In pretty much exactly 24 hours we’ll find out what this year’s round of 16 looks like. Is another Inter possible? Will Bayern play against the (based solely on reputation) weakest team of their CL year or will this turn out to be the season of death? Keep reading to find out who the potential opponents are.
First things first: For those of you who don’t exactly know how this works, you can’t play against a team you already faced at the group stage or a team that’s from the same country. In this case, it’s Napoli and Leverkusen, two teams we already know well enough, anyway. To avoid complaints or superiority complex discussions, I’ll proceed in alphabetical order.
- AC Milan
- The septuple champions of Europe struggled in the Champions League lately, having failed to get past the round of 16 since winning it all in 2007. But the former and probably soon-to-be Berlusconi club is back in business. After hoisting the Serie A trophy for the first time in almost a decade last season, many say that they’re one of the top 4 of this CL campaign (together with Barca, Madrid and Bayern). Up front, Milan is nothing but world-class, with coach Allegri having to decide between Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Alexandre Pato and Antonio Cassano. It goes without saying that they always use 2 strikers. Waiting right behind the two strikers is Kevin-Prince Boateng whose immense development has surprised pretty much everyone. If that offense ever loses the ball, you still have to beat the wall that is Mark van Bommel, Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta. Considering that Bayern has yet to win a competitive match against this club, Milan is an opponent I’d very much like to avoid.
- CSKA Moscow
- Underrated or lucky? It’s not easy to judge this CSKA side. Being runner-up in the Russian league isn’t a horrible result at all but on the other hand they only won two CL matches so far: at home against Trabzonspor and, due to a very late goal, against a very disinterested Inter. Add to this that the two CL matches in the round of 16 will be the only ones for the team between early December and early March and you can understand why many think the army club is one of the easier opponents available. Dangerous is the strike partnership of the veteran Vagner Love and the deadly Seydou Doumbia. Feeding them is Alan Dzagoev, one of Russia’s biggest talents. CSKA’s defense is pure experience: the Berezutski twins are the youngest at the age of 29. Between them you’ll find Sergei Ignashevich, 32 years old, and the protecting midfield is formed by Deividas Semberas (33) and Evgeni Aldonin (31) or, if one of them is injured, Elvir Rahimic (35). Too old to stop Ribery, Müller and Robben?
- FC Basel
- Oh, the surprise. Beating Galati at home? Even my grandma would’ve done that. A point in Manchester? Respect but now you lost your coach Thorsten Fink, a big loss as the disappointing result against Benfica confirms. That was about 6 weeks ago. Now they’re the heroes of Europe, led by Heiko Vogel. The Swiss FCB, on the way to an easy domestic title, eliminated one of the giants with dinosaurs such as Alexander Frei, Benjamin Huggel and Marco Streller. Turns out that old players aren’t that bad if you give them the neverending support of young guns such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Aleksandar Dragovic and Granit Xhaka. Still, the doubts remain. Are they just this year’s FC København? It’s impossible to say for sure but Basel seems to be the favorite possible opponent of many Bayern fans, even if it’s just for a comfortable travel route.
- Olympique Lyonnais
- Still remember them? If not, I hope your first year as Bayern fan is an enjoyable one. What can be said about this Lyon side? Ten days ago, they were all but eliminated after failing to score a single goal against a team not named Dinamo Zagreb. Turns out that they were only saving all of those for the second half in Croatia. A miraculous goal festival saved OL’s asses. In France, having already lost five league matches, they’re chasing Montpellier and PSG. Not unlike the next team, opinions on this squad’s strength differ.
- Olympique Marseille
- I just mentioned it, Marseille is arguably the most fickle of these teams. Eighth in Ligue 1 (it took them seven games to finally get three points), they survived a balanced, wild group F with quite some luck. The final match in Dortmund epitomizes that. I’d love to tell you much more about them but, quite frankly, I can’t. Very important players are Andre Ayew, Loic Remy and midget Mathieu Valbuena. Marseille can destroy other teams just as much as they can destroy themselves.
- Zenit St. Petersburg
- Last but not least, Zenit. Let’s get it out of the way: they kicked our asses in 2008. They’re a better version of CSKA (as the standings in Russia indicate). The offensive trinity of Danny, Danko Lazovic and Alexander Kerzhakov produces almost everything while the solid defensive back-four of team captain Aleksandr Anyukov, Bruno Alves, Nicolas Lombaerts and Domenico Criscito stops the opposing attackers. Unless I’m mistaken, this is Zenit’s first CL knockout stage appearance. What will be more influential? The potential nervousness or the advantage of Russia’s punishing winter? Wait and see.
My personal opinion? No Milan. Please, no Milan. Anything but Milan.
This of course means that Bayern will have to play against Milan.