Champions League Last 16: 10 Matchups We'd Love to See and Why They'd Be Great
The Champions League is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world with plenty of teams participating in the tournament, but only 16 teams remaining after qualification from the group stage.
It was a huge surprise to see the likes of Manchester City and especially Manchester United getting knocked out from the competition due to their inconsistent performances. There are still a number of quality sides in the tournament and could face a difficult task ahead.
Most of the groups have been tightly contested, and it showed the quality in all the teams which have qualified for the Champions League. There are still a number of big-name clubs present in the tournament, and the draw for the Round of 16 is likely to be quite important.
The rules of the draw is that for this stage, winners of the group take on runners-up from the groups with teams of the same nationality or who have faced earlier in the group stage are kept apart.
Arsenal, Inter Milan, APOEL, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Chelsea
Bayer Leverkusen, AC Milan, Olympique Marseille, Zenit St. Petersburg, CSKA Moscow, Basle, Napoli, Lyon
It will be exciting to see what fixtures will be thrown up by the Champions League draw but here are 10 match-ups we would like to see in the draw.
Real Madrid vs. Napoli
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Napoli was drawn into arguably the toughest group in the Champions League featuring the likes of Manchester City, Villareal and Bayern Munich, alongside themselves. However, they managed to beat City at home, which was the key reason for them being able to qualify for the next round.
They are extremely effective in their quick counter-attacks with players such as Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani in their team. Though they are not the favorites in this tournament, other teams will not underestimate the prowess of this team.
It should be an exciting contest if they do come up against Real Madrid, another side boasting of making rapid-fire counter attacks. They have plenty of quality players in their side, and though they have also developed a good possession game, they still remain lethal on counter attacks.
It will be interesting to see Jose Mourinho plot his strategy to counter Napoli's style of play, considering that they do follow some of the methods he employed in the past.
Arsenal vs. AC Milan
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AC Milan are one of the best teams in the world, and it was unfortunate that they were drawn in the same group as FC Barcelona and could only finish second in the group. In Massimiliano Allegri, they have one of the most astute managers in the game, and after their last year's loss to Tottenham, they will look to win at this stage of the competition.
It would be very difficult for both sides if the Gunners are drawn to face Milan.
The last time they faced the Italians, the Gunners secured a victory at the San Siro through a goal from former captain Cesc Fabregas. However, things have changed considerably since then, but the philosophy of playing attacking football remains with both the clubs.
Arsene Wenger's side continue to play with the same passing football despite high profile departures of Fabregas and Samir Nasri. If the two clubs are drawn together, it is certain that there will be two games of high quality of attacking football, which is good for the competition.
Chelsea vs. Olympique Marseille
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Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has come under great pressure in the last few weeks due to the inconsistent performances of the Blues. Despite being in danger of being eliminated at the group stage, they managed to seal a comprehensive win against Valencia and finished top of the group.
Despite the big money arrival of Fernando Torres, it is clear that Didier Drogba seems to be in better form and has been given a run of games by his manager, who surprisingly dropped Frank Lampard for the key encounter against Valencia.
If they are drawn against Olympique Marseille, it will be a very interesting game, not only because it will feature Drogba against his former club. Didier Deschamps is a very intelligent manager and could look to exploit the inexperience of Andre Villas-Boas and the lack of defensive consistency, which will provide the likes of Loic Remy and company with chances in the game.
Marseille have a great fighting spirit and will be an excellent match for Chelsea considering their counter-attacking methods.
FC Barcelona vs. Lyon
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With Barcelona not eligible to face AC Milan in the Round of 16, it leaves the Spanish giants the favorites against all the other seven sides. With many world class players in their team including the likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, it will be extremely difficult for some club to beat them, especially at this stage of the competition.
However, it could be an interesting game if Lyon are drawn to face them, though the French side will have lesser chances of progressing.
It can be argued that Lyon has been a sort of a "bogey" team for Spanish giants Real Madrid, who they have eliminated from the Champions League in the past. This is the reason why it would be interesting to see how they would perform when they faced Madrid's arch-rivals. There have been a number of upsets over the years, and there exists the possibility of Lyon beating Barcelona if they are drawn together.
