Thursday, February 17, 2011

Champions League Round of 16

16 teams remain in the Champions League. Here's a quick who's who of who's left:

Valencia - Last year's third place finisher in Spain, Valencia emerged from Group C with Manchester United to make it to the Round of 16. Valencia outscored its opponents 15-4 in group play getting goals from 7 different players. Valencia is paired up with German side Schalke 04 in the Round of 16 and played them to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday. The second leg is set for March 9th. Roberto Soldado leads Valencia with 6 goals in Champions League play. Lyon actually made it all the way to the semifinals of the Champions League last season before falling to Bayern Munich.

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Schalke 04 - Last year's runner up in the Bundesliga, Schalke 04 has slipped a bit this year dropping to 10th place, 23 points behind league leader Borussia Dortmund. Still, Schalke emerged as the winner of Group B with a record of 4-1-1 outscoring their opponents 10-3. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Raul each have 3 goals in Champions League play with Raul scoring the equalizer in their match against Valenica on Tuesday.

AC Milan - Last year's third place finisher in Italy, AC Milan currently sits atop Italy's Serie A. AC Milan struggled to make it out of the group stage finishing just one point head of Ajax - Amsterdam in Group G. AC Milan also dropped their Round of 16 opener to Tottenham Hotspur and now need to win at White Hart Lane to avoid an early exit. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 4 of AC Milan's 7 Champions League goals. AC Milan was eliminated from last year's Champion's League in the Round of 16 dropping a pair of games to Manchester United.

Tottenham Hotspur - Last year's fourth place finisher in England, Tottenham currently sits in 4th place in the English Premier League once again, just 2 points behind 3rd Place Manchester City. Not an automatic qualifier, Tottenham had to win a play-in series against the Swiss Club Young Boys to earn a spot. Tottenham would go on to win Group A losing just once in group play and now head home with a 1-0 aggregate lead against AC Milan. While scoring goals has not been a problem for them, they now have 25 in 9 Champions League games, their defense has been somewhat suspect as they've allowed 14. Peter Crouch has led the attack with 7 goals including the game winner against AC Milan while Roman Pavlyuchenko and Gareth Bale each have 4.

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AS Roma - Last year's runner up in the Italian Serie A, AS Roma has slipped all the way into 8th place this season. Despite a negative goal differential in Group Play, AS Roma finished 2nd in Group E setting up a first round matchup against Shakhtar Donetsk. Despite hosting the first game, Roma still managed to fall by a score of 3-2 and now have to travel to the Ukraine needing a win. Marco Borriello leads Roma with 4 Champions League goals.

Shakhtar Donetsk - The reigning Ukrainian Premier League champions again find themselves atop the table a full 12 points ahead of Dynamo Kyiv through 19 games. Shakhtar has just one loss and one tie in league play and has continued their strong play in the Champions League losing just 1 match, to Arsenal, on their way to winning Group H. Shakhtar Donetsk currently own a 3-2 aggregate lead over AS Roma who they will now host on the 8th of March. Luiz Adriano leads the team with 4 Champions League goals.

Arsenal - Last year's third place finisher in the EPL, Arsenal currently sits in second place just 4 points behind Manchester United atop the table. Despite scoring 18 goals in group play, Arsenal finished second in Group H behind Shakhtar Donetsk. However, Arsenal opened up the Round of 16 with a huge win over Barcelona at home scoring a pair of late goals to overcome an early 1-0 deficit avenging last year's loss to the Spanish club in the quarterfinals. The Gunners will travel to Spain with the 2-1 aggregate lead as they try for the upset on March 8th. 10 different players have scored Champions League goals so far for Arsenal led by Cesc Fabregas, Andrei Arshavin, and Marouane Chamakh who all have 3.

Barcelona - Last year's Spanish Primera Division Champions are once again atop the league winning 20 of their first 23 matches and carrying a 5 point lead over 2nd place Real Madrid. After being eliminated from last year's Champions League by Inter Milan in the semifinals, Barcelona is back in form and cruised through Group D going undefeated and outscoring their opponents 14-3. They have their work cut out for them now though after dropping their opening Round of 16 match to Arsenal and will need a big game at home to advance. Lionel Messi has scored 6 goals so far in Champions League play to lead the club.

