Champions League Draw Reaction
The draw for the last 16 of the 24th UEFA Champions League took place in Nyonyesterdayand threw up some exciting ties to set the pulses racing long before the contests actually take place. The first legs are scheduled for 16-17 and 23-24 February, while the return legs are on 8-9 and 15-16 March.
These dates may seem a long way off, but for these teams, whether they have reached the knockout phases for the first time (Wolfsburg or Gent), or the 19th consecutive time (Real Madrid) the planning starts now. Here’s what the round of last 16 has in store.
Arsenal v Barcelona
It’s second in the Premier League against top of La Liga(as this is written) as two clubs who are no strangers to each other meet in Europe’s premier club competition for the fifth time. Of those previous four occasions, one was in the group stages in 1999 (one draw and one win for Barcelona), the Quarter-final stage in 2010 (Barca progressed 6-3 on aggregate), the round of 16 in 2011 (Barca triumphed 4-3 on aggregate) and, of course, the 2006 final (where the Spanish side secured only their second European title in winning 2-1). Arsenal are due a win, but do the top football tipsters believe it will unravel in 2016?
Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit qualified for the knockout stage with the second best group record of all teams (five wins and a solitary draw), whilst Benfica escaped a relatively tricky group by finishing runners-up to Atletico Madrid. The Portuguese giants have history in this competition, having reached the final seven times and won twice, but the last of those final appearances was 26 years ago, whereas Zenit boast the attacking threat of Artem Dzyuba, who bagged sixtimes during the group stages. These two sides were drawn together in this same round in 2011/12, with Benfica running out 4-3 victors on aggregate after a 2-0 win in Lisbon in the second leg. However, Zenit have won three of the four fixtures between these two sides having done the ‘double’ in last season’s group stages, and with their form thus far is this season’s competition, the Russian side may well be the fancy of football tipsters ahead of this one.
Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City
Despite an inauspicious start to the group stages, Manchester City were able to rally and finish as group winners, ensuring their qualification for the knockout phase for a third straight year. On both occasions that was as far as they got as they were eliminated by Barcelona, so the blue half of Manchester will fancy their chances this time round against a Kiev side who finished second to Chelsea in Group G, pipping Porto on the final matchday. Kiev are not the side they once were but have a solid team under ex-striker SerhiyRebrov, and the finest football tipsters will not fail to notice that Manchester City lost 2-0 in their previous visit here in the Europa League in 2011.
Gent v Wolfsburg
Two newcomers to the knockout rounds meet in what should be a fascinating encounter between two sides who put out arguably bigger fish just to reach this stage.Wolfsburg eliminated Manchester United in their ascent to the summit of Group B, whilst Gent overcame the odds to finish behind Zenit in a group which also contained Valencia and Lyon. As well as never having been this far in the completion before, these two teams have never faced eachother, so this is a golden opportunity to let the expert football tipsters lead you in your selections.
Juventus v Bayern Munich
These two sides have racked up 7 wins between them in the Champions League and its precursor, the European Cup, as well as a further 11 final losses. In losing last season’s final, Juventus became the first side to lose six finals, and arguably they are not as strong this time around after losing Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal – the latter to their last 16 opponents. Bayern look formidable and in Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller have two of this season’s competition’s top scorers. It’s a glamour tie that the Germans look to have the edge in, but football tipsters will be cautious in writing off a team as experienced as Juve.
Paris St-Germain v Chelsea
This encounter is a repeat of last season’s last 16 tie, where Laurent Blanc’s PSG overcame the English side on goaldifference. Interestingly, it was the Londoners who were victors in the same manner in 2014, this time in the quarter finals. These two sides are old adversaries in this competition, but while Jose Mourinho’s side are struggling domestically, the club from the French capital are leading somewhat of a procession at the top of Ligue 1, something which football tipsters will be bearing in mind come February.
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid
PSV snuck into the last 16 on Matchday 6 at the expense of Manchester United, but are up against it in the shape of Diego Simeone’s Atletico, who are currently sitting equal on points with Barcelona at the top of La Liga. The Spanish side were runners up in 2014 and 1974, whilst PSV won the competition back in 1988. These two sides met previously in the Champions League group stages in 2008/09 with Atletico running out victors on both occasions. Football tipsters will surely have the Rojiblancosdown as favourites for this one too.
Roma v Real Madrid
Serie A giants Roma were beaten finalists in 1984 (at the hands of Liverpool) but other than that appearance, cannot compete with the history of their illustrious opponents in the last 16. Real have claimed the trophy on no less than a record 10 occasions, the last of which was in 2013/14. With Cristiano Ronaldo breaking group stage scoring records by notching 11 times, and Roma having scraped through to the knockout phase with a paltry 6 points and a goal difference of -5, it will be interesting to see some of the canniest football tipster’s alternative picks on this one. What chance a CR7 hattrick?
To win outright
Barcelona – 3.50
Bayern Munich – 3.75
Real Madrid – 6.00
Man City – 11.00
Atletico Madrid – 13.00
All bets courtesy of Bet365 and correct as of 17.00 GMT on 15/12/15
By: Steven Paget