstage' in defensive midfield, you'll still have a world-class team who fear nobody in this competition as they've beaten them all before.
POWER RATING - 5/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WWWWLW
If you wanted to look at 'veterans' of the tournament, look no further than Bayern Munich.
In their history, the Champions League Final has been a date on supporters' calendars eight times.
Unfortunately for them, four of those finals ended in heartbreak, most recently with Inter Milan taking the title for the third time in their history. Strangely enough, these two clubs are poised to face each other once again. Bayern and Inter have been drawn to play each other in February. What better opportunity for Bayern to take revenge than the last 16 stage of Inter's defence of the title.
On the bright side, Bayern are the Manchester United of Germany. Not only are they nicknamed 'The Reds' [translated in German as 'Die Roten'], but they have won the Champions League on multiple occasions, one more than their England counterparts.
Not trying to take anything away from the group Bayern were in, but it wasn't the most treacherous. CFR Cluj and to an extent, FC Basel were considered minnows, so only AS Roma were going to pose any threat to their topping of the group.
Bayern have made good use of local lads from Germany. Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Sepp Maier are just a few of the household names that were at one point a formidable force (The Axis) in Bayern's squad. Nowadays, they are still utilising homegrown talents such as Philip Lahm, Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger who set the 2010 World Cup alight.
Back on topic now, their form speaks for itself. Only one loss which was away to Roma; a close 3-2 defeat was the result. It's been all plain sailing and just another season in the Champions League for the Bundesliga champions, until they meet Inter Milan once more.
For Bayern Munich, it's do or die. Inter will not go quietly.
POWER RATING - 3/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WWWLLD
In this season of the French Ligue 1, Olympique Lyon have taken a small dip. in the recent 2009/2010 season, they came 2nd to rivals Olympique Marseille, who won the title convincingly by six points and seven more goals in goal-difference. In this season's Ligue 1 title race, as it stands, Lyon once again find themselves at a distance from 1st place in the league, but it's not Marseille who are sitting up at the top this season.
*cue cliche cliffhanger music*
The team at the top are currently competing in the Europa League - Lille OSC!! How's that for ironic topsy-turviness eh?...a Champions League team behind a Europa League team in the domestic league...how embarrassing ;D
Anyway, Lyon's campaign started brilliantly. Three wins on the bounce. Their first victory was a 1-0 win at home to Schalke '04, followed by a 3-1 away win against Hapoel Tel-Aviv and then a 2-0 win [plus 2nd clean sheet] against Benfica. But following that, Benfica attempted to derail Lyon's streak and did so, but narrowly. At Benfica's home ground, Lyon lost 4-3. Schalke also took another chunk out of Lyon by beating them 3-0 at the Arena Auf Schalke. Hapoel Tel-Aviv left their impression on the tournament by drawing 2-2 at Lyon's stadium, even though the score would've made no difference to their fate in the tournament.
Lyon finished 2nd in Group B quite comfortably in the end; Hapoel Tel-Aviv gave them a bit of a leg-up by grabbing their only win against Benfica, but generally, the teams who deserve to be in the last 16 are in it. Lyon have proven their worth many times in the past.
Saying all that, the dip in form halfway through the group stage may plant seeds of doubt in the minds of Lyon fans, but also plant seeds of hope in the minds of Marseille fans!
POWER RATING - 2/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WWWDWW
Real Madrid are also true veterans of the game. They've won it a record NINE TIMES and have a 75% Champions League Final success rate as they've been runners-up a further THREE TIMES, being pipped at the post by SL Benfica, Inter Milan and Liverpool [in chronological order].
Roll on another 30 years and Real Madrid are still going strong in the Champions League. I would like to pay particular attention to the 'Messi of Madrid' Cristiano Ronaldo and the World Cup-winning right-back Sergio Ramos, who have been lynchpins for Los Blancos in this group stage and even before that.
That is if you can forget the 5-0 thumping they received from Barcelona at Camp Nou in La Liga.
The power shift in Spanish football has been rather one-way, and that's in the Catalan direction.
One of the most recent El Clásicos epitomised that. And even when Ronaldo was playing for United against Messi in the 2008/2009 Champions League Final, he was outshone and upstaged by the Argentine winger.
