UEFA conducted their annual Champions League Draw for the round of 16 yesterday, and the draw was surprising to say the least. Rather than the old standby of all the top teams being drawn against all the scrub teams in the knockout round, we actually end up with some tasty matchups. Below are some of our thoughts on these 8 matches.
Galatasaray vs. FC Schalke 04
Schalke just lost their manager after falling to seventh in the Bundesliga, and Galatasaray seems to be the only Turkish club capable of doing anything in European competition. The Turks advanced through the group stage as expected, but with such lackluster competition as Manchester United, it is hard to see just how talented they are. Plus we have the whole Turkey – Germany rivalry to deal with just because we like to play up that angle here at FourFiveTwo. I’m going to go ahead and pick Galatasaray to advance on PK’s in this one.
Celtic vs. Juventus
This one is sure to remind people of the bygone Roman Empire when the Romans marched on British Isles and conquered all. Celtic has already shown they can get results against the top teams in Europe, but it is hard to imagine them advancing beyond the round of 16. That said expect plenty of drinking and songs to come from the green and white clad lads.
Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich
Good news Arsenal fans, you avoided Barcelona. Bad news Arsenal fans, you have to play the Champions of Europe, at least in Spurs fan’s minds. This certainly wasn’t the toughest matchup the Gunners could have drawn, but with their recent struggles against teams not named Reading, it is hard to believe that Arsenal is going to advance to the quarterfinals.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Borussia Dortmund
Most people describe Borussia as a dark horse for the Champions League, but listeners of AM 452 know that I’m fully on board with the Germans. After thriving in the group of death, Dortmund was rewarded with a fairly easy draw against Shakhtar. Granted, those trips to Eastern Europe aren’t the greatest, but that shouldn’t stop Dortmund from advancing to the quarterfinals.
AC Milan vs. Barcelona
This would have been a fantastic matchup in past years, unfortunately not so much this year. Milan has been dreadful in all competitions this year, and for them to stay within 2 goals of Barcelona would frankly be a shock. There is a distinct possibility that AC Milan won’t be able to climb out of the 7th position in Serie A they currently hold. Watch this one and enjoy Messi tearing apart an old and slow Italian defense.
Real Madrid vs. Manchester United
Easily the biggest matchup in the draw, one can only guess at how UEFA allowed this to happen. I’d put money on SAF forgetting to hand Platini his annual bonus, but some folks do call me cynical. The one thing saving United is that Real hasn’t exactly been tearing things up in Spain. Of course the press will fawn over the SAF – Mourinho and the first return of Christiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford. Make sure your popcorn is ready for this, even if it comes down to the post-match press conferences it will entertain.
Valencia vs. Paris Saint-Germain
This one should have as little doubt as Barca – Milan. PSG should easily bruish aside Valencia. Though the Frenchies have struggled in the league, their European form has been fantastic. If things go badly we can always hope for Zlatan to start playing karate kid on the pitch
Malaga vs. FC Porto
This game isn’t going to get a lot of attention, but it could be one of the more entertaining games in the round. The Spaniards have done well this season despite all of the financial insecurity, and Porto has been up to their usual dominating ways. I’m rooting for Malaga in this one, especially with the hope that Oguchi Onyewu could see the field. If Malaga wins, this may be the farthest and American has gone in the Champions League since DeMarcus Beasley burst into the semifinals with PSV Eindhoven back in 2004.