Following the last 16 draws of the champions league, one could argue that there isn’t a better time to assess some of the clubs involved and look at their European accomplishments over the past few years.
It may be records, trophies, player and club achievements and so on.
Most Recent Finish- Final (2015)
Massimiliano Allegri was hired as the new Juventus boss at the beginning of the 2014/2015 season replacing fan-favourite and former player Antonio Conte who had just rejuvenated (no pun intended), the old ladies and won three consecutive league titles. His appointment however was met with the despondence of fans, players and the football world alike.
He did win SerieA with AC Milan though, but that was in 2011 and after the sales of Ibra and Thiago Silva to PSG because of debt, his Milan side fell spectacularly.
But fans began to warm up to him soon after as he led Pirlo and co. to a fourth successive title and their first coppa italia in 20years, a record 10th title. They would have won an historical treble too having defeated Real Madrid in the semis of the champions league but ultimately lost out to Barcelona in the final.
They would need to overcome Bayern in the last 16 having failed to do so 3years ago without Pirlo, Tevez and Vidal all of whom left after the aforementioned failed treble attempt; with Pogba, Dybala and Buffon between the sticks though, any team stands a chance.
Most Recent Finish-Final (’06)
Mediocrity is the least of terms to define Arsenal’s Champions league campaign, season after season. There seems to be this mental block whenever the Champions league last 16 comes knocking.
They do have themselves to blame, second place finishes in the past four to five seasons has not done the gunners any favours. In the past five years they’ve lost out to Barcelona, AC Milan, Bayern Munich (twice) and last season Monaco. Perhaps the latter a more comprehensive view of Arsenal’s fortunes in Europe.
Arsene Wenger and his gunner’s squad have once again managed to put themselves in a precarious position in a group that seemed Ludicrous if you had told them they would need to win by two clear goals in their last match away to Olympiacos. They managed it of course, but now they face Messi, Suarez and Neymar the famed “MSN” who have reaped all before them.
Arsenal would need a miracle to qualify, simply put. Long are the Legends of Arsenal’s 05/06 campaign gone. But if they can draw some inspiration from that season is that a goalkeeper of the same Legend and Leadership and also the know-how of stopping Barcelona lies with them. He is also a champions league winner.
History tells us that to defeat Barcelona you’d likely need to win by two clear goals in your home and hope they have an off day at the nou camp.
Not always though, this man knows what I mean.
Most Recent Finish-Winners (2013)
There’s no doubt that Bayern have risen to champions league prominence ever since their 2010 final appearance against Inter Milan. Players like Ribery, Robben, Lahm, Neuer and so on have been crucial over the past four to five seasons. The past five years have included; one trophy, two finals and two semis and also Ballon d’or places for Neuer and Ribery. Though the former was likely in it for his World Cup exploits in 2014.
After their treble campaign in 2013, where they thumped Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semis, Jupp Heynckes retired and Guardiola came in, a name associated with trophies after a glittering career in Barcelona. He was expected to stamp his and Bayern’s authority in europe just as he had done with Barcelona. He has achieved that, but only in Germany where Bayern Munich bully all the peasants before them.
He lost 5-0 on aggregate to Real Madrid in his first semis four of those at home the biggest defeat of his career and got packing in the first leg of this years semis against his beloved Barcelona when Messi decided to take back his World’s best crown from Ronaldo.
Juve shouldn’t provide much of a hassle especially with Douglas Costa and Lewandoski in the Bayern ranks. The Pole collected FOUR Guinness World Records back in November for scoring a mere FIVE goals from the bench in NINE minutes against Wolfsburg. He also smashed in 13goals en route to sending his nation to the Euros.
When Guardiola eventually reaches another semis, his last with Bayern having confirmed his departure at the end of the season this month, he has to rid himself of the naivety that has prevented him from a final since 2011.
Most Recent Finish-Winners (2012)
It’s not just my opinion. In short it’s more of a fact that no one was surprised when no chelsea player’s name was called up for both Uefa’s best top three and the Ballon d’or top three, though they claimed the 2012 Champions League crown. It had more to do with fate than in the player’s faith in the football they played that they won europe’s top prize. It was so unbelievable, Guardiola resigned at the end of the season.
It was no surprise that they didn’t win any of the other trophies afforded to them for winning the champions league and even managed to get relegated to the europa league, which they eventually won.
Nonetheless not many English teams can say they’ve won the Champions League. There was a sense of Justice that year. After all it was Barcelona that dubiously denied Chelsea another crack at United in the 2009 final.
Now they face PSG…again but without Mourinho, who lost his job this month. If they are to dislodge the general opinions of that faithful year, they’d first have to let Hazard and Costa know Mourinho doesn’t coach them again and start scoring against a PSG team that has let in only one goal this season.
Most Recent Finish-Round of 16 (2014/15)
Mancity can be forgiven for the above stats, after all they just started proper champions league football four years ago, but not for long though. There can be no more excuses, not after all the money spent.
At least this season they finished top of yet another group of death for the first time in their history and they did so with the kind of champions league performance Sheikh Mansour and the rest of the City hierarchy have been demanding for years. Though they did lose twice to Juve.
Patience is wearing thin at the Etihad, not least of all on Pellegrini. The loss to Arsenal on Monday was the kind of game where at this moment in his City career he just couldn’t lose if he wanted to dissuade his employees from bringing in Guardiola next season. After all, a treble this season does’t look like it can save his job. It’s that bad.
What Pellegrini can do this season however, is finish on a high, not the kind of “high” city finished on last season but by winning the premier league and a strong finish in the champions league.
They face Dynamo Kyiv, and City cannot afford to underestimate them. Not with the kind of topsy-turvy season they’re having.
