The Champions League last 16 draw is complete and the results are official. Kudos to you if you actually woke up at 4 am this morning to catch it live (you’re a true soccer lover in our book).
Oddly enough, it was the exact same outcome as Wednesday’s rehearsal. Yes, we too are trying to figure out the math behind those probabilities, still working on it though.
Nonetheless, here are the results:
Real Madrid vs Manchester United
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
Milan vs Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund vs Shakhtar Donetsk
Celtic vs Juventus
Porto vs Malaga
Valencia vs Paris Saint-Germain
Galatasaray vs Schalke
Arguably, the road only gets harder from here on. With the most talked about pairing this morning: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United. With both the English and the Spanish media calling it ‘mouth-watering’, but whether or not it’ll live up to its description only time will tell. On paper at least it does appear to have all the ingredients for a great showdown.
Not only because they’re both strong teams, but also because there’s a brief, yet exciting history behind the two clubs. Both teams haven’t gone head-to-head for the past nine years. The last time they did meet it was a feast for the eyes with Madrid triumphing 6-5 on aggregate.
As with this upcoming match, that one also featured a Ronaldo, the Brazilian who scored a hat-trick at Old Trafford. Only this time around it’ll be Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international will return to his old playground since his move in 2009.
Not to be left out of the equation, is the face-off between old rivals Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, two of the best coaches in the game. Both are strategic and excellent tacticians with either one able to outsmart the other.
Of course, this Madrid team isn’t the same team as that of 2003, which included the likes of Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo, Carlos, Makelele. In fact, some might argue this isn’t even the same team as last year. Madrid has been struggling domestically this season and are 13 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona. Still, with its ability to play a very high-paced and attacking game, the Los Blancos will be a handful for United.
As for the Red Devils, the outcome of this phase will likely put to rest some of the criticism it’s been receiving about its strength on the European stage. This will test if United is still a powerhouse in Europe or only in the Premier League.
But with all the hype surrounding this match, let’s not forget about the seven other incredible matches in the competition.
As viewers it’s natural to gravitate to the teams we support or to the coupling of two (yet not the only) big names. Except that the most talked about coupling may or may not turn out to be the more entertaining soccer.
It seems like viewers of this sport are creatures of habit. Did we already forget about the group of death? Experts and pundits initially branded it not only as the toughest group (rightly so), but also as the one that would probably offer the most enjoyable soccer. Enjoyable? Meh! It was decent soccer, which never really lived up to expectations.
There were certainly individual teams in that group, which played exciting football such as Borussia Dortmund. But was it the best soccer in the Champions League group stage with respect to battles? You be the judge of that.
As for the Bayern and Arsenal match-up, while the former are clear favourites, one shouldn’t rule out the latter. After all, the Bavarians were upstaged at home in last year’s final by none other than Chelsea, who were the weaker team with all odds against them, but luck.
Then there’s Barcelona against AC Milan, a rivalry rich in history and championships that may prove to be a tighter race than expected. But the biggest surprise of the tournament were Celtic, which is why Antonio Conte just revealed today that he won’t underestimate them, especially after they managed to pull off a win against Barcelona.
I personally think Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk will provide viewers with some unbelievable soccer. But this is the beauty of the game as well as the Champions League. Not only is it unpredictable in nature, as last year validated, but it’s also offers something for an array of tastes.
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