The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League was made today in Nyon, with some mouth-watering ties sure to be captivating viewing.
Of the English sides, Arsenal and Manchester City face some of the biggest teams in the world game, while Chelsea and Manchester United will be relieved to have missed the heavy hitters.
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
The Gunners have paid the price for a poor defensive performance against Napoli, which has handed them the hardest draw instead of possibly the easiest.
Borussia Dortmund overtook the north London side and took top spot in Group F due to Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to the Italians, and as a result were handed Zenit St Petersburg as knockout round opponents.
Arsenal have looked like the real deal this season with exhilarating attacking play and a stern defensive record before being put to the sword at the weekend. Their next clash in the Champions League will push their potential to win silverware to the limit.
Bayern are the team to beat in the competition and are favourites to retain their crown after intimidating early season form under Pep Guardiola. The sheer quality of the players in the Allianz Arena squad and their collective mentality means that anyone who beats the Bundesliga champions stands an almighty chance of winning the trophy.
Arsenal will have cause for optimism after beating Bayern 2-0 in the knockout rounds last season, but this was not enough to avoid elimination. City went to Bavaria and won recently, but the Gunners will need to be at their very best to stand any chance.
Manchester City vs Barcelona
This tie pits one of Europe’s rising powers against the side that has been the top club over the last decade.
City have been in great form this season on home soil, but there are still question marks over their ability away from the Etihad Stadium. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have battered Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and virtually everyone else they have faced this season at home, and will look to take the game to the Catalan side in the leg in England. Their defensive showing at Camp Nou may well decide the winner however.
Barca remain one of Europe’s best sides, and are currently on top of La Liga and freescoring. Lionel Messi however has not had his usual all-inclusive influence and is currently on the treatment table.
With Yaya Toure facing his former club and City keen to put down a marker on the continent, this promises to be a memorable 180 minutes of football.
Chelsea vs Galatasaray
A tie that Jose Mourinho has admitted that he wanted, the main talking point here will be Didier Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge. The Ivorian striker is a Blues legend, and his personal battle with John Terry will be something to watch out for.
Despite the presence of the likes of Drogba and Wesley Sneijder, the Turks are not one of the teams that will have instilled fear into opponents ahead of the draw, and the west Londoners will go into the tie as overwhelming favourites.
Roberto Mancini is at the helm at the Istanbul club, which is another added bit of spice to the clash.
However, with the plethora of attacking talent in the Chelsea squad, anything other than the Blues making it through to the quarter-finals would be a massive shock.
Manchester United vs Olympiakos
The Premier League champions look to have received a relatively favourable draw also on paper, but the Greek side should not be written off. Especially at home, United’s opponents will be no soft touch.
They also possess one of the most lethal strikers in the European game at the moment in the form of Kostas Mitroglou, who has been scoring goals for fun for both club and country, and will test the creaking United back four.
However, David Moyes will look for a strong performance at Old Trafford to kill the tie off, and elimination at the hands of the Greeks would be another cause for embarrassment to the Manchester giants.
Best of the rest
Undoubtedly the pick of the rest of the games will be AC Milan’s battle with Atletico Madrid. The Spaniards are in fantastic form, and their young, mobile and supremely talented side is sure to take the clash to an underwhelming Italian outfit.
Dortmund will be overwhelming favourites against Zenit, Real Madrid should have way too much for Schalke, while Paris Saint-Germain will fancy their chances against Bayer Leverkusen.