The UEFA Champions League draw for the knockout stages took place today and several eye catching fixtures are lined up for February! 😀
Galatasaray vs FC Schalke
Probably one of the few straight forward fixtures of this season. Schalke were the only team unbeaten in the group stages of the Champions League while Galatasaray had to wait till the last day to qualify through to the knockout stages by the skin of their teeth. Schalke’s star man Klaas Jan Huntelaar could prove to be lethal. The downside for Schalke is that Huntellar is in the last year of his contract and is nowhere near to signing a new deal. Schalke will have the January transfer window to cash-in on the striker (and maybe get a good enough replacement) as Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur line up their bids, or risk losing him for nothing at the end of the season. The best case scenario for Galatasaray would be to take an advantage on their home ground, which shoouldnt be very difficult for them considering the hell they give to the visitors on their home soil, and then hang on for dear life in the second leg. But as much as it sounds like a plan, I still see Schalke going through to the quarter finals with ease.
Celtic vs Juventus
Celtic, the team that beat Barcelona. They are the only ones who have managed to deafeat the Catalans so far this season. They certainly have the squad to cause an upset but playing the second half in Turin might prove to be the reason they dont qualify. Juventus, on the other hand, are responsible for knocking out the holders (Chelsea) in the knockout stages for the first time in the history of the competition. The Italian Champions look the favorites to come out on top in this fixture, but you may never know! Lets wait and watch! 🙂
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
Atleast its not Barcelona that they have to face this time! 😉 But Bayern are nothing less, specially after they were left heartbroken last season, in the Finals, on their Home Ground! Considered as one of the strong contenders this season they will surely be looking to resurrect their Champions League dream. Arsenal too, look much stronger with the likes of Cazorla, Wilshere, Walcott, Podolski and Arteta. This should be a thrilling encounter but I see Bayern Munich going through as they have the advantage of playing the second leg at their home.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund
Another interesting fixture with two sides known for their fluent and rapid footballing styles. Dortmund winning the ‘Group of Death’ have certainly come out as a force to reckon with. Beating the Spanish, English and Dutch Champions certainly is good for their confidence going into the knockout stages. Shakhtar, however, have not been able to remain consistent in the group stages. In the end, Dortmund might prove too big for Shakhtar.
AC Milan vs Barcelona
No comments here. Tough luck for Milan. The club is struggling on all fronts after its star striker Ibrahimovic and defender Thiago Silva left for PSG and if that wasnt enough to deal with, rumours are that the Brazilian duo of Alexander Pato and Robinho are set to leave next month too. Barcelona stroll into the quarter finals, without a doubt.
Real Madrid vs Manchester United
The fixture of the season! 😀 One might think, I would be pretty worried after being drawn against Madrid (being a United fan, ofcourse). On the contrary, I have never been more excited with a fixture! The last time they met in the round of 16 (1968), United beat Madrid and went on to win the Champions League that year. Any guesses where the final was that year? WEMBLEY! 😀 Somewhat of a good omen?? 😉 Man Utd are looking deadly with all the players peaking in their form and almost no long term injuries. Madrid, as strong as they might be, have their own inner problems with rift between players and manager, Mourinho wanting to leave at the end of the season. But we all know this has little effect on their performance on field. United do have the second leg at Old Trafford which can prove to be the deciding factor in this fixture. I see United going through :-).
Valencia vs Paris St Germain
Valencia are in a bit of a mess with the sacking of their manager, under performing in the La Liga, losing games they are expected to win. PSG have problems of their own with their lack lustre performances in the French League, its star midfielder Javier Pastore wanting away after having a fallout with the French media, but they have managed to pull it together in the Champions League. Unless an upset is on the cards, PSG should see it through with ease.
Porto vs Malaga
Probably one of the most unpredictable fixtures of all. Both teams look lethal in attacking, are consistent performers, play stylish attacking football. Again, the second leg on home phenomenon comes into play, and Malaga might win it over two legs. But then again, Porto aren’t a team to be underestimated.
Looking at the fixture list, it surely would be sad if the world came to an end NOW! 😀