The Champions League draw for the knockout stages of the competition has thrown up a bunch of mouth-watering prospects for soccer fans all over the world.
Representatives of the 16 teams that qualified through the group stages of the competition assembled at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, on Monday morning to learn the fate of their teams. And while some of them were left beaming after the brief Champions league draw that lasted just over 15 minutes, several others faced the daunting prospect of seeing their teams face the best teams in Europe when the competition resumes in mid-February.
Perhaps Arsenal will feel the biggest challenge after the Champions League draw, having been drawn against current Champions League holders, Barcelona. Having been knocked out of the Last 16 for the last five seasons in succession, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would have hoped for the draw to be kinder to his team, but the draw failed to oblige the London team.
Twice out of those five times, Arsenal were knocked out by Barcelona at the same stage of the competition.
Other than Arsenal, the other two English teams in the competition — Chelsea and Manchester City — were handed relatively easier draws. Manchester City were drawn against Ukrainian opposition Dynamo Kiev, which will host City in the reverse leg in an empty stadium as punishment for previous crowd disturbances and racist behavior among Dynamo supporters, according to Sky Sports.
Chelsea were once again drawn against Paris Saint-Germain, the team that knocked out Jose Mourinho’s men last time around. In the second of those games at Stamford Bridge, PSG managed to knock out Chelsea even though their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off for a tackle on Chelsea’s Oscar. In the aftermath of that game, Ibrahimovic — known for his blatant statements — had accused Chelsea players of being crybabies. There will be no love lost between the two teams when they face each other for the first tie on February 16, 2016.
Apart from these ties, the Champions League draw also threw up some scintillating match-ups between the other bigwigs left in the competition. Bayern Munich, who seem to be running away with their domestic Bundesliga title, were drawn against Juventus, last year’s losing finalists. There will an extra layer of context added to the game, with Arturo Vidal having moved from Italy to Munich during the summer. It will be interesting to see how Juventus supporters take to one of their former star players lining up against them when the two teams meet on February 23, 2016.
The Champions League draw handed Real Madrid, 2014 winners of the competition, a Last 16 meeting against Italian opposition Roma, who would hope to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet in an attempt to progress into the Quarter Finals for the first time since 2008.
Here is the full Champions League draw, which will see 16 top European clubs vying against each other come February.
Feb 16/March 9
Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea
Benfica v Zenit
Feb 17/March 8
Gent v Wolfsburg
Roma v Real Madrid
Feb 23/March 16
Arsenal v Barcelona
Juventus v Bayern Munich
Feb 24/March 15
PSV v Atletico Madrid
Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City
So what do you think of the latest Champions League draw? Do you see your favorite teams progressing through to the next round of the competition?
[Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images]