The draw has been made for the knockout stages of the 2015-16 Champions League and we have some mouth-watering ties awaiting us. First legs will be played on the 16/17 and 23/24 of February with the return legs being held on the 8/9 and 15/16 of March.
Premier League Teams
3 of our 4 participants from the Premier League have made it through their group to earn a place in the Knockout stages of the competition, with just Man United failing to make the cut. Premier League teams have struggled of late when it comes to the latter stages of the Champions League and on first look of this years Knockout draw, They will have to be at their best to stand any chance of progressing any further.
Arsenal performed a minor miracle to reach the last 16 after overturning Olympiakos in their own back yard 3-0 thanks to a superb hat-trick from Olivier Giroud. They have been rewarded with arguably the toughest tie of the round as they host current champions Barcelona. Suarez and Neymar have been in scintillating form without their Argentinian companion and now Messi is back fit and firing they look dangerous every time they go forward. After dismantling Roma 6-1 in their last home group game Arsenal will need to have their wits about them as they travel to the Nou Camp in March.
If Arsenal are to win this tie then they must beat Barcelona at the Emirates. Barcelona drew 2 of their 3 away group games against Roma and Leverkusen, teams arguably not as talented or strong as the current Arsenal outfit. Same goes for La Liga, even though they sit top of the table they have only won 4 of their 7 away games. Losing 4-1 to Celta Vigo and 2-1 to a Sevilla side which lacked confidence at the time shows Arsenal they have a good chance of going to the Nou Camp with something to defend.
Chelsea have been far from impressive this season and languish near the relegation zones of the Premier League however they proved their pedigree in Europe’s greatest club competition as they defeated Porto 2-0 to progress to the Knock-out stages. They now face a PSG side who are running away with the Ligue 1 title in dominant fashion. They lead by a ridiculous 17 points after 18 games and come February they should be so far clear that they can throw everything at the Champions League.
This is the 3rd consecutive year these 2 teams have met in this competition and they both have progressed once each however this year has a different complexion completely. PSG look a driving force and are improving all the time whilst things just keep worse at Chelsea. While PSG can enjoy their football, Chelsea will need to grind away in every match from here to February to try and scramble up the table. For this reason i see fitness being a huge factor as to who will progress. With star strikers Cavani and Ibrahimovic bolstering their front line it’s going to make for an exciting match up.
Manchester City made it through their group with relative ease and have been rewarded with what appears one of the easiest ties of the round in Dynamo Kiev. They will play the first leg away in Ukraine behind closed doors as Kiev have been handed a 3 game sanction for racist behavior from their fans. Ukraine isn’t the easiest place to go and pick up a result however playing in an empty stadium will be much preferred by City than a packed stadium of Kiev fans.
Manchester City will look to get a “job done” scoreline over in Ukraine and do the business back on home turf at the Etihad, any draw will be adequate but with the star studded team Manchester City have they will be looking to win the game in Kiev and make their job in Manchester that little bit easier.
Tie of the Round
Excluding Arsenal v Barcelona and Chelsea v PSG as aforementioned the tie of the round has to be Juventus v Bayern Munich. After a poor start to the campaign Juventus are flying up the league and currently sit 4th, just 4 points from the current leaders. They have won their last 6 league games and are starting to resemble the quality of side that made it all the way to the Champions League final last year.
Bayern Munich started their campaign in the best possible fashion winning their first 10 league games. 4 wins a draw and a loss since see them top the table by 5 points from second placed Borussia Dortmund. With this likely to be Pep Guardiola’s final season at the Allianz-Arena he will be desperate to sign off with a Champions League winners medal and with the team at his disposal no-one will be writing them off.
Champions League Winner Favourites
Barcelona, who currently hold by far the world’s most lethal strike force will be the name on the lips of many as it’s easy to see why. The 4-0 El Clasico drubbing of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu along with the way they beat Roma 6-1 in the group stages prove why they are the favorites to retain the trophy. Currently 5/2 with Bet365, it will take something special to halt Barcelona’s quest for another European triumph.
Bayern Munich enter the market as 11/4 second favourites with Bet365. Like Barcelona, Bayern have been impressive so far this season and have a squad full of quality. They also possess one of the world’s deadliest strikers in Robert Lewandowski. Keeping the pole fit will be imperative for Bayern Munich and if they can then they stand every chance this season
If you are looking for an “outsider” to win the competition then look no further than PSG and Atletico Madrid. Both teams are in fine form this season and at 14/1 and 12/1 respectively with Bet365 look huge prices. PSG should have the league all but won by February and will be able to concentrate on performing at the top level in the knockout stages. Atletico Madrid are always a dangerous opponent, reknowned for their solid defence Atletico also have a potent strike force with their star forward Griezmann in particular impressing for Los Rojiblancos
Champions League Winner Odds
Here’s a complete list of the outright winner odds from Bet365.
Bayern Munich 11/4
Real Madrid 5/1
Man City 10/1
Atletico Madrid 12/1
Dynamo Kiev 500/1