First thing’s first. Damn, this is one hell of a draw. The UEFA Champions League knockout stage will be nothing short of exciting this year, as the competition has brought forth some monumental matchups. One interesting storyline is the three matchups between Italy’s Serie A and the English Premier League.
Chelsea vs. Juventus
Villarreal vs. Panathinaikos
Sporting Lisbon vs. Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid vs. FC Porto
Lyon vs. Barcelona
Real Madrid vs. Liverpool
Arsenal vs. Roma
Inter Milan vs. Manchester United
On first glance, I would have to say that the Real Madrid and Liverpool matchup seems like the best game, but Inter Milan vs. Manchester United is also great. The last time Manchester United traveled to the city of Milan, Kaka and AC Milan had their way with the Red Devils. It will be interesting to see these matches between the league champions both Italy and England.
As far as the Liverpool and Real Madrid contest is concerned, I would have to give the nod to Liverpool, only because of Real Madrid’s recent struggle in the Spanish La Liga. The Spanish giants also have some front office issues, with many high ranking officials doubting the hire of Juande Ramos as coach. The first leg in this stage of tournament will begin on Februry 24th; which leaves Real Madrid plenty of time to fix their current problems.
Another epic battle will take place between Roma and Arsenal. These two squads are filled with an abundance of young talent that will be on display when these two teams square off. Francesco Totti isn’t getting any younger and it will be interesting to see how he captains his team past a very explosive Arsenal squad.
Lyon and Barcelona will do battle in a meeting of two sides in great form. Barcelona are looking to get back to the finals and Lyon want to prove that their dominance can go beyond France’s domestic league. Juventus and Chelsea add the perfect finishing touch to an already amazing slate of games as Claudio Ranieri will lead his Italian side to Stamford Bridge where he once coached. Gianluigi Buffon should be back for Juventus in time to defend in goal. The biggest question in this matchup is Alessandro Del Piero’s effort and form. Del Piero’s form has been out of this world, but can he keep it up through the rest of the tournament? We’ll find out in a couple of months.