MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 22: Javier Zanetti of Inter Milan lifts the UEFA Champions League trophy following their team's victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League Final match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Inter Milan at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 22, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal Draw Barcelona, Tottenham Paired With Milan In Champions League Round Of 16

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Taking A Look At A Few Of The Champions League's Most Intriguing Pairings

With the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 draw in the books and the competition taking off until February, it is time to analyze and anticipate the world's premier club competition.The 16 remaining teams have been paired up and will play a two leg tie with the winner advancing to the Quarterfinals. With most of the world's best and most famous clubs in the competition, there are scintillating match-ups all around the tournament.

The clear cut most intriguing pairing for the Round of 16 is a rematch of a Quarterfinal from a year ago with Barcelona and Arsenal squaring off. A year ago, the two clubs played to a 2-2 draw at Emirates Stadium, but when the tie moved to Camp Nou it became the Lionel Messi show. The sensational Argentinian scored four goals in the second leg to lead the Catalans through to the semifinals. Now, Barcelona appears to be the world's best team and are 12/5 favorites to win the Champions League, but there is some ill will between the two clubs now that Barcelona spent the entire summer trying to lure Cesc Fabregas away from London with some talk and methods that irked the Gunners. With the incredible Barcelona attack and skill of Arsenal players such as Samir Nasri, Marouane Chamakh and the aforementioned Fabregas, the two matches should be full of flair and beautiful attacking soccer.

Just as most are sure Barcelona is the world's best team, most were sure that AC Milan was the best team of the group of runners up and whichever group winner drew the Italians would be an unfortunate lot. Well, as is historically fitting, Tottenham Hotspur are that unfortunate lot, but the Spurs of the last year are nothing like the Spurs of years gone by and their tie versus Milan will give them a chance to prove it. Tottenham finished the Group Stages with 18 goals, more than any other team in the competition, and their attacking verve no matter the scoreline makes for entertaining matches. Add in the great attacking players like Gareth Bale, Rafael Van der Vaart and Luka Modric and it's easy to see how the North London club has managed to bag so many goals, but Milan isn't short on talent either. Long hailed as two of the futures of Brazilian football, Pato and Robinho have been at the heart of the Milan attack, scoring six goals apiece this season. Tottenham will make a return trip to the San Siro, where Bale scored three goals against Inter during the Group Stage, and odds are that both the match in Milan and London are filled with goals.

Not to be overlooked is a pairing of Manchester United and Olympique Marseille. The French club topped Ligue 1 a year ago and have strengthened their squad with the additions of players like Loic Remy. After a slow start to the season, Marseille are picking up steam and may be the second best team in the group of runners up. Of course that may not mean much at Old Trafford against a United team that is leading the English Premier League despite not hitting their top form yet. Whether Lucho Gonzalez can find space and work on picking apart the United back line will likely determine the chances of Marseille, which is quite the challenge for the Argentinian.

Neither Bayern Munich nor Inter Milan are playing close to the level that they were playing at last season when the two clubs met in the Champions League Final, but they remain two of Europe's biggest clubs. Munich has seen themselves fall to sixth in the Bundesliga as they continue to wait on Arjen Robben's return from injury. Without the Dutchman, Munich has looked benign and could very well be beaten, but right now Inter hardly look like the club to do it. With Jose Mourinho having left the club for Real Madrid following their Champions League triumph last season, Inter has struggled to look anything like the reigning European Champions. Rafa Benitez has been fairly criticized match after match and it is unclear if he will still be managing the club when the competition resumes in February. The quality of play this season between these two teams is hardly anything to light anyone afire, but any time you can see two of the most famous clubs in the world square off it is always a treat.

The rest of the Champions League Round of 16 pairings are nothing to sneeze at. Shakhtar Donetsk surprised Arsenal to win their group and could be primed for a few more surprises. Real Madrid will also have to prove they can beat some of the best, beginning with a match-up against a Olympique Lyon team that is capable of playing at a very high level. Whatever the pairing though, the Champions League always produces some of the best football in the world. The only shame is it doesn't resume for two months.


