Yesterday the draw was made for the knock-out stage of this year’s Champions League, and guess what? It threw up some fantastic mouth-watering ties, which is what we needed after a poor and predictable group stage, despite the odd shock here and there.
Reunions were the topic of the day as Jose Mourinho was reunited with his beloved Chelsea; David Beckham is heading back to Old Trafford with AC Milan.
First up, Mourinho will return to Stamford Bridge with his Serie A champions for the first time since he left Chelsea in September 2007. With both sides in contention to win their domestic league they will both want to go further in this competition, but with Chelsea going so close but yet so far in 2008 heartbreak could be on the cards once again. All eyes will be on this tie, because it will certainly be an exciting
two legged tie.
The second reunion is of old rivals Manchester United and AC Milan, who have met four times in the past – and on each occasion the Rossoneri, came out on top when the tie has been based over two legs. The last time the two sides met United’s dreams of reaching the final were shattered in the semi finals when they were hammered 3-0 in what remains their last away defeat in the competition.
The reunion will be particularly special for one David Beckham who will face the club he started his career with. Beckham, will start a spell at AC Milan on loan from Los Angeles Galaxy next month, and has been granted his wish of playing his former club.
United have beaten five of their last seven Italian opponents in the Champions League knockout stages but, significantly, the two occasions they lost were both to AC Milan: 2-0 on aggregate in the round of 16 in 2005 and 5-3 on aggregate in the semi-finals in 2007
To round up a day of reunions, as Karim Benzema returns to France to face Lyon after his summer move to Real Madrid. That could be another tie worth watching, Lyon are a strong side and shouldn’t be underestimated. I have always said that Madrid are not the Real deal, so I don’t think they can win the competition even if the final being held in their stadium in May.
Of the English sides, Arsenal got the easiest draw of all and will face Portuguese champions Porto who are well acquainted with English times at this stage. If Arsenal can get over their current injury crisis then they should be final over the two legs.
Elsewhere holders Barcelona have also got a relatively easy draw after being paired with Stuttgart a side currently is trouble. It should be a cake walk for the Spanish champions. You also have French champions Bordeaux going to Greece to face Greek champions Olympiakos, Laurent Blanc’s side are a team to watch. Bayern Munich play Fiorentina and finally, CSKA Moscow play Sevilla.
In a change to previous competitions, the matches will be staggered over four weeks in February and March adding to the suspense for the competition.
A very interesting draw, but I think we will have the usual suspects in the final eight. If I was to be bold and predict the eight times they would be: Barcelona, Bordeaux, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Sevilla, Lyon, Arsenal and AC Milan. If those were all to come through then we would be on for a fantastic finale.
DRAW IN FULL
Stuttgart v Barcelona
Olympiakos v Bordeaux
Inter Milan v Chelsea
Bayern Munich v Fiorentina
CSKA Moscow v Sevilla
Lyon v Real Madrid
Porto v Arsenal
AC Milan v Manchester United
FEB 16: AC Milan v Manchester United; Lyon v Real Madrid.
FEB 17: Bayern Munich v Fiorentina; Porto v Arsenal.
FEB 23: Olympiakos v Bordeaux; Stuttgart v Barcelona.
FEB 24: Inter Milan v Chelsea; CSKA Moscow v Sevilla.
MAR 9: Fiorentina v Bayern Munich; Arsenal v Porto.
MAR 10: Manchester United v AC Milan; Real Madrid v Lyon.
MAR 16: Chelsea v Inter Milan; Sevilla v CSKA Moscow.
MAR 17: Bordeaux v Olympiakos ; Barcelona v Stuttgart.