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Friday, 16 December 2011

Champions League/Europa League Draw Reaction

Champions League Draw
Lyon v Apoel
Napoli v Chelsea
AC Milan v Arsenal
Basel v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
Zenit v Benfica
Marseille v Inter Milan

So the draw for the last 16 has been completed in Nyon this morning and it is the clear the two English sides have received the toughest draws available for Group winners.

I think the Chelsea draw is an interesting one as Napoli have shown what they are about in the Group along with Manchester City. However, this is one of those where I think playing away from home in the 1st Leg could be vital to their hopes of getting through to the Quarter Finals.

Chelsea have to have the mentality of going to Italy and not coming back behind in the tie- that would allow Napoli to hit Chelsea on the counter all day long in the 2nd Leg and could give them a chance to go through. I am looking forward to this tie, it should be a very interesting one.

Arsenal must also be a little disappointed that they drew the toughest team they could have in this round. AC Milan have definitely improved since they last met in 2008, but they have been beaten by English teams at this stage in each of the last 3 seasons and there may be a slight mental block as far as they are concerned.

The 1st Leg is perhaps more important to Milan in this case- it is in the San Siro that they have been beaten by Arsenal (2008), Manchester United (2010) and Tottenham Hotspur (2011) while achieving draws when visiting North London. Milan will surely look to avoid defeat in the 1st Leg and then take their chances at the Emirates Stadium and I am sure they would take a draw right now.

Arsenal's style of play should cause problems for Milan, but I think it will be 'easier' for them in the 1st Leg when the onus will be on the Italians to push forward in front of their own fans. This is another tie that should be fascinating viewing for the neutrals around Europe.

All 3 favourites for the Champions League (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich) should be delighted with the quality of their opponents in this round, although Real do have a long trip to Moscow to negotiate.

I fully expect all 3 sides will go through with a lot of room to spare and can only imagine that they have all hardened in prices to win the tournament.

Marseille v Inter Milan should be a close contest to call, although the Italians have improved a little bit after having a tough time replicating the form that won them this competition in 2010. Marseille are a side that have done well to reach this stage, but they are beatable and I expect Inter will make their way through.

Lyon and Benfica should both be happy with the draws they received, although neither Apoel nor Zenit will be an easy pass to the last 8.

Europa League Draw
Porto v Manchester City
Ajax v Manchester United
Lokomotiv Moscow v Athletic Bilbao
Salzburg v Metalist Kharkiv
Stoke City v Valencia
Rubin Kazan v Olympiacos
AZ Alkmaar v Anderlecht
Lazio v Atletico Madrid
Steaua Bucharest v Twente
Viktoria Plzen v Schalke
Wislaw Krakow v Standard Liege
Braga v Besiktas
Udinese v PAOK
Trabzonspor v PSV Eindhoven
Hannover v Club Brugge
Legia Warsaw v Sporting Lisbon

Salzburg/Metalist Kharkiv v Rubin Kazan/Olympiacos
Legia Warsaw/Sporting Lisbon v Porto/Manchester City
Steaua Bucharest/Twente v Viktoria Plzen/Schalke
Wislaw Krakow/Standard Liege v Hannover/Club Brugge
Stoke City/Valencia v Trabzonspor/PSV Eindhoven
AZ Alkmaar/Anderlecht v Udinese/PAOK
Lazio/Atletico Madrid v Braga/Besiktas
Ajax/Manchester United v Lokomotiv Moscow/Athletic Bilbao

I was fascinated by the Europa League draw this morning and could not have asked for more interesting ties for Manchester United... The trip to Ajax will be fun, and the potential for a trip to Bilbao is brilliant.

The draw is much like the Champions League in the fact the English sides both got tough draws in comparison to what they could have been given. Manchester City's game with Porto should be a lot of fun but I do expect they will be too strong for them. United should be too good for Ajax too unless they decide to play a weakened team in this competition.

The other stand out tie is the one between Lazio and Atletico Madrid and there are some big teams in the competition, and I do believe the last 16 and beyond will see some interesting matches taking place.

I am also pleased Stoke City get to play Valencia as they deserve a European night of that magnitude- it will be interesting to see how the technical Spanish side cope with the pressure football played by Stoke.

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