In the six group games-all of which Ronaldo and Messi have appeared in-Ronaldo has scored a very respectable four goals in six games, but Messi has scored six goals. Sure Messi may have scored more than one goal in a game, but shouldn't that be even more proof of his constant class on the pitch?
Of course, this is no reason for us to slate ol' Ronnie over there. He too is one of the finest players to put on a Real Madrid shirt....and a United shirt....and a Sporting CP shirt....and a buttoned shirt....and even no shirt as most football widows would tell you!!
I have to say though, my opinion of Real Madrid dropped a bit following their immature, needless, time-wasting antics at Ajax. But forgive and forget...
Right, let's get to the juicy bits. Real Madrid have taken the toro by its teats this year. They are undefeated in the group stage, making 16 points out of a possible 18 [double Milan's eight points] and have scored at least two goals in every game (like Spurs ha haaa). To add to this statistical shower of glory, in every victory, they've kept a clean sheet. Captain Casillas made sure of that, along with his faithful back four, particularly Sergio Ramos (vice-captain).
Solidarity in defence, combined with incisive box-cutting runs by Ronaldo makes more time for sharp, slick attacking football. Real are putting the 'loco' into 'locomotive' with their forward momentum.
Mourinho's men look like genuine contenders for this year's title once again. An El Clásico final at Wembley looks likely and sounds tasty.
POWER RATING - 5/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WWWLLW
I think most of the Arsenal fans here would've immediately skipped this slide and the next one (Barcelona) just to help hold back the tears. Spurs fans would've read this with glee and not been able to hold back the tears...or laughter. Still, it couldn't be helped as the rest of Arsenal's potential opponents had been drawn before them, thereby lumbering them with Barcelona, who have humiliated them on two separate occasions; last season's Champions League where the 2nd leg score at Camp Nou was 4-1 and - more painfully - the 2006 Champions League Final
If it's any consolation, Arsenal's match with Barcelona is one of the more eagerly anticipated fixtures because of the big question that hangs over it - Will Barca yet again give Arsenal a footballing lesson or will Arsenal reverse their recent lack of fortune for the sake of their season. Because, let's face it, throwing a 2-0 lead away to your noisy neighbours on your own turf to cost yourself top-spot in the league has been the most bitter pill to swallow.
Arsenal started off well with very high goal counts at home. A 6-0 destruction of Braga at the Emirates and a 5-1 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk. However, away games against those very teams didn't go in the Gunners' favour. Shakhtar and Braga got their vengeance on their home grounds. Shakhtar beat Arsenal 2-1 while Braga piled further misery on them by winning 2-0.
Their final game against Partizan Belgrade was a matter of life and death. If Arsenal had lost and Braga had won, well....let's just say I'd be writing about Braga here instead. Braga's score ultimately didn't matter as Arsenal won comfortably. Meanwhile, Shakhtar had beaten Braga 2-0 giving the Gunners the best case scenario of qualifying.
Arsene Wenger's Gunners have been like North Korea in recent years, exhibiting great weaponry which is known about throughout the world, but it's always ended in disaster. Arsenal's weaponry is beautiful football. Some of the smooth passing movements are a joy to see (except when they're being used on my team of course!).
Andrey Arshavin, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri are the current cornerstones of Arsenal potentially title-winning football. They have to convert it into a trophy sooner rather than later. However, Nasri may or may not be unavailable for the first leg, putting more pressure on the rest of the team to make-do and mend.
If Arsenal can overcome Barcelona this time round, they would have a much greater chance of going all the way to Wembley.
Only a trophy will pacify Arsenal fans' grievances for the next five years.
That's all it boils down to in the end.
POWER RATING - 3/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WDWDWW
Messi's football looks as tidy as ever (I crack myself up a lot, although others aren't as receptive). Barcelona are currently the best football club in the world, even above Manchester United as the results in domestic competition and the quality of football produced at home and in Europe are much better.
Barcelona have had the proverbial silver spoon in the mouth this year as they were grouped with three teams who are considered 'minnows' in the Champions League, but the football they have been producing recently in all departments, whoever they face, has been undeniable. Their campaign kicked off positively enough at Camp Nou where they hung Panathanaikos out to dry with a 5-1 win.
But their progress was once again stalled by the surprise package side of last season, Rubin Kazan.