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FC Copenhagen - The reigning Danish Champs are unbeaten in league play this year with 16 wins and 3 draws and carry a 19 point lead over second place Odense BK through 19 matches. Not an automatic qualifier for group play, Copenhagen had to go through the reigning Belarusian champs, FC BATE Borisov, as well as reigning Norwegian champs, Rosenborg BK, just to get there. Copenhagen continued their strong play finishing second to Barcelona in Group D with a 3-2-1 record but will have their hands full this round as they take on EPL powerhouse Chelsea. Dame N'Doye leads Copenhagen with 3 Champions League goals.

Chelsea - The reigning EPL champs have struggled a bit this season dropping into 5th place, 2 points behind Tottenham Hotspur. Still, Chelsea rolled through Group F with a 5-1 record and outscoring their opponents 14-4. Chelsea travel to Denmark to take on FC Copenhagen on the 22nd of February to start the next round. Chelsea got 5 goals in group play from Nicolas Anelka to lead their attack. Chelsea was knocked out of last year's tournament in the Round of 16 by eventual champion Inter Milan.

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Lyon - Last year's runner up in France, Lyon has dropped down into 5th this year but are just 2 points behind 2nd place Stade Rennes. Lyon won their first 3 Group B games, but struggled on the second go-around and finished 2nd behind Schalke 04 as they now get ready for a rematch of last year's Round of 16 when they once again host Real Madrid on the 22nd. Lyon got the best of the Spanish club last year and made it all the way to the semifinals before losing to Bayern Munich. Michel Bastos scored 3 goals in group play to lead the team.

Real Madrid - Real Madrid finished 2nd to Barcelona in the Spanish Primera Division last year and find themselves in that same position once again this year despite losing only twice in 23 games. Real Madrid went undefeated to easily win Group G outscoring their opponents 15-2 along the way. Lyon actually knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League in this round last year so you can bet they won't be taking the French club lightly. Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo tied for the club lead with 4 goals in group play.

Marseille - The reigning French champions currently find themselves in 3rd place behind Lille and Stade Rennes through 23 rounds. After losing their first 2 Group F games, Marseille responded by winning their next 4 by a combined score of 12-0 to clinch 2nd place in the group. They now take on English heavyweight Manchester United playing host to them on the 23rd. Andre-Pierre Gignac lead the recent charge with 3 goals against MSK Zilina during the group stage to lead the team in scoring.

Manchester United - After coming up a point shy of Chelsea last season and finishing in 2nd place, Manchester United finds themselves back atop the EPL table with a 4 point lead over Arsenal through 26 games. Manchester United is looking to bounce back after blowing a 4-2 aggregate lead at home to Bayern Munich in last year's Champions League quarterfinals. They're off to a solid start going undefeated and conceding just 1 goal on their way to winning Group C. Manchester United's 7 goals in group play came from 7 different players and Dimitar Berbatov, who has 19 EPL goals this year, was not one of them showing the balance and depth that United has.

Bayern Munich - The reigning Bundesliga champs currently sit in 3rd place in Germany but have been on a hot streak as of late. The perennial German power hopes to continue that into the Round of 16 after going 5-1 and winning Group E. They run into trouble immediately in the Round of 16 though where they'll have a rematch of last year's Championship game against Inter Milan. Inter got the best of Bayern Munich last May 2-0 so you can bet Bayern will be getting up for these two matches. Mario Gomez scored 6 goals for Bayern during the group stage to lead the club.

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Inter Milan - Saving the best for last, here you have last year's winner of the Champions League and the Italian Serie A. This year Inter find themselves in 3rd place in the Italian League, and struggled through Group B yielding 11 goals in 6 games and finishing second behind Tottenham Hotspur. If it's any consolation for their fans though, Inter didn't win their Group last year either finishing second behind Barcelona before going on a run and beating Chelsea, CSKA Moscow, Barcelona and Bayern Munich to win the title. They host Bayern Munich in a rematch of last year's final on Tuesday led by Samuel Eto'o who had 7 of Inter's 12 goals during the group stage.

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