Barcelona Vs. Arsenal Highlight Champions League Round Of 16 Draw

The UEFA Champions League draw for the Round of 16 is done and there is one clear standout in the fixtures as Barcelona were drawn against Arsenal in a rematch of last year's quarterfinal. The next most enticing pairing is Tottenham facing the best team from the group of runners up, AC Milan. Also of intrigue is Manchester United being drawn against the reigning Ligue 1 champions, Olympique Marseille. The eight Round of 16 fixtures are as follows:

  • Shakhtar Donetsk vs. AS Roma
  • Tottenham Hotspur vs. AC Milan
  • Schalke 04 vs. Valencia CF
  • Bayern Munich vs. Inter Milan
  • Real Madrid vs. Olympique Lyonnais
  • Barcelona vs. Arsenal
  • Manchester United vs. Olympique Marseille
  • Chelsea vs. FC Copenhagen

Next up for UEFA is to determine who will play on Tuesday and Wednesday in each of the two weeks allocated for each leg, meaning that two matches will be played each Tuesday and Wednesday for two weeks. Once that is done, the clubs will have the first knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League before them and they can get back to focusing on league play before European competition heats back up in February.


First Round Of Champions League, Europa League Knock-Out Stages To Be Drawn Friday

The world's biggest club tournament (sorry FIFA, but the Club World Cup isn't nearly as big as you wish it was), the UEFA Champions League gets into the first part of the real drama of their tournament with the draw for the knockout stages at noon on Friday afternoon, Central European Time. The biggest teams in Europe, including Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and more will all find out who they will play in the Champions League Round of 16 when the tournament resumes play in February.

The Round of 16 comes on the heels of the Group Stage, in which there were eight, four-team groups with the group winners and group runners up advancing to the knockout stages. In the Round of 16, each of the eight group winners will be matched up against one of the eight group runners up, although they cannot be drawn against the team who also advanced from their group or another team from their country. Here are the 16 teams who have advanced to the knockout stages by group winner and group runners up status.

The overwhelming favorite to win the tournament are Barcelona, who the bookies have made 12/5 favorites. Their destruction of Real Madrid a few weeks ago at the Camp Nou made them the clear best team in the world to most and you can bet that every group runner up is praying that the draw doesn't match them up with the Catalans. Even though Barcelona made minced meat of them, Madrid are still considered by some to be the second best team in the world and wherever they fall in one's personal club rankings, they are a threat to win the Champions League as Jose Mourinho looks to win back-to-back titles with two different teams. Bayern Munich are hardly at top form, sitting in sixth place in the Bundesliga, but the German giants do have enough talent in the team that by the time February comes around, they can be a real threat.

All four English teams made it through to the knockout stages, three as group winners. Neither Manchester United nor Chelsea had much trouble getting through their groups, but while United sits atop the Premier League in their best run of form this season, Chelsea are in their worst run of form and could be vulnerable. Tottenham Hotspur also won their group and while they have holes in the back, their attack has been scintillating to make for some thrilling matches.

The final English team through to the Round of 16 is Arsenal, but they were the biggest surprise of the Group Stage as they failed to finish top of their group. The Gunners now have to go up against another group winner and they will certainly be hoping that they draw Schalke because their only other options are Barcelona, Madrid or Munich. In all likelihood, the Gunners versus whoever they draw will be one of the highlights of the Round of 16.

The other possible highlights lie in the two Milan clubs, Inter and AC. AC Milan is atop the Serie A table and will be the team that every group winner hopes to avoid. Should Milan find themselves against Manchester United or Chelsea, the intrigue will be a sky high and a chance for Serie A, which some think is sinking below the English Premier League and La Liga, to shine. The same goes for Inter Milan, although their hopes are not as high. The reigning European champions, Inter have been a mess under new manager Rafa Benitez and there are questions about whether or not Benitez will even be managing the team by the time the Round of 16 begins in February. Although it would likely spell doom for the Italian club, if the draw sets up Inter versus Madrid and gives Mourinho the chance to face the club he took to Champions League glory in May, mouths would water.

All the intrigue around the draw seems to be for the Champions League, which is to be expected for the world's top club competition, but UEFA will also conduct a draw for the knockout stages of the Europa League. The Europa League has group winners and group runners up from the prior round like the Champions League, but the eight teams who finished in third place in their Champions League group also join the fray in the Europa League knockout stages.

The biggest surprise in the Group Stage of the Europa League was undoubtedly Atletico Madrid, the trophy holders, being eliminated. With Atletico out, Manchester City looks to be the favorite in the competition. The Citizens are playing well in the Premier League and have more talent that you would expect from a Europa League club, but with the Carlos Tevez saga and the rest of the drama at Eastlands, you are never sure what to make of them.

Unlike the Champions League, which has produced finalists from the world's four biggest leagues almost exclusively of late, the Europa League produces surprises and a chance for clubs from lesser known leagues to prove their quality. Clubs from Ukraine, Russia, Scotland, Portugal and France have all made their way to the Final in recent years. With that in mind, it would not be the least bit surprising to see a club like CSKA Moscow go deep into the tournament and provide the world a chance to see the dazzling talents of Keisuke Honda.

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