Here is a very early preview, plus the dates and venues for the UEFA Champions League round of 16 for the 2010-2011 season.
AS Roma vs FC Shakhtar Donetsk
The Ukrainian champions with their impressive legion of Brazilians finished first, ahead of Arsenal, in Group H, winning 5 of their six matches. They are also leading the Ukrainian league quite comfortable after 19 matches, 12 points clear of Dynamo Kiev. Roma, currently sixth in the Serie A, finished second behind Bayern Munich in Group E with Marco Borriello scoring 4 goals as they struggled to beat Basel for the last spot. The first leg will be on February 16 in Italy and the second leg at Donetsk on March 8.
AC Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur FC
Spurs get another Milan team to try and beat after Gareth Bale looked like the best player in the world in his two matches against Inter Milan, annihilating Maicon. Milan finished second in their group, looking rather unimpressive behind Real Madrid, narrowly edging Ajax for the last spot. However, their Serie A form and especially Zlatan Ibrahimovic (4 goals in the champions league this season) is rather impressive, leading the league, six points ahead of Juve, Napoli and Lazio. Spurs are currently 5th in the Premier League, 7 points behind Manchester United. Milan will host Tottenham at the San Siro on February 15 and the replay in London will be played on March 9.
Valencia CF vs FC Schalke 04
The Germans are suffering from a disastrous beginning to their Bundesliga season, currently holding the 10th position, winning only 5 of their 16 matches. It was a different story in the Champions League, easily qualifying from the first position, beating Lyon, Benfica and Hapoel Tel Aviv to the top spot. Valencia, who lost pretty much everyone during the summer are a delight to watch when facing mediocre or less opposition, finishing second behind Manchester United. They are 5th in the La Liga, 5 points behind the 3rd place, the highest anyone not called Real or Barca can reach in Spain. First Leg at the Mestalla – February 15. Second Leg at the Veltins-Arena – March 9.
FC Internazionale Milano vs FC Bayern Munich
The two finalists of the 2010 Champions League Final aren’t enjoying a very successful 2010-2011 season so far, for various reasons. Inter finished second and were their usual unimpressive self during the group stages, but this year the problems are sinking into league play as well, currently ranked 7th while attempting to win the Club’s World Cup this weekend. Bayern are sixth in the Bundesliga, 17 points behind Dortmund at the top with the winter break just around the corner. Last time around, Inter won 2-0 with a Diego Milito brace and got the title. It was Mourinho on the sidelines though, not Benitez. First Leg – San Siro, February 23. Second Leg – Munich, March 15.
Olympique Lyonnais vs Real Madrid CF
Another meeting we got to see last year. Madrid never fair well against this French side, getting knocked out, again, at the round of 16 after Miralem Pjanic scored at the Bernabeu to finish Real’s European season early for the seventh consecutive season. Real are second in the La Liga, 2 points behind Barcelona while Lyon are 3rd, two points behind Lille in the closest title race in Europe. The first leg in Lyon will be played on February 22, the replay at Madrid will be on March 16.
Arsenal FC vs FC Barcelona
Another meeting we had last year. Barcelona are the popular choice for best club in the world and to many the best club ever. Arsenal? They got the style, but they buckle under the pressure in the big games, with their loss 1-0 against United this Monday the latest example. Cesc Fabregas against the club that tried to lure him back to Catalunya during the summer is just one of the billion reasons to watch these matches. Arsenal made an amazing comeback at home last season, but got Messi’d in the second leg with four goals from Argentinian phenom. First Leg, Emirates – February 16. Second Leg, Barcelona – March 8.
Olympique de Marseille – Manchester United FC
Back on top for United, despite the injuries, despite Rooney looking like he doesn’t want to play football anymore, despite everything. United lead the Premier League and have a game in hand. Same Ol’, Same Ol’. Marseille, the French champions for the first time since the merry 90’s are currently 5th in France, but only 4 points behind the top spot and it’s going to take a long time before that race is decided. Both teams had it rather easy in the group stage. First leg in the south of France – February 23. Second Leg, Old Trafford – March 15.
FC Copenhagen vs Chelsea FC
Just a few months ago, back in early October, Chelsea looked like one of the premier candidates for the Champions League title this season and looked like it was going to run away with Premier League title rather easily. A lot has happened since, and all the intimidation force the Blues had seems to be gone. Fourth in England, a manager who is just waiting for the axe and too many hopes on Frank Lampard returning. Despite all that, the Danes, the first club from the little Mermaid’s birthplace to make it out of the group stage, shouldn’t pose too much trouble. First Leg, Copenhagen – February 22. Stamford Bridge replay – March 16.