Prior to the draw I was of the opinion that the first seed teams were miles in front of all the second seeded teams, with the exclusion of Arsenal and Man City. Basically if you are a first seed team and you avoid these two teams, you are guaranteed to go through to the quarter finals.
So onto the draw, where I will break each tie down individually.
Manchester City v Barcelona
Wow, the first two teams out the hat and you have already made the tie of the round, quite incredible. If I were to rank every team left in the draw, I would say we have the 2nd and 4th best teams, which makes it an incredibly exciting tie at this stage of the tournament.
There isn’t much more you can really say about this, we have two of the best teams in Europe, two juggernauts, the best team in Spain v the best team in England, something’s got to give. What way do I think it is going to go? I have a sneaky suspicion that City are going to be the team to go through because I get the feeling that Barca are on the down swing and have become overly reliant on Messi. On the other hand City have probably got the second best squad in Europe (behind Bayern) and are capable of scoring bundles. It isn’t as clear cut as I’ve made it sound though; because you should doubt Barca at your own peril and City have a very strong history of fluffing their lines in Europe.
Olympiacos v Manchester United
As a Utd fan I couldn’t be any more happy with this draw, you couldn’t have picked an easier team than Olympiacos. This is a clear and cut case of one team being miles better than the other; Utd will be in the quarter finals draw and Olympiacos will be back home checking their bank balance.
AC Milan v Atletico Madrid
On paper this looks like a great tie, in reality it is very one sided. Atletico have developed into a top team and have done very well domestically and in Europe (they were in an easy group to be fair), in comparison Milan are a once great giant of the game who have tripped over their own inadequacies but still find themselves at the big dance. The wheels have fallen off of the Milan bus; much like they have fallen off the Italian bus and Atletico should take advantage of that.
Bayer Leverkusen v Paris Saint Germain
This is another game that looks really good on paper but based on Leverkusen’s form over the group stages, I have serious doubts whether or not they have the maturity to better an experienced PSG side over two legs. It isn’t that I think that PSG are good (I don’t and I think they were the weakest of the seeded teams available and the one everyone probably wanted to draw), but they will more than likely make it through against a Leverkusen team that got leathered twice by Man Utd in embarrassing fashion, although it is no guarantee.
Galatasaray v Chelsea
If you are looking for the upset of the round, then this could be it. Galatasaray have some good players who although being past their prime can still perform on the big stage, they also play in one of the fiercest atmospheres in world football. The combination of these two things and a nothing to lose atmosphere could create an unlikely shock of the round.
Do I think it will happen? Probably not, but Chelsea’s poor group results make me doubt my natural instinct which says it should be an easy win. I think Chelsea will be pretty disappointed with the draw, as I would have said Galatasaray were the hardest team they could have drawn. Saying that, Chelsea should go through regardless of what team they play; however those results against Basel mean that Chelsea may be vulnerable; will Galatasaray be able to take advantage of them if that is the case? I think they could be.
Schalke 04 v Real Madrid
Real must have breathed a sigh of relief when they were drawn against Schalke instead of Arsenal. Schalke despite being German manage to be one of the worst teams in the draw, losing easily to Chelsea in their big games of the group, and being lucky that Basel fluffed their lines by dropping 4 points to lowly Steaua.
Real on the other hand I believe are the team best built to win the Champions League, they have all the attacking talent in the world and if they were to add let’s say a Luis Suarez in January, I think their case would become even stronger. Naturally Real’s weaknesses are defensively and that in recent time they have bottled good chances to win their tenth title. Real are going through, in relatively easy fashion I imagine.
Zenit Saint Petersburg v Borussia Dortmund
Zenit are the holders of the unwanted lowest points to qualify to the last 16 crown and Dortmund are last year’s losing finalists; it doesn’t take a genius to work out who is going to go through. Naturally nobody wants to play a Russian team in Russia in February, but despite the potentially tricky away tie Dortmund should still go through without any real trouble.
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
The draw started with a belter and ended with a belter, wow. You have to feel sorry for Arsenal, they draw an incredibly hard group and then draw the best team in the competition in the last 16 for the second year running; if they didn’t have bad luck, they would have no luck at all.
In last year’s tie Bayern made Arsenal look like amateurs when they beat them 3-1 at the Emirates, and followed it up with an incredibly lacklustre performance at the Allianz Arena with Arsenal winning 2-0 but still going out 3-3 on the away goals rule. Since that result Arsenal have been one of the best teams in Europe, and Bayern went on to win the Champions League. It is hard to look beyond Bayern to win the match because they have the best squad in Europe and probably the best all round first eleven as well. Arsenal are capable of the upset though, as much as I doubt it will happen.
Man City, Man Utd, Atletico, PSG, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Dortmund and Bayern.
Obviously it will all become a lot clearer once the draws for the quarters and semis are made (I believe they’re made at the same time) and it will become a lot easier to make a valid prediction for the final and the winners (I still like Real and then Dortmund).