Written by chas
When the draw was made for the group stage back in August, there was mixed reaction from the gooner faithful. Dortmund were deemed the strongest of the pot 4 teams and Otelul Galati perhaps the weakest. No surprise when Arsenal got Dortmund and the mancs were drawn with Otelul. Suggestions of United paying for an easy group were obviously wide of the mark (let’s hope they kept the receipt). The Mansour mercenaries seemed to have a tough group but most thought the £82m they spent in the summer to add to the £130m they spent the previous summer plus January would mean they would be strong enough to progress.
Esteemed blogger RA had a punt at the final 16 and was unlucky to predict only 9 of them correctly.
Who would have thought that both teams from the north west would get dumped into the Europa League and the London clubs in crisis would both finish top of their respective groups?
Today we could be drawn against FC Vaslui, FC Metalist Kharkiv……..no, hang on a minute, these are possible opponents for the Manche5ter teams in the Spursday Challenge Trophy. (draw to be held after the important business is finished)
The UEFA Champions League round of 16 draw in Nyon will be streamed live on UEFA.com from 11am GMT. Seeded group winners will be away in the round of 16 first legs on 14/15 and 21/22 February and at home in the return matches on 6/7 and 13/14 March. No team can play a club from their group or any side from the same association.
The draw for the remainder of the competition will be held on 16th March with the Champions League Final to be staged at the Allianz Arena München on 19th May 2012.
Our possible opponents in the Round of 16 are Napoli, CSKA, Basel, Lyon, Bayer Leverkusen, Zenit St Petersburg and AC Milan
Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli
Vanquishers of the Lancastrian Oilers, Napoli are the most successful club in Southern Italy. Reputed to have been joint-founded by two English sailors in the 1900s, the club was threatened with bankruptcy and extinction in 2004 until Neapolitan film producer Aurelio De Laurentis stumped up the cash to keep the SS Napoli afloat.
Napoli looked sharp in the group stage finishing behind Bayern on 11 points. Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani looked dangerous and is their current top scorer (El Cashico derby participants are both said to be interested). Both the stylish Slovakian Marek Hamsic and Argentinian Ezequiel Lavezzi also impressed, especially on the counter attack.
Would Naples be a delightful place to go in the early spring?
The ‘A’ in CSKA stands for Army but the club is no longer a section of the Russian military’s CSKA sports club. However the Russian Ministry of Defense is a still a CSKA shareholder and the club benefitted from a major cash injection from Sibneft (Abramovich) in 2004. Nicknamed ‘The Horses’ ( their first training facilities were located in a building previously used as a Prince Yusupov’s stable) or the ‘Army Men’, CSKA finished the group stage as runners up to Inter with 8 points with both Trabzonspor and Eden Hazard’s Lille close behind.
It is reported that CSKA have retired the shirt number 12 as the supporters are regarded as the club’s 12th man. Romanian Ianis Zicu is current top scorer.
How would Arsenal respond to a chilly trip to Moscow in late February?
Founded in 1893, FC Basel are one of the most successful clubs in Switzerland having a fierce rivalry with both Zurich teams (FC Zurich and Grasshoppers). In the 2001–02 season the club reached the UEFA Intertoto Cup final, losing to Aston Villa. One of the early club captains was Joan Gamper, who later founded FC Barcelona in Spain.
Basel played well at the Theatre of (Howard Webb’s wet) Dreams and perhaps should have won. Current top scorer is Alexander Frei and Fabian Frei has also chipped in with a couple of goals from midfield.
Basel knocking the mancs out the CL has to be one of the highlights of our shadenfreude season so far. Listening to Fergie’s voice mail the day after Basel’s victory may help you re-live the unbridled joy of that night.
Lyon only came to prominence in France in 2002 with their first Ligue 1 championship followed by an amazing six more successive titles. Managed by ex-gooner Remi Garde, Lyon are very popular in France on a similar level to PSG and only beaten in the popularity stakes by Marseille.
There was nothing dodgy at all about their 7-1 victory over Dinamo Zagreb, allied to Ajax’s 3-0 defeat to Madrid which resulted in Lyon’s qualification for the last 16. They are a classy French side who regularly develop players and then sell them on at a large profit.
Current players include Jimmy Briand who apparently makes a nice steak at his chateau and current top scorer Bafétimbi Gomis. Yoann Gourcuff runs their midfield and is often touted as a possible Wenger signing.
Maybe the short trip to France would be seen as a good draw for the Gunners?
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Leverkusen play at the BayArena which has the reputation of being one of the most family-friendly football stadiums in Germany. Ironically, Bayer 04 was the first Bundesliga club whose fans identified themselves as Ultras.
The club and their fans have started to be proud of their industrial origins, calling themselves “Werkself” (Engl. “Factory team”, “Millhanders”) or “Pillendreher” (Engl. “Tablet twisters”).
This, in response to taunts from fans of the traditional clubs who denounce Bayer Leverkusen as being a “plastic club”, without traditions or a committed fan base, existing solely as a creation of their rich pharmaceutical company sponsor – Bayer AG. (Engl. “shit club, no history”)
Leverkusen were runners up in group E to Roman’s gimcracks, pushing Valencia into 3rd. Top scorer this season is Eren Derdiyok who is a 6’ 3” Swiss striker of Turkish descent. Michael Ballack is still lumbering around in Leverkusen’s midfield looking haughty.
Perhaps another trip to Germany is in the offing to warm us up for a return trip in May?
Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit’s history is closely linked to the steel industry in Saint-Petersburg and the club seems to have resulted as a merger of several clubs including Leningradsky Metallichesky Zavod nicknamed the “Stalinets” (stal means steel in Russian) and the Zenit sports society which was the All-Union Voluntary Sports Society for workers of the arms industry.
So far Zenit’s finest achievement in Europe has been to win the UEFA cup in 2008 playing some fine football and beating Rangers in the final when the man of the match was declared as our very own, Andrei Arshavin.
They finished second to Apoel Nicosia in group G, perhaps the hardest group to call, with Porto reduced to Europa League football and Shakhtar Donetsk out of Europe altogether.
They are managed by an Italian, Luciano Spalletti and play at the magnificent-looking Petrovsky Stadium built on an island in the Neva River. (Looks lovely in the sun, might be a touch parky at the end of February)
Maybe this tie would spark our Russian powerpack back into life?
Milan was founded in 1899 by Nottingham-born lace-maker Herbert Kilpin and businessman Alfred Edwards among others.
Herbert in his Milan strip and Alfred carrying the match ball
The association with England resulted in the Cross of St George being incorporated into the Milan badge.
Milan has a squad full of household names and are currently a close third in Seria A. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on a good scoring run, aided and abetted by Robinho (when he gets a game) and Kevin-Prince Boateng amongst others.
I’m not sure who I’d prefer in the draw. When we reached the final in 2006, we drew Real Madrid in the last 16, so who knows?
Looks like a fine stadium to visit!