Just as was the case with the UEFA Cup this morning, the Champions League had its drawing for knock out round match-ups. These matches will not take place until February but there are some pretty interesting combinations that will be worth thinking about over the long winter break:
Arsenal v. AS Roma
Chelsea v. Juventus
Sporting Lisbon v. Bayern München
Villareal v. Panathinaikos
Atlético Madrid v. FC Porto
Inter Milan v. Manchester United
Olympic Lyonnais v. Barcelona
Real Madrid v. Liverpool
So here are just a few thoughts with the understanding that things could change completely over two months with injuries, hot streaks and anything else:
I don’t really like Arsenal’s chances against Roma. Especially with the first match at the Emirates Stadium. I’d feel a lot better about Arsenal if they were home last in case they needed to make up ground to move on. But Roma are a solid club and there’s just something about the Gunners that doesn’t sit well with me.
Chelsea Juventus is going to be a really good pair of matches. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either team advance though Chelsea would probably have to be given the advantage just based on experience.
I still like Bayern as a serious contender this year and drawing Sporting instead of one of the heavyweights is a nice step in that direction. Not that Sporting isn’t a good club, but Bayern have looked fantastic in Europe so far.
I also really like the chances of Panathinaikos to advance past Villareal. I know the Spanish side is quite good but I have a good feeling about the Greeks. I don’t know for sure but it seems like it’s been a long time since a Greek side have advance past the first round so it’d be nice to see that.
Porto is a nice club but I think Atlético moves on without too much trouble. They really looked good in the group stage, apart from the final match, which really didn’t matter.
Inter Milan and Man United will be a really quality match-up for the first round. With mega stars on each side, it should be quite the spectacle. But United are just terrific and I expect great things from them come spring so my early feeling is that they’ll slip past Inter. But it won’t be easy.
Lyon and Barcelona is another world class first round match-up. I honestly don’t know which way to lean here though for some reason I tend to like Lyon in European matches. Maybe they’ll just be overpowered, I don’t know, but it’s a nice treat for such an early round.
Finally, Real Madrid and Liverpool should provide serious firepower in their first round matches. Liverpool were good but not amazing in the group stage, despite winning their group. Real will be a really tough test if the Reds expect to get deep into the tournament. It wouldn’t surprise me to see either of these teams moving on.