The Round of 16 of the 2012-2013 season of the UEFAChampions League offers more entertaining clashes than usual, both from currentform and historical point of view. As always, some matches stand out more thanothers. Manchester United vs. Real Madrid, Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich and ACMilan vs. Barcelona.
For obvious reasons or not, all eyes would be focused on theclash between Manchester United and Real Madrid. The clubs have more than thesecond best player in the world in common; they also have two of the mostoutspoken and entertaining managers in soccer. First thing that comes to mindis Jose Mourinho’s victory sprint at Old Trafford when his Porto, which he thencoached, eliminated Man United in 2004.
There are even rumors that the Mourinho will be ruling OldTrafford once Sir Alex Ferguson retires (whenever that might be). The SpecialOne never denied his desire to go back coaching in the Premier League and therelationship between the two has always been friendly and respectful. Thiselimination round won’t be an audition for Mourinho, although many may look atthe game as one.
It’s more likely that this round would be an audition forMourinho to stay at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Real Madrid is currently thirdin La Liga with 33 points in 17 matches. That is seven points behind Atleticoin second and 16 points trailing the top team in La Liga and archrivalBarcelona.
The more evident reason as to why this match would be one ofthe books (other than simply the recognizable and glamorous names of bothteams) is Cristiano Ronaldo. The superstar striker will be facing his formerteam for the very first time since he left Manchester for Madrid in 2009.
In the second most anticipated matchup, AC Milan had the badluck, according to several media outlets, drawing arguably the best team in theworld. Barcelona played the Rossoneri last season in the group stage and againin the quarterfinals. AC Milan did not win even once.
This big clash is not so interesting in terms of starplayers. There are no obvious or long-term rivalries among the players now thatZlatan Ibrahimovic is in Paris. However, Barcelona and AC Milan have been teamrivals since 1959 on this international stage. AC Milan has not beaten theCatalan side since 2004. The superior team is obvious in this matchup but it’sworth pointing out that the Rossoneri have been getting better and that if forany reason Lionel Messi is not his 100 percent during the game, Barcelona couldbe in big trouble. AC Milan is, after all, the team with the second most titlesfrom football's premier club competition. As ESPN points out, between them,these two clubs have won five of the past 10 European Cups.
The third on the list of “do not miss this game under anycircumstances” is Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich. The clubs don’t have a longChampions League history and no team really dominates the stats. Everyone’sfirst thought is that the Gunners have had a bad season so far in the PremierLeague as opposed to the Bavarians who seem to have completely forgotten abouttheir heartbreaking and recent two Champions League finals. They are currentlyway ahead every other team in the Bundesliga. However, Arsenal have beenperforming well in the group stage of the Champions League this season andtheir attacking style in England have helped them gain more confidence andpoints as well.
The obvious connection between the two clubs is LukasPodolski. The German veteran striker had spent three seasons in Munich prior tomoving to London this season from Cologne. Podolski certainly has something toprove against his old team and his recent goal against Newcastle on Saturdayonly gives him momentum. The match would be interesting to watch also becauseof the managers and it’s not because the game is viewed as potentially “job-saving”for Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger. According to reports, this season is the last forBayern’s boss Jupp Heynckes. The Bavarians have in the past tried to lureWenger to Munich. Rumors will certainly renew but given his shaky position inLondon, fewer people may be surprised if the gossips actually get confirmed.
All Round of 16matches:
Galatasaray AŞ (TUR) v FC Schalke 04 (GER)
Celtic FC (SCO) v Juventus (ITA)
Arsenal FC (ENG) v FC Bayern München (GER)
FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) v Borussia Dortmund (GER)
ACMilan (ITA) v FC Barcelona (ESP)
Real Madrid CF (ESP) v Manchester United FC (ENG)
Valencia CF (ESP) v Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA)
FCPorto (POR) v Málaga CF (ESP)
Video courtesy of TyT Sports