Enticing Champions League draw throws up United-Real clash
Published: 01.01.13 / Written by: David Gold
The draw for the Champions League delivered what neutrals across Europe will have wanted.
Another second round clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United. Real were of course the second seed who all the group winners wanted to avoid in today’s draw. It seemed inevitable Cristiano Ronaldo would get a swift return to Manchester having helped dispose of City in the group phase.
And so now two of Europe’s great teams will go head to head, with one tumbling out already. It is a very difficult game to predict. On paper, Real seem stronger, with better players across the pitch and a stronger midfield. However, they are 13 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and are going through something of a civil war prompted by the controversial public antics of Jose Mourinho. If Mourinho has got Madrid back onto top form, it will be difficult for United to beat them. However, if Madrid are not at their best, the Premier League leaders are good enough to punish them.
Elsewhere in the draw, there is another mouth watering clash between Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund. The two dark horses for most pundits, these two sides were excellent in the group stage. Shakhtar proved a real handful for Chelsea and Juventus in the group, and were unlucky not to win the section. Their fast attacking play and quartet of Brazilians make them especially dangerous. Dortmund, however, are a team who few sides will relish meeting. Having got the better of Real Madrid over their two games in the group, they have the potential to go all the way. The winner of this tie will be one no side wants to meet in the quarter finals.
Another close game will be the tie between Arsenal and Bayern Munich. The Londoners have not looked particularly good so far this season and will be second favourites for this tie. If the Bundesliga leaders are at their best, it is hard to see past them for the quarter final spot. Yet Arsenal are experienced at this level and they have the players to take on most teams in Europe. If it is their day, this may not be a straightforward tie for Bayern.
Barcelona should be able to ease past AC Milan. They got the better of the Italian side over the four games they played last season and have only got stronger, whilst Milan are clearly weaker than they were a year ago. Valencia against Paris St Germain is an intriguing match up. The French side on paper may look stronger, and are doing well domestically again, but if Carlo Anceloti is fired before these teams meet Valencia could yet edge through to the next round. The Spaniards are like Arsenal, experienced in the Champions League, and have the ability to edge through.
Galatasaray meet Schalke 04 in one of the least attractive of the ties in the second round. Schalke on paper should be favourites, but going to Istanbul is never easy and the German team are in disarray after firing Huub Stevens. Malaga meet FC Porto in an intriguing tussle, again between an experienced Champions League side and a rich newcomer. Malaga could go through if they keep up the form they showed in the last round, but Porto are tough to beat and have the ability to get the better of the Andalucians. The other tie sees Celtic seek to continue their surprise run. It would be a shock if they beat Juventus, and the Italian giants should be too good for their Scottish rivals.
Predicted last eight: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Paris St Germain, Schalke 04, FC Porto, Juventus.