Real Madrid vs. AC Milan
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Real Madrid and AC Milan are two clubs with extremely rich history and both have won a number of European competitions in the past. The two clubs clashed in the group stage last season and it could be a monumental clash if they are drawn together in the Round of 16 draw. Jose Mourinho has won the Champions League with two clubs, FC Porto and Inter Milan, and winning the Champions League was one of Mourinho's primary aims when he was appointed as the manager of Madrid.
AC Milan have grown considerably stronger since the last time these two clubs met and could present a very strong challenge to Madrid. They have very good players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho. They have every chance of winning the tie, though Mourinho's men will have to be considered as the favorites if drawn together.
Arsenal vs. Lyon
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If Arsenal are drawn against Lyon for the Round of 16 in the Champions League, it will not only be an interesting battle, but will also see Lyon manager and former Arsenal player Remi Garde plot his wits against his former manager Arsene Wenger.
The Lyon boss said that he had been influenced by Wenger and he will look to identify the chinks in Arsenal's squad. He has had a decent start to the season. If they can attain more consistency, then they could again qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal manager Wenger has a decent record against the French sides he has faced during his time at Arsenal but will understand the capability of Lyon to spring an upset win. His Arsenal side have made considerable progress since their disappointing performances at the start of the season, and will hope to qualify for the quarter-finals irrespective of their opponents.
Chelsea vs. AC Milan
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Chelsea manager Andre Vllas-Boas has introduced an attacking style of play. Though the defense has occasionally looked uncomfortable playing in a high line, it is important to note that they are in a period of transition.
Villas-Boas does need time to make his principles count, and he has inherited a very strong dressing room with big personalities which makes it difficult for him to introduce changes.
If they are drawn against AC Milan, it will be a huge challenge for the Blues, which have received plenty of criticism and look far from the defensively strong side built under Jose Mourinho. If they are drawn alongside Milan and successfully negotiate their way, it will be a huge boost for Chelsea and could push them to have a strong finish to the season.
Though the Blues are a strong side, AC Milan will have the belief that they do have the talent to beat the Blues considering their multi-varied options in attack. Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri has to get his tactics right at this stage of the competition because they could face some of the best in the world like Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona.
Milan and Chelsea will be an exciting contest. Both do have a great chance to win the game and the manager's tactics could be very important in such games.
Inter Milan vs. Bayer Leverkeusen
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Inter Milan have regressed considerably since the departure of Jose Mourinho and they have sacked many managers since then like Rafa Benitez and Leonardo. They had a terrible start to the season, and it led to the appointment of former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri as the manager of the team.
Though Inter have managed to have some positive results, they have been far too inconsistent. Also, they lack the dominance of old.
Bayer Leverkusen performed superbly in the last season under Jupp Heynckes and they have a new managerial appointment since the manager left for Bayern Munich. It has been a steady start for Leverkusen, but again, they have not been very dominant and will feel let down to finish only second in the group behind Chelsea.
Manager Robin Dutt will have a difficult task, like Ranieri, in order to win the game if these two clubs are drawn together.
FC Barcelona vs. Napoli
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FC Barcelona are arguably the strongest team in the tournament, and it will be hard for any team in the world in order to stop him. Under Pep Guardiola, they have constructed a team capable of winning trophies regularly, and it will take something special to stop them from winning this Champions League.
However, they have been beaten this season, and their defense is not at their best which needs to be exploited for opponents to get something from the game.
If Napoli are drawn, it will be a extremely difficult task for Walter Mazzarri's men, but the tactician has proved that he is a tactically astute manager.
He will look to devise a plan to stifle Barcelona's plan and with players like Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, they have the ammunition to test the Blaugrana's shaky defense, though it will considerably improve with the return of Carles Puyol from his various injury problems.
Chelsea vs. FC Basle
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Basle are one of the many unfancied teams in the tournament but they have arguably created the biggest shock of the Champions League so far by condemning Manchester United to the Europa league. Basle produced a fighting performance against United to launch a superb comeback to end the game at 3-3 at Old Trafford.
However, the Red Devils failed to produce their best against them in Switzerland as they were eliminated via a 2-1 win for the Swiss team.
They play some fine attacking football, and if they do draw Chelsea, the Blues will have to beware of their proficiency in attack. The Blues have been porous in defense in some games such as the 5-3 loss to Arsenal and Basle are likely to exploit any opportunities provided to them.
The Blues will approach the game without any complacency and will hope that they do not become the second big club in English football to be Basle's scalp in the tournament.