You just knew it was going to happen.
When so many high-powered teams failed to win their UEFA Champions League group stages, it set up the very real possibility of a handful of high-profile match-ups in the Round 16 that you might normally expect to see in the quarterfinals or semifinals.
What we have gotten is a plethora of can't-miss match-ups that are going to make Champions League match-days in February and March the kind of days you call in sick for.
Manchester United vs. Inter Milan, Real Madrid vs. Liverpool and Chelsea vs. Juventus. As Ray Hudson would say, this is Fantasyland stuff.
Even though it is still two months away, that doesn't mean we can't start thinking about some of the juicier match-ups we will get to see, the type of dream pairngs you can only see on FIFA 09 or Total Football Manager will now come to life in February.
Here are just some of the match-ups that should make this round a fun one to watch:
Jose Mourinho vs. Alex Ferguson. Mourinho's defensively-sound Inter vs. Ferguson's attack-loaded Manchester United. It's going to be a mouth-watering test of tactics. And more importantly, can you imagine the next episode of I'm On Setanta Sports?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Rio Ferdinand. Whether it's Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic, one of them is going to have a battle on their hands.
Maicon vs. Cristiano Ronaldo. The world's best player against arguably the world's best right back.
John Terry vs. Alessandro Del Piero. There few few strikers enjoying a better year than Del Piero and few defenders better than Terry.
Jozy Altidore vs. Panathanaikos. We can only hope that Villarreal will add Altidore to its Champions League roster. If they do, Altidore will have his first chance on the biggest stage in club soccer.
Miguel Veloso vs. Franck Ribery. Bayern Munich boasts one of Europe's best attacks, but Veloso is a rising star who could move closer to a big-money move if he can shut down Ribery.
Atletico's Argies vs. Porto's Argies. In one corner you have Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez. On the other you have Lucho Gonzalez and Lisandro Lopez (among others). These teams aren't the more high-profile ones left, but this series will be entertaining.
Karim Benzema vs. Carles Puyol. The French star striker has been lighting up Ligue 1, but he will be in for some rough treatment from Puyol.
Fernando Torres vs. Fabio Cannavaro. Assuming both men are healthy, this one will be a match-up for the ages.
Javier Mascherano vs. Wesley Snjeider. Whether it is Mascherano or Xabi Alonso, Snjeider will not have an easy time guiding the Real Madrid attack.
Cesc Fabregas vs. Daniele DeRossi. One of the best match-ups of the round, DeRossi is a tenacious ball-winner who will look to stifle the leader of the Arsenal attack.
Arsene Wenger vs. Luciano Spaletti. Two of the better coaching minds in the game do battle in one of the more entertaining match-ups you will find.
Which match-ups did I forget? Which match-up will you be most looking forward to? Share your thoughts below.
Oh great…Man U vs. Inter… Two of the most whiny coaches (and talented at that) facing off. Here’s a question Ives. If you had a choice of who you would rather be locked in a room with and listen to them complain, Sir Alex or Jose, which would you pick?
yes, Donovan isn’t cup tied, but I think he has to officially be on the roster of the club (not just signed to appear later) when the rosters are due to UEFA, that’s the important date.
IF Donovan actually goes to Munich, hes not cup-tied. But as I’ve stated before, its still not official that hes going.
Ronaldo was cup-tied after being at Real. Donovan wouldn’t be cup-tied.
Donovan can’t play even if he is at Bayern by then. Just like Ronaldo couldn’t play for AC Milan last year. They would have to had been on the team earlier…can’t remember the exact rule.
I have a suspicion that the non-EPL teams will do better than they have in years past against English teams. Everything seems to get more tense and full of pressure when you get to the quarters and semis, but the first knockout round might see continental European teams playing more free. I have nothing of substance to base this on, and all Champions League matches are full of pressure, but you’ve gotta think there is less anxiety about playing a big team in the round of 16 than in the semi-final or final.
When do teams have to submit their team sheets for the the next round of Champions League matches?
Or, in other words, how long will we have to wait to see if Jozy and Donovan are included for Villarreal and Bayern Munich, respectively?
Torres > Cannavaro
Rossi > Nihat > Llorente > Jozy
It seems like the big clubs all got matched against each other. Villareal or Bayern could go pretty far this year.
You have to include “Rafa v. Real Madrid”, the LFC manager has been linked to the Madrid job constantly over the past five seasons and his tactical acumen is much stronger in the CL, compared to the PL, especially when playing Spanish clubs.
This is an amazingly interesting draw from a PL fans perspective. Manure-Inter is mouthwatering, Chelsea-Juve has the makings of a great tie (but could be incredibly defensive and dull), Arsenal and Roma play some of the most free-flowing attacking football on the continent, and LFC-RM has the Rafa returning home story line. Barca-Lyon should also be very entertaining…
What about Claudio Ranieri’s first game against Chelsea since getting fired?
Anybody else find it interesting that the big match ups all involve an EPL team? Any chance UEFA is trying to avoid a repeat of the all EPL final of last year? Imagine if all of them advance!