With the Union of European Football Assosciations Champions League (CL) making its return in two weeks, here’s a crash course to some of the teams squaring off in the Round of 16.
Manchester United vs. AC Milan
This draw has been the source of much of drama, even before the first kickoff. The match is a chance for Milan’s David Beckham, on loan from the L.A. Galaxy, to take what could be his last stab at former club Man U. More importantly, it’s his chance to get back at his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson whom he had a falling out with upon his transfer to Real Madrid seven years ago. Manchester United secured their spot in England’s Carling Cup final on Jan. 28 last week and are currently on a two-game winning streak in all competitions.
They cleared their qualifying group by three points, and have a fairly easy schedule in-between meetings with AC Milan. The same can’t be said about the Italian club; in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Milan took second place in their group with only two wins, and are on a two-game losing streak stemming from their recent exit from the Copa Italiano. And given the track record of Italian/English matchups in the CL, it’s safe to say that Milan’s a done deal. Just don’t be too surprised if Man U striker Wayne Rooney scores a hat trick.
Real Madrid vs. Lyon
This should be the closest matchup this week. Both teams qualified for the next round with 13 points; Real took their group while Lyon finished second. After two record breaking transfers this summer for Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka (a combined total of $223 million), all eyes are on the Spanish club to perform at a better level in the CL than they have been for the past few years. Lyon currently stands far behind Ligue one leaders Bordeaux, and are facing slight déjà vu with Real Madrid. For the French club, it’s a chance to redeem themselves from crashing out last year against eventual CL champions F.C. Barcelona at this very stage.
For Real Madrid, it’s the opportunity to make a strong statement to all future competitors. For the fans, it’s the promise of an exciting match from two clubs teeming with potential. Expect Real to score early and almost blow their lead at the end.
Bayern Munich vs. Fiorentina
What a waste of a draw! Fiorentina stands in ninth in Serie A, the lowest domestic standing for any team still in the CL. They topped the group with 15 points, gaining recognition only after beating abysmal former champions Liverpool twice. Bayern finally found the form they’ve been searching for, remaining undefeated in all competitions since November.
But the most successful club in Germany can never make a lasting impression in the CL. They fell to the mighty hand of Barcelona last year like Lyon, and haven’t made it past the second round in years. So even though Bayern might be making moves domestically, don’t get your hopes up. This match will most likely end in a draw.
Arsenal vs. Porto
Arsenal has always been a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League, normally making it to the semi-final each year. Now that they’re finally proving their worth in the English Premier League instead of holding steady at third or fourth, this should be nothing more than an extension of their group stage domination. That’s not to say that Porto are strangers to success, but they have been on the bad side of the draw since the fairytale that led them to the title back in 2004. It seems that their downfall is always an English team, and Arsenal will be no different this year. Even without striker Robin van Persie and possibly defender Thomas Vermaelen, don’t worry. Arsene Wenger has been known to pull many tricks out of his beret.