The draw for the first knockout round has just been made in Switzerland and this is how it looks for the English clubs:
AC Milan v Spurs
Arsenal v Barcelona
Olympique Marseille v Manchester United
FC Copenhagen v Chelsea
On paper, it looks as if Chelsea have the ‘easiest’ tie, but Copenhagen are unbeaten in the league and eliminated Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos in the Group Stage. Manchester United shouldn’t have too much trouble with Marseille, who are currently four points behind surprise leaders OSC Lille in Ligue 1 and have only won three of their eight away games in the league this season.
It’s not looking too good for either Spurs or Arsenal though – AC Milan are six points clear in Serie A and are currently on a seven game unbeaten streak in the league, although it’s probably worth pointing out that they lost 2-0 to Ajax in the last group game and Italian football isn’t what it used to be.
Barcelona are arguably the one side nobody wanted, once again they look unbeatable at the Camp Nou and if the Gunners aren’t at their absolute best they may find themselves watching the latter stages at home.
Of the other ties, the most interesting one is the repeat of last season’s final – Bayern Munich’s form in the Bundesliga has been patchy at best this season, so they seem to have devoted the rest of the season to the Champions League. The same can be said of Inter, but Rafa Benitez is under a lot of pressure at the moment and might not even be manager by the time these clubs meet.
If you fancy a punt on any of our teams, the best price for Chelsea is 5/1. Arsenal are currently available at 25/1, but – not surprisingly – Â the bookies favourites are Barcelona at 9/4.
I’ll update the post with the Europa League games when I’ve got the details.