The resumption of the UEFA Champions League knockout phase is the prime indicator that the serious business is about to kick off in European soccer. It’s crunch time, in short, and teams will resume their respective European commitments with dreams of glory and hopes of parading the trophy around the Estadio Da Luz, Lisbon come May 24, 2014.
This season’s last 16 is bristling with quality out, each with their own case to make for the title knowing they are just seven games away from clinching a spot in footballing immortality.
Here, we run the rule over every team in the last 16 and make some bold predictions (draw permitting, of course) on who we think will be contesting the European Cup final this time round. Can anyone halt the runaway train that is the holders Bayern Munich? Can Borussia Dortmund go one better than last time around? Will the English teams feature? And how will the Spanish teams fare alongside their tightest title race in years?
We’ve done our best to help you make your own mind up. Feel free to let us know who YOU think will be crowned Champions of Europe come May 24 and what you’re expecting from this season’s Champions League knockout phase.
All statistics courtesy of Who Scored? All kick off times are Eastern time.
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Last 16 Fixtures:
Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich, Wednesday 19 February, 2:45PM
Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal, Tuesday 11 March, 2:45PM
Arsenal came through the toughest of all the groups to make it to the last 16. But defeat to Napoli in the final fixture meant they were ousted from the top spot by Borussia Dortmund and they’ve landed a tie with European Champions Bayern Munich for the second season running in the first knock-out round.
But you could argue they have a better chance of progressing than this time last year, for Arsene Wenger’s side look a better rounded and steelier outfit this season. They have topped the Premier League for large portions of the domestic campaign, and some strong performances in Europe bode well for the knock-out stages. Particularly their dismantling of Napoli at the Emirates and their marvelous 1-0 win in Dortmund.
It’s going to take a couple of huge performances to overhaul Bayern, but the Gunners can take some comfort from their 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena last season, not to mention Manchester City’s triumph there in the group stages during this season’s competition. If they somehow make it through to the quarterfinals, they’ll certainly fancy their chances of going all the way to the final. It’s a rather big if, though.