Just a reminder that the draw for the next round of the 2008-09 Champions League takes place this Friday
There are plenty of familiar names in the draw as ten of the sides that reached this stage last season are still in the running. The new faces are Panathinaikos FC, Sporting Clube de Portugal, Club Atlético de Madrid, Villarreal CF, FC Bayern München and Juventus though both Bayern and Juve are well-experienced in this competition.
The draw conditions are as follows:
- Clubs from the same association must not be drawn against each other.
- The winners and runners-up of the same group must not be drawn against each other.
- Group winners must not be drawn against each other.
- Group runners-up must not be drawn against each other.
- Group runners-up shall play their first-leg match at home.
Just to recap the group stage, here are the winners and runners-up.
|2008/09 UEFA Champions League Round of 16
First knockout round – to be played 24/25 February and 10/11 March
|Group winners||Group runners-up|
|A AS Roma (Italy)||Chelsea FC (England)|
|B Panathinaikos FC (Greece)||FC Internazionale Milano (Italy)|
|C FC Barcelona (Spain)||Sporting Clube de Portugal (Portugal)|
|D Liverpool FC (England)||Club Atlético de Madrid (Spain)|
|E Manchester United FC (England)||Villarreal CF (Spain)|
|F FC Bayern München (Germany)||Olympique Lyonnais (France)|
|G FC Porto (Portugal)||Arsenal FC (England)|
|H Juventus (Italy)||Real Madrid CF (Spain)|
While England again leads the way with four clubs (tied this season by Spain), I don’t feel that the English clubs are playing with the same form as last season. All have had ups and downs in their domestic form and have been dropping points against clubs that they should be defeating. Arsenal are looking the unsteadiest of the bunch though none of the others have impressed in recent weeks. Liverpool has had some great chances to surge ahead in the title race but have dropped points at home to Hull City and West Ham.
Conversely, Barcelona have to be looked at as one of the favourites based on their experience and recent form. They looked good in defeating Real Madrid in El Classico this past weekend and are now unbeaten in 14 league games. Their only loss in the Champions League group phase was in their final match when they fielded a team filled with reserve/bench players.
I also see Juventus, Bayern Munich and FC Porto as clubs to watch for in the next round. However, I will be back on Friday with predictions and commentary once the draw is complete.