luis-antonio-valencia-of-manchester-united-is-chased-byThe final 16 pairings of the Champions League have been announced this morning, and with that there are some marquee match-ups to talk about.

Manchester City vs. Barcelona

Definitely going to be one of the most watched pairings, to say the least. I love City advancing here. Historically, I usually go against Barca anyway, and with the way City is playing right now — especially at the Etihad — I’m not sure Messi (who should be fit come February) and company will be ready for the physical goal-scoring prowess that Manuel Pellegrini has orchestrated at Manchester.

Olympiakos vs. Manchester United

Olympiakos is arguably the weakest team left, but United isn’t exactly spectacular and very beatable at home. Look for two solid matches here, but I wouldn’t venture to predict any upsets.

AC Milan vs. Atletico Madrid

This is my pick for the most exciting pairing. Atletico is looking fantastic in La Liga this year, and Diego Costa is turning into one of Europe’s hottest striking targets. Milan have the talent to advance, but it’s a matter of chemistry on and off the field (as it seemingly always is the case with Italian teams) and whether or not the efficient goal-scoring Mario Balotelli shows up for Milan rather than the volatile five-year-old temper-tantrum artist that we’re seeing less and less of.

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Paris St Germain

Shouldn’t be any problems here for Zlatan Ibrahimovich and PSG here. Bayer is a quality team and Stefan Kiessling is a machine up top, but PSG has a man named Thiago Silva in the back and I doubt he is ready to dip out of Europe’s biggest competition just yet. PSG is in great form right now, and it’s hard to bet against them.

Galatasaray vs. Chelsea

I’m not sure my heart can take any more sorrow… as if I didn’t miss him enough already, FIFA had to come and place one of my all-time favorite Chelsea players in Didier Drogba against us in the round of 16. Emotionally, I’d like to think that the Sneijder/Yilmaz/Drogba attack can make this draw interesting, but I have full faith in my Boys in Blue to get it done based off of pure offensive efficiency and our deeper bench. I do look forward to seeing you, though, Didier. I hope you score a hat-trick and Chelsea wins 4-3, both games. That would let me have my cake and eat it too.

Schalke vs. Real Madrid

Yep, not too much to write about this one. Real should easily advance, and the final eight will be a nice follow-up to Ronaldo’s almost-guaranteed Ballon D’or in January.

Zenit vs. Borussia Dortmund

I’d like to think that Zenit has a better chance to advance, but I just don’t see them beating Borussia. The defending runners up aren’t playing anywhere near where they were last May, but they are starting to click (finally) and the Russian club just doesn’t have the subs to contain them over two matches. I could easily be wrong, because Danny and Hulk are playing very well for Zenit right now, but I’ve learned not to bet against Jurgen Klopp’s men in this competition after last year…

Arsenal vs. Bayern

First things first, you’ve got to be feeling nauseous if you’re a Gunners fan. Arsenal has been playing so well both on the European stage and domestically, and it almost seems blasphemous that they would draw the best team in Europe this early in the tournament. That’s the way it goes, though, and right now, I just don’t see Arsenal getting past last years’ champs.

By Carter Bowers


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