The UEFA Champions’ League Second Round draw took place on Monday, and football’s greatest club competition again produced some mouth-watering fixtures for Europe’s top clubs.
Of the eight games, the draw produced two standout ties between European heavyweights, both featuring English clubs. In a repeat of the same stage of last season’s competition, Premier League leaders Arsenal play home and away ties with current European
Champions FC Bayern Munich. The German treble winners achieved a 3-1 victory over the Gunners last season at the Emirates, however Arsenal will be buoyed and confident after a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture in their last meeting, and a very fast start to the first half of this Premier League season. Arsenal will take heart from their much stronger defensive unit displayed so far and be looking forward to February’s tie.
Undoubtedly the other tie of the round features a first ever competitive meeting between Spanish champions Barcelona and the free flowing Manchester City. The first names out of the hat, on current form we should be treated to a very even and exciting contest between the two clubs. The array of stars on show will mean the two games will be ones to savor, with the in form Sergio Aguero and his international teammate Lionel Messi both expected to recover from injury to lead their teams into the games.
Having both finished top of their respective groups, Manchester United and Chelsea were drawn in to much kinder fixtures. Manchester United will travel to tournament outsiders and Greek champions Olympiakos and be expected to qualify for the quarterfinals, with time to improve their league form to take in to the games. Chelsea hero Didier Drogba will make a fairytale return to his former club after his current team, Galatasaray were drawn with the Blues. Stamford Bridge is sure to give the Ivorian a warm reception when he returns on March 18th after his last kick of a ball for the club was to win this very competition in 2012.
In form Atletico Madrid travel to Milan in the first leg of their second round match, and the re-emerging Spanish giants are favoured to progress over Mario Balotelli’s AC Milan. Balotelli will be looking to turn around the fortunes of his side who have yet to hit top gear in Europe or domestically, and the tie against the Spaniards will be very interesting should Milan be able to improve.
Atletico’s local counterparts Real Madrid were drawn with German club Schalke 04, who finished as runners up in Group E. Ballon d’Or favourite Cristiano Ronaldo is a record scorer in the competition so far, with his total of nine goals in six matches the all time record for that stage of the competition. Ronaldo will be backed to add to his tally in both fixtures with the team from Gelsenkirchen as he bids to help Real to their 10th European crown.
Ronaldo is closely followed in the scoring charts by Paris Saint-Germain captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the Swede will lead his team into a tie with Bayer Leverkusen. The 32 year old has eight goals to his name so far in this season’s competition, and like Ronaldo is expected to contribute more goals to the PSG cause as they look to move to the quarterfinal stage.
The final fixture of the draw sees Zenit St Petersburg paired up with last season’s finalists Borussia Dortmund. Zenit qualified from the group stages with six points, the lowest qualifying points total in the history of the competition, and know that they will have to improve in order to match up to Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Champions League, Second Round: Full Fixture List:
Manchester City vs Barcelona (February 18, reverse fixture March 12)
Bayer Leverkusen vs Paris SG (February 18, reverse fixture March 12)
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich (February 19, reverse fixture March 11)
AC Milan vs Atletico Madrid (February 19, reverse fixture March 11)
Olympiakos vs Manchester United (February 25, reverse fixture March 19)
Zenit vs Borussia Dortmund (February 25, reverse fixture March 19)
Galatasaray vs Chelsea (February 26, reverse fixture March 18)
Schalke vs Real Madrid (February 26, reverse fixture March 18)
What is the biggest tie of the second round? Who will progress from each fixture?