There were some tasty, some would say succulent, draws in the Champions League yesterday. Milan-Barcelona have both won the tournament within the last decade, and although Milan are at the bottom of the trough at the moment, this tie will be a huge attraction for those of us who like our football tinged with history.
Real Madrid will travel to Manchester for the second time this season as both teams look to reclaim former European eminence. Porto-Malaga is not one that sets pulses racing but it is a token of an often-discussed concept at this level. Malaga are a fine side but are new to the competition, Porto come from a less-illustrious league but are steeped in Champions League heritage. Do you need to learn how to play in this tournament or were UK TV commentators making excuses for the failure of the English champions? Not sure but I fancy Porto to progress.
Arsenal have the daunting prospect of Bayern Munich. The German champions are clear at the top of the league which produced three group stage winners. They are also still self-flagellating after dropping the ball against English opposition in May. Beating Arsenal will not mend those wounds but it will be an absolute must for Bayern.
I watched a bit of Shakhtar Donetsk during the group stage; they are a very skilful team. Borussia Dortmund will not enjoy their trip to Ukraine, I expect Shakhtar to progress.
Valencia are not enjoying the best of seasons but although Paris Saint Germain are now top of Ligue 1 I think they are set for a fall in the Champions League. PSG may have enough to get past Valencia but if we make it to the quarters I would be happy to face them.
Galatasaray sit alongside Celtic as rank outsiders at the bookmakers, never a bad place to lurk at this stage of the competition. Schalke are tighter odds than Milan (7th in Serie A) and Valencia (11th in La Liga) perhaps because of the ‘kind’ draw. There will be at least one team in the quarter finals we would fancy our chances with.
The immediate challenge for Neil Lennon is to keep his players’ focus on tomorrow’s game against Ross County. It took an injury time equaliser to earn a point for Celtic against County earlier in the season, so nothing can be taken for granted.
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