The group stages of the Champions League are behind us and now it’s time for the “real deal”: – the knockout stage!
Last week’s Champions League draw saw last round’s group leaders being drawn against the teams who finished second (whereas the teams who finished third in the group stage have joined the Europa league).
The results of the Draw:
AC Milan – Arsenal: Perhaps the most interesting and close game of the knockout stage. Both Milan and Arsenal are being led this season by their star forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Milan and Van Persie at Arsenal. The Gunners have seemed to recover from their horrible start to the season, but a knockout match against Italian champions Milan is definitely the highest hurdle they could have been faced with at this stage. Milan, on the other hand, has been far from brilliant in recent years in the CL, having lost to another English club (Tottenham) at this stage last season. Milan cannot afford the same result this year.
Napoli – Chelsea: Napoli is enjoying a successful first appearance in the Champions League, having knocked out Manchester City in the group stages. This may prove an even more difficult challenge for Cavani, Hamshik, Lavezzi and company, when they face Villas-Boas’ Chelsea – a team that’s been quite inconsistent this season pulling off some great appearances as well that some very mediocre one. This tie will definitely be interesting and very even (in my opinion at least).
Leverkusen – Barcelona: Barca has lost David Villa for the rest of the season after his leg injury at the World Club Cup, but should still be strong enough to overcome Leverkusen. The Germans were unlucky enough to draw Barcelona early on in the competition, and therefore would probably have to say goodbye and start preparing for their next season’s appearance.
CSKA Moscow – Real Madrid: Moscow is probably the second most unlucky team in the knockout stage, having been drawn against Spanish giants Real Madrid. Mourinho’s team should put this one away easily and continue their advance in the competition.
Basel – Bayern Munich: Basel have already done more than was expected of them in the CL, having knocked out Manchester Utd in perhaps one of the most dramatic and surprising results in recent years. Bayern is a different story all together though – the Bavarian team is much stronger and has been looking amazing so far this season (in my opinion, the third best team in the CL after Barcelona and Madrid). Bayern will surely advance to the next round.
Marseille – Inter: A rather interesting tie, which can go in either team’s favor: Inter (with the ever disappointing Ranieri as manager) is far from the team it used to be under Mourinho, and will have to focus much of its attention on the Italian League, where they seem to be struggling so far. Marseille has shown much character when they beat German champions Dortmund in the last match of the previous round. No reason why they won’t advance and leave Inter to reconsider their stupid decision to appoint Ranieri.
Lyon – Apoel Nicosia: Lyon has managed to draw the team that everyone wanted to draw. However, people seem to forget that Nicosia has been great in the CL so far and have managed to finish at the top of their group. Lyon should be able to go through, but Nicosia might just surprise the continent again.
Benfica – Zenit St. Petersburg: Benfica looks to me like the stronger team (finished 1st in Man. Utd.’s group after all). Zenit will not come to the game in their finest form due to no games being played at that time in the Russian league. It will probably be Benfica who will advance, but it doesn’t look likely that they can go much further than the Quarter-finals.
So what do you think? Who will be the teams to advance, and who will watch the rest of the competition from home? Join our discussion on the blog!