Champions League Throws Up Some Sweet Ties
The draw for the next round of the Champions League was made today in Nyon, Switzerland and the first two sides out saw Manchester City facing Barcelona. Two games will be played on each night on the 18th and 19th of February in one week and then the 25th and 26th of February on the following week. The second leg takes place over the same period of time in the middle of March.
So Manchester City will take on Barcelona with Manuel Pellegrini and the awesome City attack going head-to-head with the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar. The good thing for City is that their home form is fantastic and so if they can take a good lead to the Nou Camp, then who would bet against them. Barcelona have shipped goals at home in the Champions League against AC Milan and Celtic. So while both attacks are great, it is also true to say both defenses can leak also.
City’s neighbors, Manchester United, travel to Greece where they will take on Olympiacos who finished second in their Group only to the dominant Paris St Germain. Javier Saviola and the the ex-Manchester City player Vladimir Weiss will be looking at a less than dominant United as a scalp they could win.
AC Milan are the lone Italian side through to the knockout stage and will face Atletico Madrid. Certainly it will be tough for the Italians, who struggled away to Ajax while playing very well against Barcelona. Bayer Leverkusen face off against Paris St Germain as the draw reached the half way point. PSG will be a tough ask for Leverkusen, who were inconsistent during the Group stage. Edinson Cavani, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi will be too much to handle for most defenses.
Didier Drogba will return to Stamford Bridge as Galatasasray, under Roberto Mancini, face off against the 2012 Champions League winners. This may be a potential upset in the making with an ex-Arsenal player Emmanuel Eboue also in the squad. After two years of failing at Manchester City, Roberto Mancini finally brings knockout stage Champions League football to England.
Schalke of Germany face Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and company. The nine time winners will be favorites to go through to the Quarter Finals and on course for another good run. Jermaine Jones of the USA is part of the Schalke squad and so it will be of interest for some American supporters who may not have a team they support in the knockout round.
Zenit were drawn against the only side at this point they could get, Borussia Dortmund. The Russian side have done well to get this far in the competition after just scraping through despite the 4-1 last day defeat. I think you would have to be a brave man or Russian to bet against Dortmund being in the Quarter Finals once the games are all done and dusted.
Finally, if the first game out was a big, mouth watering one, then so was the last. Arsenal paid the full price of not securing top spot and will now face the defending Champions, Bayern Munich. The two sides have history with the Germans halting the English charge in previous campaigns and if it is not to take a similar turn, then Arsene Wenger will probably need to have his defense better drilled than they were in Manchester at the weekend.