Most Recent Finish-Final (2014)
The 2013/2014 Champions league and Laliga season was euphoria for the Atletico fans and players regardless of how agonisingly close they were to snatching the trophy from city rivals Real Madrid.
That season was by no means a failure for Atletico Madrid. They had just won the LaLiga in a thrilling deciding match at the nou camp and were the first non-clasico team to do so since Valencia in the 03/04 campaign.
There’s something about hiring old players to manage a club these days and the technique worked for Atletico, who with Diego Simeone galvanised his troops in his image and marched towards Lisbon in hope for another title; put your chin up, try again.
Fast-forward a year later and they’re joint-top with Barcelona in Laliga and face PSV in the last 16. Atletico have a great history with top strikers, from Forlan to Aguero to El Tigre and now Antoinne Griezmann.
They still boast Jackson Martinez and Vietto, but both are either lacking in form, fitness or game time. So their hopes of another final lay firmly on the lethal french forward who already has four goals this season.
Most Recent Finish-Winners (2015)
What more can be said? Any more superlatives? I personally think not. It ranges from La Masia, Mes que en club to the greatest and I’m not just talking about the club. Of those five trophies seen there, four have been achieved in nine years. No club has more than one in that same time. They recently claimed another Club World Cup and are not stopping.
It seemed that only at the beginning of this year, Luis Enrique’s job was on the line after benching Lionel Messi in a match which they ended up losing. It is of course an unspoken rule in Barcelona. Rumour has it that after that game, departed club icon Xavi told Messi to better up his game less see Ronaldo win the Ballon d’or for a third year running. Messi wasn’t having it and neither were his lieutenants Suarez and Neymar.
What Messi did to Boateng for me, won him the upcoming Ballon d’or without doubt. It was the kind of genius we’ve come to expect but the manner with which he executed it was just to pleasant to the eye. “Magisterial” as Ray Hudson would say.
Messi, Suarez and Neymar have, between them, scored over a 140goals this year. You’d have to go back to Messi, Eto’o and Henry to see a trio so efficient.
Barcelona have won the treble twice. Arsenal will need more than a miracle to stop them, the only miracle left in football is MSN.
Most Recent Finish- Round of 16 (2013/14)
Zenit were on the verge of making history. They would have been one of only six teams since the Champions league’s inception to leave the group stage with a 100% record. That would have been something to have on your resume for a man taking charge of his final season in charge.
AVB will not continue as Zenit boss next season; and you have a strong feeling not many premier league clubs will or have tried hastily to contact his agent. But his work so far at least in this champions league season has been impressive. Had it not been for a surprise last group game loss to lowly Gent, he would have left the group with no defeats and no ties in a group that featured Valencia and Lyon.
Crucial to those five victories do not solely rest on AVB however with the likes of Hulk, Dzyuba who has 6goals, Witsel and of course midfield genius Danny.
Benfica is never an easy opponent for any team regardless of their curse. But with the form Dzyuba and Zenit are in, they might just sneak through this one on away goals.
Most Recent Finish-Winners (2014)
The Champions League or European cup is as synonymous with Real Madrid as is their all white kit. Last year Real Madrid ended a 12year wait for the title and also a maiden final.
For a club that has TEN champions league trophies it’s amazing to think they once couldn’t get past the last 16 stage for six consecutive years before eventually after hiring Mourinho, they made the semi-finals for three years before eventually hiring Ancelotti who won it in it’s first season.
Zidane’s left boot made it the last time Real Madrid tasted that holy grail and amazing as it is, he may become the next “former player-legend” to be employed as coach if the rumours are anything to go by.
If there’s something else Real Madrid is synonymous with is the sacking and hiring of new managers almost as easily as Ronaldo scores goals. After Ancelotti won La decima, there was the belief that he could stay for a long time and even Florentino Perez said he wanted him to be to Madrid what Ferguson was to United. But after a season without silverware, Ancelotti was gone and Benitez was brought in. Kinda like replacing your iPhone with a Blackberry.
Benitez might get the sack. One does not get thumped at home, by the way, 0-4 to Barcelona and last this long.
Ronaldo is having his “worst” season in a Madrid shirt regardless of his stats, but there is no denying he’s a European, Real Madrid and football Legend:
- Top goalscorer in champions league history(88 goals)
- 11 goals in the group stage-record
- 17goals in a champions league season (2013/14)-record
These are just to name a few. So if Real Madrid are to pay back Roma for eliminating them in the last 16 in 2008, Benitez should hope the real CR7 turns up. His job depends on it.
Most Recent Finish-Group Stage (’09)
Wolfsburg have been here before. Die Wölfe last made it into the champions league in 2009 when they had top striking duo Edin Džeko and brazil sensation, Graffite in their ranks. They won their, to date only Bundesliga title which guaranteed them safe passage to the group stage. But that was as far they got. So getting to the last 16 for the first time in their history this year, is clear progress for Dieter Hecking and his men.
When Wolfsburg lost Kevin de Bruyne in the summer the alarm bells went haywire and the reasons were clear, after all he was the top assist provider in all of europe last season and the main reason they finished second last season.
Coincidentally, in 2009 they faced CSKA and United in the group stage just as they did this season and without De Bruyne it seemed like an improbable climb. But they had their revenge, finishing top of the group and even damning United to the Europa League on the Last day.
When the draws were being made, there were options Wolfsburg would have opted against ranging from PSG to Arsenal, Juventus, etc. But the wolf god seems to have a much slender hand and they were granted a winnable two-legged tie against Gent. Or it was probably just luck who knows.
There will be no more UCL games till February, so the anticipation builds as usual.
The road to Milan awaits.
*All stats are retrieved from UEFA.com and Wikipedia