UEFA: Champions League awaits four more ties in Round of 16
After the first four ties opened the Round of 16 phase in the UEFA Champions League last week it is the turn of the remaining four ties to take centre stage.
CHELSEA FC (England) v FC KØBENHAVN (Denmark)
It’s all going wrong for Chelsea at the moment; fifth in the English Premier League and effectively out of the title race along with a dismal elimination at home to Everton FC in last weekend’s FA Cup match means that the Blues from the King’s Road only have the UEFA Champions League left to play for. Even a clash against Danish champions and runaway Superliga leaders FC København seems a daunting prospect despite the fact that the Danes haven’t played a competitive fixture since their last group stage match against Panathinaikos in early December. FCK, who hold a nineteen point advantage over Odense Boldklub domestically, will hope that they can gain revenge on Chelsea after the London side knocked them out of the now-defunct Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1998-99 season.
FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany) v INTERNAZIONALE (Italy)
A repeat of last season’s final and a chance for German giants FC Bayern to gain revenge on the Italians who no longer have coach Jose Mourinho to inspire them to victory. Indeed a lot has changed since Internazionale became European champions last May; FIFA Club World Cup champions in December, two coaches have followed in the Special One’s footsteps and current occupant Leonardo, who replaced Rafael Benitez at the turn of the year, is doing a steady job and has guided the Nerazzurri to third in Serie A lying five points behind local enemies AC Milan. FC Bayern have also recovered in recent months after a less than impressive start to the season but the Muenchener still trail league leaders Borussia Dortmund by thirteen points. But having scored thirteen points in the six games played since the resumption of league action following the winter break, as well as reaching the domestic cup semi-final against fellow Champions League participants Schalke 04, the Bavarians are finding their form at the right time.
MANCHESTER UNITED (England) v OLYMPIQUE MARSEILLE (France)
It is a surprise that these two clubs have hardly ever faced each other in European competition so it will be intriging to see who comes out on top in this showdown. The last time these teams crossed paths was in the 1999-2000 group stage when both teams emerged triumphant in their respective home ties. English league leaders United are still in the hunt to emulate their 1998-99 Treble winning season and when the draw was made many saw this as a tie that the Red Devils could easily negotiate their way through. However the French side are in good form, winning four and drawing one in their last five Ligue 1 games, and lie in third place just three points behind leaders Lille OSC. With the Stade Velodrome being one of European football’s most intimidating arenas Sir Alex Ferguson’s men cannot afford to take this one lightly.
REAL MADRID (Spain) v OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (France)
Yet another episode in the continuing saga between Real Madrid, still hunting for a record extending tenth title in this competition nine years after winning their last, and Olympique Lyonnais who have been the scourge of los Blancos in recent years. The French side knocked Real Madrid out of the tournament at the same stage last season but hopes are high amongst the Spanish faithful that this is the time to finally break their duck against a team they’ve failed to beat in six attempts. Both clubs come into the match in good form with Real Madrid winning nine of their eleven league matches since suffering a heavy 5-0 reverse at the hands of arch-rivals FC Barcelona. Olympique Lyonnais have only lost once in their last seventeen matches in Ligue 1 (a 2-1 defeat to Valenciennes) but, with numerous draws in that run, the club lies only in fourth place.