Barcelona topped their group after a convincing victory over PSG and now are all set to face the challenge of the knock-out rounds. Having topped their group Barca could now face Arsenal, Manchester City, Schalke, Shaktar, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen or Basel in the round of 16.
The draws for the UEFA Champions League round of 16 will take place in Nyon, Switzerland on the 15th of December, Monday at 12:00 PM CET. The next round of the UEFA Champions League is set to kick-off in February.
With the building anxiety over who among the mentioned 7 sides will be Barca’s first knock-out round opponent, we perform a sneak peek into their teams.
This is the tenth year in a row that the London side have made it past the group stage into the knockout round. This year, they feature the ex-Barca striker, Alexis Sanchez who is the driving force behind a motivated Arsenal this season.
Arsenal’s league form hasn’t been much remarkable lately. They are in the 6th place thirteen points behind league leaders Chelsea. In stark contrast, Arsenal have performed quite well in Europe leading Anderlecht and Galatasaray along with managing a first place tie with Dortmund. They qualify second from the group only on the basis of goal difference.
Arsenal haven’t made it past the round of 16 since 2010. But with the likes of Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and the injured Ozil they are capable of giving Barcelona a tough fight.
FC BASEL :
The Swiss side have shown ample of determination in making it past the group stage. Paulo Sousa’s team have managed to keep themselves at the top of the Swiss Super League along with a place in the knockout phase of the Champions League heading into Christmas. The praiseworthy fact is that they have managed to do this despite of the loss of some of the key players.
Basel have had a good performance in the group stage of the Champions League having snatched four points from Liverpool beating them at home and drawing the game at Anfield. Elsewhere they have failed against Madrid in both the legs while winning both the games to Ludogorets.
Bayer Leverkusen have been thriving in the shadows of the German giants in Bayern Munchen and Dortmund waiting for an opportunity to showcase themselves at the continental level. This year they are sitting fourth place in the Bundesliga and have made it through to the knockout phases sealing the second spot in group C behind Monaco and ahead of Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg and Portuguese powerhouses Benfica.
The team’s top scorers this season Bellarabi, Çalhanoglu and Son have excelled brilliantly in coach Roger Schmidt’s offensive system.
Owing to some unlucky defeats they sit 13 points behind Bayern in the league.
The Manchester Blues could again see themselves meeting the Blaugranes in the round of 16 like the previous year. For Barcelona, this side is quite familiar to the side they met last year with players like Kompany, Milner, Kolarov, David Silva, Dzeko, Nasri, ex-Barca player Yaya Toure. City also boast the new additions into their squads in Lampard and Mangala.
A blow to Pellegrini’s team is the injury to the in-form striker Aguero. The Argentine scored against Bayern in the last minute which earned the Blue side of Manchester a do-or-die win. This win was then followed by a 2-0 victory over Roma.
This team’s best run in the Champions League this century has come in the 2010-2011 season where they reached the Semis to be knocked-out by United eventually. For the last couple of years this team has found itself stuck in the round of 16. Last season saw them make it to the quarter finals only to be thrashed by a rampant Real Madrid. A notable fact in this fixture was a world-class goal from a pure world-class striker, Klas-Jaan Huntelaar.
A 1-0 win against Maribor helped them snatch a second place from Lisbon and make it to the knock-out phase of the Champion’s League.
This year their team additionally boasts two upcoming stars in Julian Draxler and Max Meyer and also world-class defenders , Benedikt Howedes and Kevin Prince Boateng, who have completed their stints in AC Milan.
Despite of political tensions in Ukraine which led to the moving of their clubs home away from the East of Ukraine, this team has shown valour in the Champions League by drawing the game at group leader Porto’s home to earn 9 points in their group and an advantage over Athletic Club Bilbao for making it to the knock-out phase.
Mircea Lucescu who has been in charge of the Ukrainian outfit has man managed a combination of home-grown Ukrainians and Brazilians, including Bernard, Douglas Costa and the amazing Luiz Adriano who has scored 9 goals in the group stages this season to tie the record set by Cristiano Ronaldo last season.
The Italian giants have won the Serie A three times in a row and this season they are carrying the tag of defending champions. Massimiliano Allegri’s side have experienced players in Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Patrice Evra. The experience in this team is glued and gelled fabulously to the talents of Carlos Tevez, Paul Pogba, Fernando Llorente, Claudio Marchisio and the credit of this chemistry most accounts due to the brilliance of the midfielder Andrea Pirlo.
But at the continental stage, this side has clearly underachieved. In the 2012-2013 season, they were knocked out by Bayern Munchen in the quarter-finals. The 2013-2014 season was more disappointing as they were dropped into the Europa league owing to the group stage third place where they could only go as far as the Europa League third round.
Despite their dominance in Italy they haven’t been much of a force in Europe this season either. In the last group game against Atletico Madrid they could’ve either made it to the top of the group or be eliminated depending on the final score, such was the unpredictability of the side’s form. But a defensive-minded Italian side finally managed to finish second and make it to the knock-out phase to be potentially eligible to face Barca.
As we head closer and closer to the draws for the next round, we can assure only one thing, the road to the quarter finals isn’t as easy for Barcelona with the hurdles mentioned above.