Champions League round of 16 draw: The draw made earlier today has produced some intriguing ties not least those involving the two remaining English clubs and Scotland's sole representative in European football after the end of August. A brief thought on each tie followed by a prediction.
Galatasaray v FC Schalke
Schalke have varied between good and awful this season both in the Bundesliga and in Europe, look at their two performances against Arsenal as an example. Galatasaray fit neatly into the Terry from Likely Lads stereotype as being tough to beat at home but poor travellers. That said I would think Schalke will have to win the home leg to go through.
Schalke to go through.
Celtic v Juventus
Celtic are almost unbeatable at home and providing they don't have to sell any key players in January and perhaps can bring in a couple fo quality signings they should at least make this tie competitive. Juventus have been almost unstoppable in the last two seasons domestically and should be good enough to reach the last 8.
Juventus to go through.
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
Bayern probably have the best five forwards (on paper at least) in the competition with one of the best central midfielders of the current generation behind them, the question is how will Arsenal stop, Gomez, Muller, Ribery, Mandzukic, Pizarro and Bastien Schweinsteiger? The best way would be to put Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshire in the centre of midfield and play round the Bayern midfield, hoping that the full backs can keep Muller and Ribery quiet.
Bayern to go through.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund
The two extremes of what is right and what is wrong with the money driven excesses of modern football meet in what should be a classic confrontation of attack v counter attack. Shakhtar were, until very recently, a club who were little more than a rich mans plaything whilst Dortmund are a classic example of how to build success on home grown players or those who cost very little (Marco Reus being the exception). A year ago you would have said this was going to be Shakhtar's tie to lose but Dortmund have shown on their trips to Madrid, Manchester and Amsterdam that they have lost that naiveity from last year.
Dortmund (possibly on away goals) to progress
AC Milan v Barcelona
The old European guard meets the new. Milan are undergoing a season of transition, the old in the shape of Seedorf, Nesta, Gattuso and Inzaghi replaced by the likes of De Jong, Pazzini and the wonderfully coiffured Stephan El Shaarawy a player who, like the legendary God like Bobby Baggio, sees nothing wrong in having three different hairstyles at the same time. Barcelona are plodding on this season rather than setting the world alight, at times their football looks purely functionary, mainly because they make it look so simple. Milan don't have the personnel to get up close and personal in the way that Chelsea and Inter have done in recent years.
Barcelona to go through.
Real Madrid v Manchester United
The tie of the round? With the carrot of a Wembley final in May dangling before these two teams we could be in for something special. Neither side can defend at present and both can saw goals at will. United will be pinning all their hopes on a fit to play Vidic, an injury free Kagawa and hoping that Real have fallen so far behind Barcelona in La Liga come February that they have lost the will to live.
United to go through on away goals
Valencia v Paris St Germain
The paupers v the princes. If the Shakhtar v Dortmund tie is new money v new prudence then this is the match between old profligacy and new spendthrifts.Valencia are as much a victim of the imbalance that exists in Spanish television deals as their own lack of astute financial management. PSG on the other hand spend money without an apparent care in the world. Valencia are a mix of cheap buys, home growns and few stars whilst PSG are a team of big buys who are finally starting to gel into something more than a rich mans plaything.
PSG to make it to the quarter finals.
FC Porto v Malaga
A selling club versus a club that spent big and now has to sell in order to survive. FC Porto should be held up as a club who are run in what used to be called 'the right way'. They buy cheap players or grown their own, win domestic competitions and then see their stars sold abroad for small fortunes. Over the last decade Porto have won the Portuguese league 8 times as well as winning both the Champions League and the Europa League (twice). All this whilst selling players to Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Milan. An example of Porto's ability to buy cheap and sell big is Radamel Falcao, currently the hottest property in Europe, who they purchased for €3.93m and sold for €47m. Over the past decade the club has made a profit of €345m on fifteen of Europe's top players (well fourteen plus Bosingwa who despite being crap they managed to make a profit of €21m on when sold to Chelsea).
For Malaga the dream has gone horribly wrong in a very short space of time. It's less than twelve months ago that World Football carried a feature on how the dream of Champions League football could be achieved with a little help from Qatar, this was followed by financial problems (which led to the sale of Santi Carzola among others) and a ban on transfers.
Porto to reach the last sixteen.