Champions League 17/18 Last 16 Draw

The draw has been made for the Last 16 of the Champions League.

Juventus V Tottenham Hotspur

An interesting looking tie. Spurs topped their group (arguably surprisingly) and have been rewarded with a tie against a traditional European powerhouse. A tie that could go all the way to penalties, but I think Juventus will be able to find a way to progress.

Basel V Manchester City

Manchester City will have too much firepower for Basel and will qualify for the Quarter Finals. I would expect them to qualify quite comfortably.

Porto V Liverpool

I would expect Liverpool’s front four to overwhelm Porto and secure their passage to the Quarter Finals. However, Liverpool’s defensive issues give Porto a chance and it is unlikely to be as comfortable as Liverpool would hope.

Sevilla V Manchester United

A tricky tie for Manchester United, but I expect Mourinho to mastermind a victory across the two legs. I think they will qualify by the odd goal in the tie.

Real Madrid V Paris Saint Germain

PSG’s reward for topping their group is a Last 16 clash against the defending champions. It’s definitely the tie of the round as strong arguments could be made for either team winning the competition. Both teams have an abundance of attacking talents, but I think Real’s defence is slightly stronger and this will be enough for them to edge past PSG.

Shakhtar Donetsk V Roma

A trip to Ukraine is always tricky, but I expect that Roma will have enough over the two games to qualify for the Quarter Finals.

Chelsea V Barcelona

If Conte is serious about Chelsea being out of the title race, they may focus on the Champions League, making them dangerous opponents. Barcelona are not quite the force they have been in the past, but I think they will be able to get past Chelsea.

Bayern Munich V Besiktas

Turkey can be a difficult place to visit for teams in the Champions League, but I can see Bayern Munich heading there with a comfortable lead that will see them progress.

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Falcao or Aguero

Manchester City won the first leg of their Champions League tie against Monaco 5-3, but who scored the best goal: Falcao or Aguero?

Olympiakos 0-3 Arsenal

A hat-trick from Olivier Giroud inspired Arsenal to victory and qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League as they claimed second spot in Group F at the expense of Olympiakos. Arsenal started on the back foot, with Olympiakos getting some early pressure. However, Arsenal came into the game and by the 15th minute were starting to pose a threat themself; they didn’t look back from there. Giroud’s first came after a wonderful reverse pass from Mesut Ozil, who found Aaron Ramsey to the left of the cross; Giroud headed Ramsey’s cross towards the near post and although Roberto got a hand to it, the ball bounced up, hit his head and went into the net.

Arsenal kept their lead until half time and extended it in the 49th minute; some excellent close control from Joel Campbell and an incisive pass allowed Giroud to fire into the far post, moments after it looked like he might have to come off injured. The second goal put Arsenal up into second in the group, but a goal from Olympiakos would have changed all that. Arsenal secured victory and qualification with a penalty in the 67th minute. Omar Elabdellaoui slid to stop a shot from Nacho Monreal and the ball hit his arm, with the referee (harshly, in my opinion) awarding a penalty. Giroud duly dispatched the spot kick, sending Roberto the wrong way.

Before the match, much was made of the dead ball play of Olympiakos, but only one corner forced a save from Petr Cech (and that was from a header that was straight at him). Many set pieces, particularly early on, seemed to either be played short or delivered outside the box.

Arsenal are now in the knockout stages for the 16th consecutive season and will await the draw with interest. They will not be able to play Manchester City, Chelsea or Bayern Munich, so will play either Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg or Zenit St Petersburg; I am sure that if given the choice, they would opt for Zenit, which appears to be the easiest draw on paper.