At the Tsentralnyi, Rubin repeated the feat of not being beaten by Barca. The score was 1-1. FC Copenhagen didn't roll over easily either when Barcelona went to their ground (Parken Stadion). Same score, different team. However, Barcelona did beat them 2-0 at Camp Nou a fortnight earlier.
At the top of the group was Barcelona with 14 points; the balance had been restored.
From back to front, the Catalans ooze class. Valdes stops shots, Messi creates and performs shots, Villa finishes the shots. Unstoppable.
Barcelona are gaining momentum so Arsenal have to be on their guard.
POWER RATING - 5/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - LLWWWW
Olympique [de] Marseille started their campaign on the wrong foot. It began with a 1-0 home defeat to Spartak Moscow and the misery was compounded at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea beat them 2-0.
But then, they got their act together to grab a 1-0 win against MSK Zilina. Although defeating Zilina wasn't difficult for any of the other teams from Group F, the victory rejuvenated Marseille's morale and on the return fixture against Zilina [as convenient as it was for Marseille], they demolished the Czech champions 7-0. From then on, the only way was up for Marseille who - in line with their motto - went 'straight to the goals' and ran amok with Spartak Moscow with a 3-0 away win and a deserved 1-0 victory at home against Chelsea to propel themselves into 2nd behind Chelsea with a respectable goal difference of +9.
However, you have to ask yourself, will Marseille run out of steam as the tournament progresses?
Zilina weren't difficult to defeat as shown by their group games this season. Zilina didn't get any wins or draws like Partizan Belgrade and subsequently ended up with the worst goal difference of all the competitors (-16). I'm not trying to take away anything from Marseille's goalscoring and goalkeeping abilities at all; that's there for all to see, three clean sheets in a row says a lot about them.
I'm only questioning if they'll be able to handle the competition as it hots up. The best of the best are here in the last 16 and there are a few teams who have done better in the group stage than Marseille from start to finish and are bound to carry that on. Marseille need to keep up their recent form in order to advance to the finals. Manchester United are getting stronger once again and they might overpower Marseille.
POWER RATING - 2/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - DWWWWD
Manchester United started with a draw and ended with a draw.
A great looking sandwich as the 'filling' in between contained a 100% win record.
The first 'piece of bread' was 'buttered' with a goalless home draw against Scottish Premier League champions Rangers. After that, there was a bit of a 'pickle'; United were held to a goalless draw until they nicked a late goal against Valencia to win 1-0 at the Estadi de Mestalla. The pickle was relieved by a little pea called Javier Hernandez.
Then came the meaty filling. Three more continuous victories and then to top it off, the second piece of bread and butter; a 1-1 home draw against Valencia to secure first place in the group and avoid Barcelona.
Looking at those results, caused by the relatively small trickle of goals in the Red Devils' campaign, it doesn't look as promising as fans would hope. Defence and goalkeeping looks solid enough to stop a bulldozer (only one goal conceded), but on the other hand, only seven goals were scored in the group stage, leaving a difference of +6. So upfront, they've looked like Manchester Un-tied rather than Manchester United.
You just have to stop and think carefully for a moment about whether the three-time champions will be able to get anything at all from Marseille when they travel there in February. As stated above, goals in United's group stage have been few and far between, especially with Rooney's goal-drought.
If Javier Hernandez gets to start a game for once or Berbatov maintains the rich vein of form he's recently entered in the League, United may still come out the other side of this knockout stage.
Or Fergie could alternatively call Federico Macheda back from Sampdoria! ;)
POWER RATING - 3/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WWLDLW
Another team who I haven't been watching so much, but I'll give it a shot for your entertainment.
Even if they crash out at this stage in the competition, FC Copenhagen will be praised by Danes everywhere as they have already made history. They are known to some as The 'Byens Hold', The City's team. However, when they come back from this, whatever stage they may get to, they might even be regarded as The Country's Team. FC Copenhagen are the first Danish club to reach this stage of the competition. Ok, maybe it's not the feat to end all feats for us, but it is a proud achievement for Denmark who hold it in such high regard.
Copenhagen's group wasn't the easiest. Rubin Kazan had earnt their own place in Russia's football folklore last season when they managed to stand their ground against Barcelona and Inter Milan. Barcelona were in the same group this year too.
