Champions League preview

Vincent Kompany will be key to the defensive strength of City
Vincent Kompany will be key to the defensive strength of City


The last sixteen draw for the Champions League has delivered some truly mouth-watering ties for football fans, pitting titans against titans, old heroes against former clubs, and legendary teams against ambitious newcomers.

Manchester City v Barcelona

When Manchester City succeeded in qualifying to the last sixteen for the first time, City fans dared to dream that it was their time to prove themselves to rest of the world.

However the draw has presented a formidable obstacle to these dreams, in the shape of Catalan giants Barcelona.

Some have argued that this Barcelona team, considered ‘the greatest team ever’, is beginning to lose its magic.

Huge names like Xavi and Puyol are succumbing to the ravages of age, losing that decisive yard of pace that is essential in the modern game, especially when up against City’s blitzkrieg style of football.

Even the mercurial magician Lionel Messi has missed a substantial chunk of the season with a hamstring injury. Despite this setback, he still has netted eleven goals in sixteen games, vindicating his constant threat.

Along with the threat of Neymar, this attacking pair will cause City havoc if left free. However, City are by no means scarce when it comes to attacking options.

Even with talisman Aguero side-lined by injury, City can rely on Negredo, Dzeko, and Jovetic from the bench if necessary. However their defence still remains a concern; despite possessing the steel of Zabaleta and Kompany, Demichelis is a liability in the defensive holding role which was exposed by a hard-working Chelsea side in the Premier League tie.

Nevertheless, having beaten Bayern this year, City will have confidence going into this game.

Arsenal v Bayern Munich

While City may feel hard done by the draw, spare a thought for Arsenal who are pitted against Bayern Munich, managed by arguably the best coach in the world, Pep Guardiola.

Furthermore they possess a treble-winning squad which decimated Barcelona last year. Enhanced by stellar signings such as Mario Gotze and Thiago Alacantra, this team has somehow improved.

Frank Ribery has been excellent this year; his performances threatened to break the Messi and Ronaldo duopoly at the Ballon D’Or.

Mesut Ozil will be key to Arsenal's chances
Mesut Ozil will be key to Arsenal’s chances

Yet it has been proven this season that Bayern are fallible. City achieved a shock comeback in the Allianz Arena in the group stages, to win 3-2.

However do Arsenal have that pedigree to achieve such a result? Arsenal have been impressive this year, with players such as Ramsey, Giroud, Scezeny, Gnabry, blooming from Wenger’s nurturing. Arsenal have developed a ruthless streak this season which they have lacked in previous years, dispatching teams efficiently with their breath-taking brand of passing, attacking football.

However, they have been stunned several times this year by crushing to their main rivals, such as City and even Liverpool, who thrashed them 5-1 last week.

This calls into question Arsenal’s character for the huge games. Mesut Ozil must impose himself in these situations, and provide the magic that Arsenal will need against such a daunting opponent.

Remember Arsenal beat Munich last year, but to win over two legs is a huge challenge.

Chelsea v Galatasary

Didier Drogba will forever be remembered as the man that brought the coveted Champions League trophy to Stamford Bridge; he was the definitive big game player.

So how will he perform against his old club, and the “Special One” that brought him there?

This tie promises to be a highly emotional affair, in which Drogba has said he will win, whatever team progresses.

One would guess that Mourinho will not be so sentimental. After an awkward transition period, his Chelsea side now resemble Mourinho’s Chelsea of old.

An impressive win over City in the Premier League demonstrated the sheer work rate that Mourinho demands from his starting XI.

Eden Hazard has been playing the sensational football he has always been capable of, regularly becoming Chelsea’s match winner.

John Terry and Gary Cahill have forged a great defensive partnership- surely something Roy Hodgson must examine for the World Cup.

Didier Drogba was a talisman for Chelsea in the Champions League
Didier Drogba was a talisman for Chelsea in the Champions League

Oscar’s form has earned him the number ten shirt, forcing Juan Mata out the Chelsea door, while new signing Matic looks to be a fantastic addition.

However the glaring absence of a clinical striker is still the missing piece of the jigsaw for Chelsea. Galatasary possess Arsenal old boys, Eboue and Melo, and another of Mourinho’s former players, Wesley Sneijder.

Chelsea are the favourites, but playing in the intimidating cauldron of the Turk Telecom Arena will not make their task easy.

Manchester United v Olympiakos

In comparison to the other draws and considering current form, the draw was merciful to Manchester United.

Olympiakos are a solid but unspectacular team, who should be credited for beating Benfica to the qualification spot.

They will also be buoyed with confidence, considering the Premier League teams that have taken points from United this year.

The difficult transitional period after Ferguson has been well-publicised, with the players not delivering on the pitch.

The defence has been leaking goals, an issue Moyes must address, especially if they progress.

Nevertheless, with Van Persie returning from injury, Januzaj developing promisingly and Rooney returning to a semblance of his best form, there are positives for the future.

Star signing Juan Mata will also revitalise this squad, and could be the catalyst that enables United to return to playing like a United team should.

Despite their travails, United should progress on wards.

Photographs: Vincent Kompany Official, Craig Robertson, Scott Gair

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