Juventus 1-0 Manchester City

Juventus claimed top spot of Group D and secured their qualification for the last 16 with a match left following a 1-0 victory over Manchester City. Juventus started well, but Manchester City soon came into the game and Fernandinho wasted their best chance of the half with a wildly struck shot over the crossbar. Moments later, a cross from Alex Sandro found Mario Mandzukic unmarked at the far post and he sidefooted a volley past Joe Hart and into the net. Manchester City appealed for a foul by Mandzukic (who looked around after the ball went into the net), but the goal was allowed to stand.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first of Manchester City seeming to have more of the ball, but Juventus looking more likely to score. A header from Fernando following a corner hit the post and was claimed by Gianluigi Buffon and Raheem Sterling, who came on as a substitute, connected poorly with a cross and it went wide for a corner after a deflection; besides these two chances, little of real note was created. Juventus came close to doubling their lead when Morata lifted the ball over an onrushing Hart, but Sturaro could only hit the post with his touch as he tried to divert it goalwards.

Whilst Manchester City had 59% of the ball, they created relatively little that was threatening on the Juventus goal and Buffon, with the exception of the header tipped onto the post and some poor backpasses from the defence, had quite a quiet evening. Juventus will top the group if the avoid defeat in their final game against Sevilla, which could result in Manchester City facing Barcelona in the last 16 for the third consecutive season. It must a concern for Pellegrini that the team seems to rely on Aguero for goals, is currently short of striking options and didn’t look like scoring throughout the game.

Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb

Arsenal set up a decisive final match against Olympiakos in Greece in Group F of the Champions League following a comfortable victory over Dinamo Zagreb. Arsenal were in control from the start, with Zagreb spending a lot of time in their half and unable to relieve the pressure for any extended period of time, but Arsenal were unable to create many chances as Eduardo remained untested. Arsenal broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when a cross from Alexis Sanchez was met by Mesut Ozil with a diving header from 6 yards out. Arsenal doubled their lead 5 minutes later when a poor Zagreb clearance was picked up by Monreal and he crossed for Sanchez to pass the ball into the far corner.

Arsenal remained in control through the second half, although Zagreb did create a few more chances. Sanchez added Arsenal’s third by rounding the keeper and firing into the roof of the net in the 69th minute. Arsenal came close to adding a fourth after a delightful chip from Sanchez, but Ozil’s deft backheader just went wide.

For Arsenal to qualify, they need to travel to Greece and beat Olympiakos, a tough ask but one they are capable of. Following the first fixture between the two (which Olympiakos won 3-2) means that Arsenal need to win by two goals (or one if they score three or more). Arsenal will need as good a performance as the one against Zagreb to qualify; if not, they will be competing in the Europa League.

Paris Saint Germain 0-0 Real Madrid

The clash between the top two teams in Group A ended in a goalless draw, with few chances throughout. Both sides seemed happy to take a point from the game, with neither side applying any prolonged periods of pressure throughout. The game promised much, but delivered little. Neither side appeared to want to take any risks and look to win the game, preferring to hope for a mistake from the opposing defence. With both teams on six points coming into the game and all but certain to qualify, it is surprising that they did not look to establish a commanding lead in the group, especially PSG who were at home. It was the worst game I have seen in the Champions League for quite a long time.

Arsenal 2-0 Bayern Munich

Despite Bayern Munich having 70% possession, Arsenal recorded their first victory in Group F of the Champions League and kept their hopes of qualifying alive. Bayern Munich started well and Cech was forced into a good save following a one-two moving the ball into the Arsenal area. However, the best chance of the half fell to Walcott, who had a header magnificently saved by Manuel Neuer. Munich continued pressing in the second half, but struggled to create clear-cut chances. Giroud opened the scoring in the 76th minute after coming on as a substitute; Neuer came out to collect a free kick, missed the ball and it hit Giroud and went into the net. Ozil completed the scoring in stoppage time, although it initially appeared that Neuer had produced another wonderful save after clawing the ball out, but the official behind the goal gave it as a goal, which replays confirmed.

Bayern controlled the ball well, but struggled to create clear-cut chances. Cech made a couple of good saves, but most were routine. In contrast, Arsenal allowed Bayern to have the ball and looked to hit them on the break, using the pace of Walcott. The tactic worked well and it will be interesting to see if Arsenal take the same approach in Germany and if they do, if Bayern will have a way of breaking them down.