The Champions League knockout stage won’t give us any Mega Clashes in the round of 16, but we do have quite a few intriguing match ups, mostly the two Anglo Italian clashes between Chelsea – Napoli and Milan – Arsenal, with the memory of their last meetings with both Arsenal and Tottenham fresh in their minds.
European Champions Barcelona drew Bayer Leverkusen, the 2002 finalists. Real Madrid, the winner of that final and the best team in Europe so far this season drew CSKA Moscow.
Lyon vs APOEL
Lyon never really impressed during the group stage and don’t be fooled by that thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb that got them through. They’re struggling in Ligue 1 and are very vulnerable, despite their superior experience in the competition. APOEL made it this far, and have the second leg at home. No reason they can’t make it.
Napoli vs Chelsea
One of the more intriguing clashes of the last 16 and one of two Anglo-Italian knockouts. At home, Napoli have already proved their worth by beating Manchester City. Away, they drew at City and narrowly lost to Bayern Munich. A very dangerous up and down side, while Chelsea, who struggled until the last three weeks, are suddenly finding themselves again.
Milan vs Arsenal
Four years ago, Cesc Fabregas put on a wonderful performance at the San Siro as Arsenal surprised the European Champion. Milan are probably slight favorites, but they failed against another London side a year ago and it wouldn’t shock anyone if they bow down to another North London side once again.
Basel vs Bayern Munich
Basel’s wonder road, which included a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford and a 2-1 win at St. Jacob’s, will end in Spring. Bayern Munich, despite certain problems, are one of the top 3-4 side in Europe right now, just without the disrespecting Manchester United attitude. Basel are a decent outfit, but a prepared Bayern side shouldn’t have any problems.
Bayer Leverkusen vs Barcelona
At home, Leverkusen are confident enough to beat any side. Especially a Barcelona team that has struggled in the La Liga away from home this season. Still, the differences scream inequality and I’ll find hard to find anyone outside of Leverkusen willing to put money on Bayer to make it through.
CSKA Moscow vs Real Madrid
CSKA didn’t impress, barely making it out of the group stage with Trabzonspor and Lille left behind. Real Madrid, despite the loss to Barcelona, statistically, are the best team in Europe. A trip to a defrosting Moscow won’t change that.
Zenit St. Petersburg vs Benfica
The most open fixture out of the eight. Benfica didn’t beat Manchester United, but they have yet to lose in any competition this season. Zenit made it out of a very difficult group but you never know with Russian teams after the break.
Marseille vs Inter
If there was ever to catch Inter unprepared, it’s this Ranieri coached side. Marseille have picked up the pace with two huge wins these past 4 weeks – Beating PSG in the Clasique and their huge dramatic win over Dortmund in Germany. Will the momentum be enough to stick till Spring?