The final part of my preview of the Champions League round of 16, starting with the match-up of the rocks and diamonds Arsenal versus German Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.
Arsenal versus Bayern Munich:
Arsenal are a team that deliver pain and elation to their supporters in equal measure. On the one hand they can rip teams apart and play to their true potential, and on the other hand they play so atrociously one wonders how they have such a reputable name to begin with.
The Gunners qualified second out of their group behind Schalke and will be in the round of 16 for their third straight season. They will look to go one better this year when they face Bayern.
Domestically, their season has been less than impressive. They currently find themselves ranked only sixth in the English Premiership, which doesn’t sound too bad if you consider that they are only four points adrift of fourth placed Tottenham.
This fixture elicits a lot of interest because of the distinct German flavour that it brings. Arsenal feature two of Germany’s top players in Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker.
Bayern are in ridiculous form this year. It seems, much the same as with Manchester United, Dortmund’s two-year hold on the Bundesliga trophy has done nothing but stir up a hornets’ nest.
Bayern are 12 points clear of Dortmund at the top of their domestic table, with 16 wins out of a possible 20, three draws and only a single loss.
Striker Mario Mandzukic has left Mario Gomez in his shadow, banging in goals almost at will and currently sits on 14 at the top of the goal scorers list.
This team sports a solid midfield in Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller and one of the world’s best Goalkeepers in Manuel Neuer.
Last year’s finals disappointment at home will be lingering with them, especially as they made the finals twice in three years and came away with nothing.
Their intent for this season is clear, their shock 3 – 1 loss away to BATE Borisov being the only blip on the radar in the last few months.
Prediction: Bayern to progress.
Valencia versus Paris Saint-Germain:
Valencia qualified from an easy group, yes Bayern may have been in this group as well, but other than the German giants they had little else to contend with in BATE Borisov and Lille. Neither of these two teams were ever going to trouble the Spaniards.
Valencia finished Group F on level points scoring as Bayern München, but second as Bayern had more wins.
Valencia, although a decent La Liga team, don’t really bring much to the table in this draw. They are currently sixth in their domestic competition and don’t really have big names to boast of, not that that matters when you consider they play with heart.
They play a good solid brand of Spanish football, but it is more suited to the lower tier Europa League and I don’t see them having much success against a team like PSG.
In PSG they will face a French team that has everything a typical top European Football team boasts. World famous players and money. Hard to argue against the obvious.
PSG are an exciting team this season. They are currently ranked first in their domestic league, three points clear of Lyon. They qualified for the round of 16 on the back of five wins and a single defeat away to Porto, Dynamo Kyiv and Dinamo Zagreb. It is just a testament to their strength that made winning those matches look so easy.
PSG undoubtedly made the coup de gras on the footballing world, when the curtain fell on the January transfer window and they netted Goldenballs himself, David Beckham. Unfortunately for them he won’t be available for the first leg, but he will be available for the second.
Beckham’s return to CL football is fantastic, and at his age he has lost none of his class. He is still such an exciting player to watch, and his experience will be invaluable for a team that last featured in the Champions League way back in 2004/05.
Then they only made it to the group stages and if you want to consider knockout, the last time they featured was 1994/95, making it to the semi-finals.
Beckham isn’t the only danger man in this team, ex AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in sublime form, netting 20 goals in the domestic league. It will be very interesting to watch how these two link up, Beckham with his pinpoint passes and Zlatan for his finishing prowess.
Prediction: PSG to progress.