After an absence of more than 2 months the Champions League and Europa League returns to action next week with the knockout stages, and with it 20 mouth-watering ties.
In the Champions League the holders Barcelona have been drawn against Arsenal. Arsenal will just count themselves lucky to just be actually in the draw as they looked down and out after losing 3 of their first 4 games in the group stage, but a last day victory away at Olympiacos secured them a tie against the 5 time Champions League winners. It will also be a repeat of the 2006 Champions League Final which Barcelona won 2-1. And whilst Arsenal come into the tie in shaky league form Barca come in unbeaten in 16 La Liga game, and came through the Champions League group stage as one of 2 unbeaten sides.
Despite Chelsea’s continuing struggles in the Premier League their form in Europe has been much better as they topped Group G, however when you’re lucks not in its not in, and it was almost inevitable that they would be drawn against the most difficult team, and so it proved as they were paired up against PSG. It was almost inevitable as they have drawn them in each of the last 2 seasons previous. In ‘13/’14 the Blues knocked the French side out on away goals, however the roles were reversed last season and it was PSG that progressed, again via the away goals rule.
Manchester City have also had a positive start to the Champions League, as they came through a difficult group in top spot. There reward is a tie against 27-time Ukrainian Champions Dynamo Kyiv managed by former Tottenham and West Ham striker Serhiy Rebrov. This is admittedly the easiest of the draws for the English teams, but you only have to go back to 2011 when Man City were knocked out of the Europa League by Kyiv (or Kiev as we normally spell it over here).
The good news for Chelsea and City is that by them topping the groups it means that their second leg of the ties is to be played at home, which is usually considered and advantage. Unfortunately for Arsenal it means that they have to go to the Nou Camp for the return leg, putting all the more emphasis on the first leg at the Emirates, although Arsenal fans will point to beating Bayern Munich in the league a few months ago of what they are capable of on their day.
Speaking of the German giants, they feature in the other eye catching tie of the round as the 5-time winners taken on last season’s losing finalists in Juventus, in what will be head coach Pep Guardiola’s last season in charge before taking over at Man City next season.
First legs are scheduled to take place on 16-17 and 23-24 February. Return legs are on 8-9 and 15-16 March.
Over in the Europa League the 3 English teams were all ‘seeded‘ meaning that like their Champions League counterparts they all play teams at home in the second leg, which should be an advantage.
After Manchester United’s failure to progress in the Champions League they have been drawn against Midtjylland in the last 32. The Red Devils and their under fire manager Louis vaa Gaal will be hoping there won’t be an upset, however the Danish side are not unfamiliar with beating English teams as they managed to knock Premiership side Southampton out of the Europa League at the play-off stage this very season.
Tottenham don’t have the easiest tie in this round as they have been drawn against Fiorentina, who currently sit third in Serie A. You don’t have to look back far to see when the sides last met, as they drew each other at the very same round of the competition last season, with the Italian outfit coming through 3-1 on aggregate.
Meanwhile Liverpool will be hoping to overcome the German outfit Augsburg. Augsberg are struggling in their domestic league, however The Reds form has been indifferent itself under new manager Jurgen Klopp, although fans of the Merseysiders will be hoping the club can progress en route to the final of a competition they have won 3 times in the past.
The first legs are on Thursday, 18 February, with the return ties a week later.
Champions League Draw
* Gent vs Wolfsburg
* Roma vs Real Madrid
* Paris Saint-Germain vs Chelsea
* Arsenal vs Barcelona
* Juventus vs Bayern Munich
* PSV Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
* Benfica vs Zenit Saint Petersburg
* Dynamo Kyiv vs Manchester City
Europa League Draw
* Molde vs Fenerbahce
* Liverpool vs Sion
* Krasnodar vs Borussia Dortmund
* Napoli vs Midtjylland
* Rapid Wien vs Villarreal
* Braga vs Marseille
* Lazio vs Saint-Etienne
* Lokomotiv Moscow vs Sporting CP
* Basel vs Fiorentina
* Tottenham Hotspur vs Anderlecht
* Schalke 04 vs Sparta Prague
* Athletic Bilbao vs Augsburg