The round of 16 draw to the Champions League gave us an even clearer indication regarding the favorites to win the competition: Above all stand Bayern Munich, once again playing Arsenal, while Real Madrid, scorching hot in the group stage, got a very easy draw in the form of Schalke, making the two look in better position than anyone else to reach the final this season.
What about Barcelona? They can do it, but their fragility, with or without Lionel Messi, makes it quite difficult to see them going all the way. A tough draw in the form of Manchester City isn’t helping as well. Last year’s finalists, Borussia Dortmund, just have too many problems and not a deep enough squad to handle them this season.
The Clear Favorites
Bayern Munich, the defending champions, have to be pleased with the Arsenal draw. They did struggle in the home leg last season, just like they lost to Manchester City in the ending of the group stage, but complacency won’t strike twice. Bayern have the better players and better manager, a combo that teams like the Gunners can’t overcome. Real Madrid have their problems, especially playing away from home in Spain. However, in the Champions League their form has been frightening, and the comfortable draw they received to start the knockout stage with means it’s one step closer to the Decima they’ve been chasing for 11 years now.
It’s Going to be Tough
Barcelona might be a better team than Real Madrid, but getting Manchester City as their rivals in the round of 16 isn’t very heartwarming. City are an awful away side, but have no doubt grown up and improved under Manuel Pellegrini, and play with a relentless, physical style that makes it quite difficult to match up again. However, Bayern Munich toyed with City in England, and Barcelona have the skills to make it a one sided affair on a good day. PSG are probably slightly better than last season, but they did need a bit of help from referees to keep their quarterfinals with Barcelona competitive after the first leg.A good draw in the round of 16 is nothing to complain about as well.
Big Names, But Not Good Enough
Manchester United always see themselves as this huge European club, but I’m not sure others feel the same way. A team with a manager who has no idea about the Champions League, and a squad that’s barely good enough for the top half in the Premier League. Chelsea have also gotten a comfortable draw, but the only way they’re winning the competition is by parking the bus for seven consecutive matches from now on. Dortmund might be fun to watch and are very difficult to beat anywhere, yet the absence of Gotze is starting to show, not to mention their defense being in complete shambles. Atletico Madrid are from the same mold, only with the luck of not having injuries. At some point, the depth of their squad will be what hurts them.
Not a Chance
Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke, Zenit, Olympiacos, Galatasaray, AC Milan.