Monday in Nyon, France, the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League round of sixteen draw took place and Spanish Football teams had a mixed bag of results. The following match-ups emerged: Gent v Wolfsburg, Roma v Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain v Chelsea, Arsenal v Barcelona, Juventus v Bayern Munich, PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid, Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg, and Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City.
At first blush one would note that the Gent-Wolfsburg and Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg match-ups ensure two teams most did not expect to reach the final eight will be there. The Roma-Real Madrid game matches two underachievers, this year, who are in dire need of a boost on some stage. PSG playing Chelsea allows for two of the biggest egos in world football—Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic—to face each other. At that is at one end of the spectrum.
Somewhere towards the middle, poor Arsene Wenger must feel the stars always align against him, even when his team’s domestic progress is optimal, as he has drawn a tough Barcelona, who though currently distracted at home, due to a focus on nearer silverware at the FIFA Club World Cup, are usually dependable come crunch time. This could nevertheless be a real clash of giants if Arsenal can bring its best game to their match.
At the far end of the spectrum we have Juventus-Bayern Munich which could provide the match of the round as La Vehccia Segnora has been climbing fast up the ladder at Serie A, with six consecutive league wins since October, while the Die Roten (The Reds), the Bundesliga leaders, have lost but a single match all season.
For Spanish teams, Atletico Madrid have fine-tuned their style in recent weeks and should be in good form come this stage of the European competition. Barcelona are mostly clicking on all cylinders their recent 2-2 letdown draw at Deportivo notwithstanding. Real Madrid are truly sputtering, particularly in their 0-1 loss to Villarreal—which saw them take twenty shots at goal but only one on goal—but they have always seen the Champions League as the balm to cure all ills. Expect Rafa Benitez to make the role of the dice in this competition his make or break last stand in the battle for his job. That said, the three Spanish Football sides should make it through to the next round ensuring Spain is overrepresented again in the world’s top club competition.
Barring unforeseen reasons for a major upset, expect Wolfsburg, Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Zenit, and Manchester City to progress. Thereafter the draw will determine our final four. Among the dream match ups would be a Barcelona-Bayern re-rematch, a Clasico semifinals or finals, a PSG-City tie of very well matched sides, and a potential clash between a perennial favorite and the team that gets hot as the competition progresses. All in all, the match-ups have all the makings of as intriguing a 2015-16 Champions League as we had in 2014-15 and 2013-14, if perhaps with a bit less one sided a dominance.