The draw to determine pairings for the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League was held at UEFA headquarters in Nyon. Here are the matchups with my predicted winners highlighted.
Schalke v Porto
Roma v Real Madrid
Olympiacos v Chelsea
Liverpool v Internazionale
Celtic v Barcelona
Lyon v Man. United
Fenerbahçe v Sevilla
Arsenal v AC Milan
I had a hard time picking a winner in a couple of the match-ups such as Inter v Liverpool. My decision there was based largely on Liverpool’s inconsistency. Inter are currently have a number of players out due to injury but by the time this fixture rolls around they’ll have some bodies back as well as whoever they pick up during the transfer window.
I picked Arsenal to upset AC Milan as I think Arsenal’s young legs can cause the aging backline of Milan some problems. The real interesting battle will be in midfield as both teams are well stocked in that area. Cesc, Hleb, Rosicky, and Flamini against Pirlo, Gattuso, Ambrosini and Seedorf. Should be some great technical football on display.
I think Manchester United should be able to overcome Lyon but it will not be a simple matter. Lyon have really come on strong after the slow start to their season. United have continued to find ways to win even when their offense has not been in top-gear.
Of the four Premier League teams, Chelsea were handed the “easiest” pairing as they drew Greek side Olympiacos. I don’t think Chelsea will approach the fixtures casually but I think they have more than enough quality to overwhelm Olympiacos.
I’ll write more about the match-ups as we get closer to the opening ties on February 19th and 20th.