The UEFA Champions League has been winnowed down to 16 teams, with FC Bayern advancing as group winners. Tomorrow, football officials will draw lots to pick the match-ups for the Round of 16.
If you've been through a few of these, you know the rules, so you can skip ahead a few paragraphs. But for purposes of review, every remaining team that one its group will be paired with a remaining team who finished second-place in its group. Each of these pairings will play one two-legged tie, with most aggregate goals scored then advancing to the quarter-finals (with away goals as the tie-breakers).
The wrinkles: no team can play the other club that advanced from its own group (IE, Bayern can't play Valencia, Dortmund can't play Real Madrid, etc). Plus, no team can play another from its own domestic FA (IE, Bayern can't play Dortmund, Manchester United can't play Arsenal). To help keep track of the possibilities, scroll over the following interactive widget:
Every time you roll over a team, other sides that can't be matched up against them will be grayed-out, while their possible opponents will remain in black text. You'll notice that, of the runners-up, only Bayern's group cohorts, Valencia, are ineligible for us. So, our possible opponents are:
- FC Porto, the Portuguese giants who had a pretty solid group stage. But they lack a certain bit of star-power, and Bayern would probably be considered heavy favorites against them.
- Arsenal, traditional English powers who have been down on their luck for a while. I think it's been 5 or 6 years since they've won a trophy. But they still have more speed and more talent that most of these possible opponents. Lukas Podolski against his German buddies would be an interesting winkle.
- AC Milan, another traditionally big club that isn't having its best year. Both Robinho and Pato are possible on their way out, so they may or may not be further weakened by the time February rolls around.
- Real Madrid, the most dangerous of the possibilities. They're tough, deep, and have multiple guys who can score. But Bayern played them last season in this same competition, and got the better of them.
- Celtic, lower down the ladder as far as talent, but they have a good home-field advantage. I guess I'd be worried about the possibility of them scoring one goal and them playing all-defense for the remainder of the tie.
- Galatasaray, ditto.
- Shakhtar, Ukrainian powers that have carved out a name for themselves in this competition recently. It's a tough away leg, and they looked very good in a solid group, so I'd put these guys up there with anyone else (other than Madrid) as toughest possible opponents.
The whole thing kicks off tomorrow at 11:30 AM Central European time ... which is, like, 5:30 where I live. But there's always at least 20 minutes of screwing around first. I will try to get up by then, but either way, consider this your live viewing thread.