Tuesday’s issue covered the first half of the Last 16 matchups. This time, we will focus on the remaining four matchups. These matchups will have their first games on either February 25 or 26 and the second leg matches on either March 18 or 19.
Olympiacos vs. Manchester United
This matchup seems fairly straightforward, as Manchester United would be expected to easily see off their Greek opposition, but at this stage in Champions League soccer, nothing is for certain. Olympiacos managed to finish their group second, ahead of Portuguese powerhouses Benfica, which itself may have come as a surprise to most. This goes to show that they should not be taken lightly. They currently sit comfortably in first place in the Greek Super League, having tied only twice in 21 matches. Their Champions League group stage performance went fairly well, collecting 10 points. But it is important to note that they lost twice to Paris Saint-Germain, who are of the same caliber as Manchester United. This is not a good sign for Olympiacos heading into the Last 16.
Manchester United continue to have an inconsistent run in the Premier League. Furthermore, they were eliminated from the FA Cup. In the Champions League, they have collected 14 points in the group stage. While United’s performances have slightly picked up form in the Premier League, they are still losing to the better teams in the league, like Tottenham and Chelsea. Thus, one can never completely trust Manchester United in getting the result they need this season.
With that said, Olympiacos is not Tottenham or Chelsea, and United have had a more consistent run in the Champions League. Even if Olympiacos may cause a slight scare among United fans, Manchester United will come out on top in the end of the two legs.
Galatasaray vs. Chelsea
Galatasaray have advanced to the Last 16 two years in a row now. Last year, they had faced off against Schalke and had come out on top. This year their opponents are the star-studded Chelsea managed by Jose Mourinho. Chelsea are in third place and right within range of first place in the Premier League. They’ve lost only twice in the Champions League, both times to Basel, and collected 12 points. They’ve scored 56 goals and conceded 23 in the Champions League and Premier League combined. They’ve had their fair share of big wins in their latest matches, including a decisive 3-1 win over Manchester United and a 1-0 win over Manchester City.
Galatasaray managed to overcome Juventus with a late goal by Wesley Sneijder to see them through to the next round, while Juventus had to settle with third. Galatasaray have had an inconsistent form in the Turkish League and the Champions League. Ever since Roberto Mancini took over the managerial role, Galatasaray have converted to the 3-5-2 formation. Although they reaped its benefits in the Champions League game against Juventus, they have also seen that same tactic fail them time after time. Mancini’s Galatasaray got four points out of the two Juventus matchups, but lost 4-1 to Real Madrid. (The first loss to Real Madrid was during Fatih Terim’s reign). In the Turkish League they’ve used a variety of formations, and although they’ve won most of their home games, they’ve tied most of their away games. That being said, an away tie would definitely be in favor for Galatasaray. Chelsea should be especially cautious about playing in Istanbul because Galatasaray utterly dominate when playing at home. Galatasaray do have their own arsenal of weapons with players like Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder. The Dutchman, especially, has been in phenomenal form recently. If Galatasaray continue playing the way did in their recent 6-0 win in the Turkish league over Bursaspor, then Galatasaray do have a good shot at the next round. This draw seems to be leaning towards Chelsea, but one can never be sure what exactly to expect from Galatasaray, who have their own star power as well. Chelsea is more likely to qualify for the quarterfinals, but don’t count out Galatasaray just yet.
Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Borussia Dortmund
This is one of the more interesting draws in the Champions League Last 16. Dortmund finished first in a group where the first three teams all had 12 points (with Arsenal finishing second and Napoli finishing third and failing to advance to the Last 16), and Zenit finished in their own group with only six points. Some may argue that this was unfair, but luck is also part of the reality of soccer.
Dortmund are currently third in the Bundesliga with 36 points and are four points behind second place Bayer Leverkusen. They had a tough group but managed to come out on top. Zenit, on the other hand, despite doing well in their own league at first place with 40 points, have struggled throughout the Champions League. They have managed to get only one win during the entire group stage and tied three times. Although Zenit have important players like Hulk and Danny, Dortmund are the better team overall, as reflected by their results in the Champions League. With their fans behind them, Dortmund will surely qualify to the next round.
Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid
Real Madrid have recently gained large amounts of momentum in the Spanish La Liga. They have caught up to Barcelona and are within reach of Atletico Madrid. They also finished the Champions League group stage with 16 points. Their lethal weapons, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, manage to delight soccer fans all over the world with fantastic goals every week as long as they manage to stay healthy. In fact, Gareth Bale had recently suffered an injury, but it will be a thing of the past by the time Madrid face Schalke. Real Madrid are still the same old Real Madrid with the same star power and raw talent.
Schalke 04, on the other hand, are currently in fourth position in the Bundesliga and finished second in their Champions League group with 10 points. They suffered two losses in the group stage, both at the hands of Chelsea, an opponent that is on par with Real Madrid. Schalke has an inconsistent league form, and the fact that they could not compete with star-studded teams like Bayern Munich (lost 4-0 in the first half of the season) in the Bundesliga and Chelsea in the Champions League only adds to their list of disadvantages against Real Madrid. Even if Schalke could put up a challenge for Real Madrid, Real Madrid will be the ones to advance to the next round.