Soccer fans have been made to wait since early December for Champions League games, but now that wait is over.
Next week, there will be four Champions League games (two on Tuesday, two on Wednesday) that will kick off the round of 16. Although the match-ups were decided through random drawing, I don’t think anyone could have chosen better games. Almost everyone got matched up with a team of about equal strength (with the possible exception of Stuttgart, who has to play defending champions Barcelona). There are so many games to watch in this round that I’m honestly not sure which game I’m most excited about. For right now, though, I’ll talk a little about the games coming up next week.
Fiorentina vs. Bayern Munich: Both teams were once home to powerhouse Italian striker Luca Toni, who left Munich this year to join AS Roma. Both are struggling this year to match the kind of performance they’re used to. After several disappointing Champion’s League performances by Bayern in recent years and after a year spent by Fiorentina struggling to find wins, both teams will be out to prove something.
Lyon vs. Real Madrid: After snatching up Lyon’s top striker, Karim Benzema, and spending a boatload of money on record-breaking transfers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká, Real Madrid has actually had a pretty disappointing season. Despite consistently winning in the Spanish league, they are still five points behind FC Barcelona. To top it all off, they were eliminated from the Spanish Cup by third division nobodies: Alcorón. Real Madrid needs to succeed in the Champions League in order to avoid being classified as a massive waste of money. Last time these two teams played, it was in 2006 and it ended tied at four. It was one of the most entertaining games I have ever watched and solidified my love of the sport.
Arsenal vs. Porto: Porto has dominated the Portuguese league since the early 2000’s. They have won it seven times in the last eight years, and they are the only Portuguese team to have won the Champions League since the early 1960s. This year, though, they are lagging in third place and need something to pick up the fans’ spirits. Arsenal, on the other hand, is clearly the favorite, despite never having had won a Champions League.
Manchester United vs. AC Milan: In preparation for this game, you hear one name mentioned over and over: David Beckham. Since moving away from Manchester United in 2003, Beckham has yet to face his former team until now. Much of the hype (too much, in my opinion) around this match has focused on its potential emotional impact on Beckham, who vowed to play his all, but not to celebrate should he score against Man U. Both teams are looking good recently, and highly different styles of play should make this game an especially interesting one to watch.
That’s all for me this week. Thanks for reading!
E-mail Gordon at: firstname.lastname@example.org