Hail to the Champions

The final 16 of the Champions League was announced on Saturday and what a doozy it’s going to be.

Immediately the matchups of Milan versus the Premiership jump off the page, with defending champions AC taking on current English leaders Arsenal and Serie A leader Inter welcoming hot and cold Liverpool.

From the beginning Liverpool looks highly overmatched against an Inter squad who currently hold a commanding 8 point lead at the top of the Italian tables.

But that is part of what the Champions League is all about. Liverpool has struggled in the Premiership, sitting in fifth well off the lead, but after a slow start in the group stage they came on to outscore their last three opponents 16-1.

Out of all the teams in the tournament, the defending runner-ups have the best chance to come out of nowhere to make a splash.

As for the “other” Milan team, AC appears to be on a steady downturn. After a loss this past weekend to Inter they now sit in 12th in Serie A and a whopping 25 points off the leaders.

But they are defending champions and should not be taken lightly. The matchup with creative, energetic Arsenal against the wily veterans of Milan should be one of the best in the round of 16.

The top two teams from La Liga, Madrid and Barça, both face interesting matchups.

After winning this past weekend’s clasico against Barcelona, Real is in a commanding position in La Liga seven points clear and in a groove that they will look to keep going after the holiday break against Italian side Roma

The Italians were one of my favorites coming into the tournament but will struggle mightily against the reigning Spanish champions who are playing sublime football right now.

Barcelona, on the other hand, are in a downward spiral that will take a genius move from Rijkaard to turn around.

And to make matters worse, they are coming up against a team in Celtic that has had their number over the past few years.

Whatever the outcome of these games, the tournament has reached the home stretch the this is when the real champions separate themselves from the rest of the field.

Full last 16 draw:

Celtic v Barcelona
Lyon v Man Utd
Schalke 04 v FC Porto
Liverpool v Inter Milan
Roma v Real Madrid
Arsenal v AC Milan
Olympiacos v Chelsea
Fenerbahce v FC Sevilla

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