Champions League Round of 16 draws: Who will progress?
The UEFA Champions League draws were announced on Monday and one cannot be surprised at the number of repeat fixtures between Europe’s super clubs. It is remarkable that a competition, which has not seen a repeat winner since the last 25 years, witnesses such a number of repeat fixtures in its pre-final stages.
However, regardless of who got to play against whom, one fact is certain – we are in for some spectacular competitive football as the clubs look to stamp their dominance in Europe.
Two fixtures especially caught the eye of the world as Barcelona goes up against Manchester City in last years’ repeat Round of 16 stage, while Chelsea take on Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a rematch of last years’ quarter-finals. Juventus face Borussia Dortmund in a 1997 final rematch which, surprisingly, the German side won regardless of Juventus coming into the competition as defending champions.
The biggest winners are Arsenal, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, who got the easier share of the draws as compared to their compatriot clubs. Arsenal goes up against Monaco, while Real and Bayern take on Schalke and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively.
PSG versus Chelsea
In a rematch of last year’s quarter-finals, Chelsea skipped past PSG on the away-goal rule as the scores were drawn at 3-3 on aggregate. The first leg had ended 3-1 at the Parc des Princes, while Chelsea scored twice in the second leg at Stamford Bridge and denied the visitors any goal to go through to the semi-finals.
However, both teams have evolved since last year with Chelsea bolstering its squad heavily, and it will be interesting to see who progresses from this season’s clash. Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, seems to have his wish granted as he said before the match that it would be easier for Chelsea fans to travel to Paris than any other country.
The first leg is scheduled to be played on February 17, 2015 at the Parc des Princes, while the second will be played on March 11, 2015 at Stamford Bridge.
Barcelona versus Manchester City
While Manchester City have not had any major success on the European scale, except for winning the UEFA Cup Winners in 1970 their rivals, Barcelona, have lifted the Champions League trophy four times since winning it first in 1992. In last years’ fixture, Barcelona had dominated City, winning 4-1 on aggregate, so now it is up to City to turn around their fortunes.
Both teams have experienced changes with Barcelona still in its transition phase and too reliant on its forward line comprising of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, while the fact that City have progressed on the back of missing an entire spine of stars in the group stages is remarkable on its own.
Manchester City have, for the first time, a solid chance of progressing from the knockout stages and should capitalise on this opportunity. Frankly put, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero’s shoulders have instantly been piled with heaps of pressure and if they come through, City could be in for the quarter-finals for the first time in the club’s history.
The first leg will be played on February 24, 2015 at the Etihad Stadium, while the second leg will take place on March 18, 2015 at the Camp Nou.
Juventus versus Borussia Dortmund
Five-time runners-up and two-time winners Juventus take on Dortmund in a 1997 Champions League final rematch, which the German outfit won 3-1 at the Olympiastadion in Munich.
Juventus, the only representative of the once-dominant Serie A in the competition, will be desperate to win the trophy and avoid being eliminated in the Round of 16. Dortmund, on the other hand, are having the worst season in their league and have only found solace in their performances in Europe’s elite competition.
Simply put, both sides are desperate for a win in this fixture and Jurgen Klopps’s men, who are facing the threat of relegation in their domestic league, will be up for a cracker to ensure that their European campaign does not die down. Nonetheless, it will be one hell of a match to look forward to.
The first leg will be played on February 24, 2015 at the Juventus Stadium, while the second leg will take place on March 18, 2015 at the Westfalenstadion.
Arsenal versus Monaco
Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger had joked that he would have to go to church to pray for easier draws and it certainly looked like divine intervention was at work when Arsenal skipped past Bayern Munich and Barcelona to land Monaco.
France’s big spenders Monaco have had to suffer a series of blows to its attacking frontline with the departure of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao to Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively. Also, given their lack of spending in the transfer market this season, their miseries have just piled on. The fact that Monaco got through despite the fewest goals scored for a qualified team in history, reflects their lack of firepower.
Wenger faces a more sentimental draw rather than a footballing contest as he returns to the club where he started his managerial career. Arsenal is favoured to go through from this draw and should not squander the opportunity to progress past the Round of 16 stage since 2010.
The first leg will be played on February 25, 2015 at the Emirates Stadium, while the second leg is scheduled for March 17, 2015 at the Stade Louis II.
Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid
Firstly, it is for the first time that these two sides have been paired and thus would be a highly unpredictable contest. Although many would associate the win with Diego Simeone’s men, however, Leverkusen’s manager, Roger Schmidt, also has a trick or two up his sleeve to cause a major upset for the Spanish league’s defending champions.
Atletico are coming on the back of losing major stars in the summer transfer window, but the pedigree of winning the La Liga and almost winning the Champions League final against arch-rivals Real must give them some advantage.
On the other hand, Leverkusen, for all their fine football skills, also showed their flaws by letting their top spot in the group slip.
The first leg will be played on February 25, 2015 at the BayArena, while the second leg will held on March 17, 2015 at the Vicente Calderón in Madrid.
Schalke versus Real Madrid
In another repeat of last year’s Round of 16 stage, Real will go in with the favourites tag against the struggling Schalke. Last year, Real had stormed past the German outfit 9-2 on aggregate and given the form that the Spanish giant’s forwards showing at the moment, it will be of no surprise if we witness another bashing.
Real representative at the ceremony, Emilio Butragueno, was caught on camera basically trying to suppress a smile when this draw was made, and it’s not hard to see why. The defending champions would want to win the competition and set another record, in addition to the ones they have already made this year, of successfully defending the Champions League trophy.
The first leg will be played on February 18, 2015 at the Veltins-Arena, while the second leg will take place on March 10 at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
Shakhtar Donetsk versus Bayern Munich
The clash between Bayern Munich and Shakhtar needs no analysis, as the German champions have been given an easy passage to the quarter-finals given the problems their opponents have been facing on and off the pitch, including their inability to play at home due to the political situation in Eastern Ukraine which led to their home ground being destroyed by shelling.
Although it is highly commendable Shakhtar have still managed to qualify despite this, it will still be a very long shot to even consider beating the likes of Pep Guardiola’s camp.
The first leg will be played on February 17, 2015 at the Arena Lviv, while the second leg is scheduled for March 11, 2015 at the Allianz Arena.
Basel versus Porto
One of the least glamorous draws in the Round of 16, which although would have favoured five-time champions Liverpool who sadly crashed out after a defeat to Swiss Champions Basel, is hard to place a bet on and we will just have to wait and see what comes of this encounter.
However, Basel must be given credit for their surprising performance in the group stages as they were the underdogs, beside Ludogorets Razgrad, in a group comprising of Real and Liverpool. It will only add to their glory if they are able to beat two-time Champions League winners Porto.
The first leg will take place on February 18, 2015 at St Jacobs’ Park, while the second leg will be held on March 10, 2015 at the Estádio do Dragão.
A delicious Champions League encounter is on its way and it will be highly entertaining to see who will progress to play the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 6, 2015.