The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League has given the three remaining British teams major tests.
Manchester United have been drawn against Real Madrid, Arsenal against German giants Bayern Munich and Celtic face Italian champions Juventus.
According to the bookmakers Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern Munich are three of the five favourites to lift the trophy. I don’t think the British representatives could have asked for much sterner tests.
The tie of the round has to be Manchester United facing Spanish giants Real Madrid. The two clubs are two of the biggest in European football and have glorious histories in the European Cup.
I don’t think either manager would have fancied this game, but only one of Europe’s heavyweights can progress into the last eight. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Real’s Jose Mourinho have a warm relationship, despite the Portuguese boss helping Chelsea to challenge Fergie’s United team in the mid-2000’s.
The pair will know that this tie could go either way. The matchup will also see former-United hero Cristiano Ronaldo come up against his old side for the first time in European competition.
Madrid will start the tie as slight favourites, but you can never write the Red Devils off under Sir Alex Ferguson. With the likes of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney in-form they could be a match for anybody.
Scottish champions Celtic were one of the stories of the group stages. Neil Lennon’s men came within seconds of recording a draw at Barcelona’s Nou Camp and then beat the Catalan giants 2-1 in the reverse fixture at Parkhead.
It was a real David vs. Goliath story and Celtic look like they could cause the Italian champions Juventus some problems. Antonio Conte’s team are back in the competition this year after winning the Serie A title last season.
The Bianconeri looked impressive in the group stages as they disposed of European Champions Chelsea. They do look like a team to watch in the latter stages of the competition.
The biggest factor in this tie could be the Parkhead atmosphere. The Celtic fans have been incredible throughout their European campaign and they could again give their side a helping hand in this tie.
Juventus will be massive favourites for the tie, but I’m sure they won’t underestimate Neil Lennon’s well-drilled outfit. Celtic have proved they have it in their locker to cause a major upset already in the Champions League and you just never know in football.
German club Bayern Munich are another with a great history in the European Cup. The Bavarians not only qualified from the group stages with ease, they did it with great style. Bayern have also been crown winter German champions, as they look to be running away with the Bundesliga title.
Arsenal on the other hand have been incredibly inconsistent this season. The Gunners difficult draw is down to Arsene Wenger’s side finishing second in their Champion’s League group, below another German side Schalke.
Arsenal do have the quality to cause Bayern problems, but the Bayern front line could have too much for the Gunners leaky defence. Whatever happens it should be a tie with plenty of action.
The draw also produced the prospect of Italian giants AC Milan coming up against Barcelona for a second consecutive year. Barca will face a very different Milan side than the one they faced last year, without the likes of the now-departed Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Rossoneri wasn’t at all convincing in qualifying for the knockout stages and are currently 14 points behind league leaders Juventus in Serie A. Barcelona will be very disappointed if they don’t progress into the quarter-finals.
The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League has thrown the competition wide open. The likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona will still be favourites, but the draw could make it difficult for the Spanish giants.
Some of the smaller clubs left in the competition face each other, which means there will be less familiar names in the quarter-finals of the competition. Here is a full list of the last 16 fixtures:
Galatasaray v Schalke 04
Celtic v Juventus
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund
AC Milan v Barcelona
Real Madrid v Manchester United
Valencia v Paris St. Germain
FC Porto v Malaga
Who will win the Champions League this season?