Knock-out – The Last 16

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar December 18, 2015 21:26

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Knock-out – The Last 16

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (December 14th 2015)

Pressure

Yet again Chelsea drew Paris Saint-Germain – the third year in succession that the mega-rich clubs have met at this stage. Both managers José Mourinho and Laurent Blanc have their own woes to contend with. The worst ever start to a season in Mourinho’s career has piled the pressure on the Chelsea boss. Elimination at the last 16 stage could well spell the end for Mourinho’s second spell in charge of Chelsea if he lasts that long.

Meanwhile, Blanc is under pressure too. PSG dominates Ligue Un, but despite the huge spending, they have failed to impress in the Champion’s League. PSG is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, which was founded by Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in 2005. Blanc knows that QIA’S patience is not indefinite. The first leg is in Paris on February 16th. Chelsea will not want repetition of last season’s racism on the Paris Metro Incident either. The return fixture will be at Stamford Bridge on March 9th.

Benfica – Bela Guttmann’s Curse notwithstanding – face’ Zenit St Petersburg. The Portuguese coach failed deliver silverware in England despite an impressive beginning with Porto. In his first full season in charge in the former capital of Russia, Villas-Boas won the league. He will leave Zenit at the end of this season.

Genk’s reward, in their first Champion’s League campaign, for eliminating Valencia is to play VfL Wolfsburg on February 17th. The Bundesliga outfit’s victory in the last group stage match consigned group favourites Manchester United to the Europa League. After being outclassed by defending champions Barçelona in the group stage, Roma’s reward is to pit their wits against Rafa Benítez Maudes’ Real Madrid. The return legs will be played in Germany and Spain respectively on March 8th.

Favourites

Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal produced a performance when it mattered in Piraeus. Olympiacos dropped down to the Europa League and Arsenal earned the reward of a tie against Luis Enrique’s treble winners from last season. The first leg will be at the Emirates Stadium on February 23rd with the return in Catalunya on March 16th. Lionel Messi’s recent return from injury will make Barçelona an even tougher proposition.

The punishment for Juventus’ slip up against Sevilla in the last group stage match is that last season’s beaten finalist will have to overcome former Barça boss Pep Guardiola’s current charges Bayern München. Juventus’ misfortune is Manchester City’s gain.

The Citizens will face Serhiy Rebrov’s Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukraine’s capital on February 24th, but it will be behind closed doors as Dynamo has been punished by UEFA with a three match stadium ban – one suspended for three years – and a €100,000 fine for a racist attack on four Chelsea fans during the group stage. Meanwhile, Diego Simeone will take his Atlético de Madrid to Eindhoven. PSV will visit the Vicente Calderón on March 15th. Manchester City will seek to advance to the quarter-finals that night at the Etihad Stadium.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar December 18, 2015 21:26
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