The Danish club stood their ground as well, securing respectable results such as an away win against Panathanaikos, a home win against Rubin Kazan and even a 1-1 draw with Barcelona, leaving them with ten points and 2nd place; a four-point gap between them and Kazan in 3rd.
The goal difference however, left a lot to be desired (+2). Positive, but only just!
The Lions have been drawn with Chelsea, who are quickly regaining momentum as we speak. Being the home side in the first leg is not advantageous in the least, particularly if you have Premiership title contenders as your opponents. So unless Copenhagen show some more mettle away like they do at home, this stage may be the end of the road for them. Chelsea are likely to get at least one away goal so if that happens and Copenhagen draw or lose, they'll feel as if there's a mountain to climb at Stamford Bridge on the return leg.
It won't be a molehill though, it'll be Everest...
POWER RATING - 2/5
GROUP STAGE FORM - WWWWWL
No London-based club has won the Champions League in it's entire history. For all you conspiracy theorists out there, it is rather coincidental that Chelsea were drawn with minnows FC Copenhagen, but you didn't hear that from me, ok?
Chelsea came within an inch of winning it in 2008 against long-term title rivals Manchester United
but lost out after the cruellest procedure in world football;noooo not FIFA's appointment of Sepp Blatter.
It was the penalty shootout.
To mark the occasion of Chelsea's first appearance in a Champions League final, John Terry decided to launch his own brand of vodka seeing as the final was to be held in Moscow. It was named after John Terry himself. He produced a slogan for it too - Goes down easily!! HAAA. One large order of canned laughter with extra applause please :)
Yep, John Terry, Captain of Chelsea, limbered up for the most important penalty of his life apart from losing his former Best Friend Forever (BFF) Wayne Bridge in an adultery scandal. The split-second he made contact with the ball, Terry slipped over, putting his penalty shot wide in front of 78,000 fans already on the edge of their seat as it was; and in front of the millions of others viewing on TV who were on the edge of having their sides split [apart from Chelsea supporters obviously].
Alex Ferguson may have been caught laughing uncontrollably with the stud tightening tool in his hand (joking!).
Anyways, what's done is done and Chelsea haven't won it. End of story. So can they do it this time?
Well, quite possibly. Their group form was immense. Five wins on the bounce and only four goals conceded throughout this stage of the tournament. However, the streak came to an end when they travelled to Marseille, losing narrowly by one goal to nil. Initially, I thought this was just one of those Chelsea blips where they wouldn't do well on that particular game but would be back to normal by teatime tomorrow. Never before had I or anyone been wrong about that, until now.
That loss may have signalled a more permanent drop in form. Recently in the Premier League, Chelsea were on a bit of a downer by their own standards (this is the price of being a big team; the higher you are, the harder you fall and the more jouranlists like me keep on about it ;D ). The worst time to be a Chelsea fan in that period was watching them get trounced 3-0 at home by Sunderland and having your best defence brought to its knees by the little-known Manchester City centreback Nedum Onuoha [on loan at Sunderland].
Onuoha surprised both sets of fans with a silky smooth run combined with skills to evade three Chelsea players. He finished with the ball ending up in the net, opening the scoring to boot.
Sunderland were in Wonderland while Chelsea were in Blunderland.
More recently though, Chelsea appear to have shaken it off. The spluttering of their engine has ceased. This was confirmed with a convincing 4-0 win over Bolton. An assortment of players had scored. Drogba, Anelka, Malouda and Ramires got themselves onto the scoresheet. It's that kind of shooting talent exhibited by non-strikers which may give them an edge over the competition.
The Blues are once again on the way up and Carlo Ancelotti will want to make sure the dip doesn't happen again in his spell here. It probably won't happen again....until maybe the next cup final ;)
I'm a Spurs fan, you didn't think I was going to let Chelsea fans pass without a ribbing did you?? ;D
POWER RATING - 5/5
That's Just About All Of It Covered I Think!
Eyes on the Prize...
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
So there you have it my top-team-loving compadres. All 16 clubs analysed down to the last boot stud. I hope your team has been shown in a reasonable light but remember, only your own team can keep that light on when they compete in the next stage of what has been an exciting tournament so far.
Best of luck to all!