UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 Preview

UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 Preview

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On February 16, 2011
  • Geoff Reid, UCL 2010/11

By Geoff Reid

Roma vs Shakhtar Donetsk from the Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Not one of the most glamorous ties on paper for various reasons, it should be an interesting one nonetheless. The hosts are coming off two defeats in a row, and their first home defeat since April 2010 with a 2-0 loss to Napoli. In previous seasons, Roma have been the club that have come closest to challenge Inter Milan’s dominance in recent years, but manager Claudio Ranieri’s future is uncertain as his contract runs out at the end of the season. The former Chelsea boss was a Roma supporter as a youngster and a dream of his is to win the Champions League with his club.

Meanwhile, Shakhtar are on their winter break domestically with the last official match on December 8 in this competition against Braga in the group stage. During the past month, the team have played in some friendly tournaments in Spain and Dubai, but manager Mircea Lucescu is convinced his team will be disciplined enough to get a result in the Italian Capital and have a good chance to qualify for the last eight in the return leg.

Roma captain Francesco Totti was rested at the weekend, but should be fully fit for this match. David Pizarro won’t be in the match squad due to a knee injury he hasn’t fully recovered from. For the Ukrainian side, both Fernandinho, and Olexandr Kucher won’t be eligible for the tie due to a long injury layoff, and a injury sustained during last weeks international friendlies respectively.

Prediction: Roma 1-1 Shakhtar Donetsk

Arsenal vs Barcelona from the Emirates Stadium, London
Arguably the tie of the round, it should not have as much drama as yesterday’s match in Milan, but all the more exciting with the football hopefully. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is under no illusion on what his side are up against having been knocked out of last seasons tournament by the magic of Lionel Messi. He believes his squad is mentally tougher then a year ago, and thinks his side can go on to win the competition. It’ll be a tough ask when the defense has been as shaky as it’s been so far this season.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola says he’s been looking forward to this two legged tie for a long time, with both teams playing with similar styles. It’s quite an amazing job Guardiola has done with this group, considering they won every competition they entered in 2009, keeping the players motivated still is an incredible thing. The 1-1 draw to Sporting de Gijon over the weekend was the first draw after 16 consecutive wins. To many, the Catalans are the best team in the world, although Inter Milan will definitely have something to say about that being the defending champions.

Arsenal should have Samir Nasri back in the squad after a hamstring strain, while Denilson, Alex Song, and Johan Djorou all returned from injuries this past weekend, and may feature. Abou Diaby is out with an injury he picked up with France last week, as well as Lukasz Fabianski, and Thomas Vermaelen, while Bacary Sagna is suspended. For Barcelona, captain Carles Puyol did not make the trip to north London, and neither did Jeffren. Apart from those two, there should a full squad.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona