Let me start by saying I’m extremely pleased with the draw. Personally, I’m not really expecting Chelsea to win the champions league or even reach the final this season. Next season may be, but not certainly this season. That said, in champions league, anything can happen. So I was hoping that the draw is slightly kind to us. This is not meant to be disrespectful towards Galatasaray but just a statement of fact that we could have drawn more difficult opposition than them.
Galatasaray vs Chelsea: The club we have drawn is neither a champions league favourite nor a minnow that considers reaching knocking stages an achievement. Galatasaray is a very good opposition particularly for the first knock out round of the champions league. You won’t take them lightly but you know you can beat them. The fact that we are playing the second leg at Stamford Bridge should only improve our chances. One Chelsea player I didn’t want to see playing against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge is Drogba. If he’s in the mood, we will be in big trouble. A draw away and a win at home for Chelsea should be possible.
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich: You know how much I hate Arsenal but I wish they had drawn some other team. Not because I want Arsenal to progress but because I don’t want them to have nothing to play for except the premier league. Season after season, they go out of all competitions in February and at that point if they are still in the title race, that won’t be good for us. Truth be told, Arsenal can be a thorn for Bayern and if they’re lucky, might even eliminate the defending champion. This one could go to away goals.
Man City vs Barcelona: Ditto as above. At least Man City have a better chance of knocking out Barcelona than Arsenal have of Bayern. Man City’s luck in champions league has been such. Either they get groups of death or draw a tournament favourite or both. Pellegrini says Barca are not as strong as they were a couple of seasons back and he’s right. I’d rate even this current weakened Barca more than Man City. Another heartbreak for City I think with Barca winning home and away.
Olympiakos vs Man Utd: This happens at amazing consistency. Man Utd always seem to get the easiest of groups and easiest of opponents even in knockout rounds. They are quite easily the polar opposite of Man City in this regard too. I don’t see any problems for Man Utd in overcoming Olympiakos. Comfortable wins home and away.
Match ups involving non-premier league teams: AC Milan vs Atletico Madrid will be a brilliant game. Atletico to stay true to their league form and Milan to stay with theirs. Bayer Leverkusen vs PSG: Will this be the season when PSG will be counted as a real heavyweight in champions league? I think so. Schalke vs Real Madrid: Another German opponent in the knockout stages for Madrid. La Decima looks unlikely until they sort out their striker problem but good enough to see off Schalke. Zenit vs Borussia Dortmund: It’s been a disappointing season for Dortmund so far. They’re missing Gotze and they will be missing Lewandowski. This could be a tight affair but expecting Dortmund to get through.
All eight games are fantastic match ups for different reasons. While I think all on-paper favourites of the tie will progress, I don’t think any of these games will be settled in the first leg. Expecting Chelsea, Man Utd, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, PSG, Real Madrid, Dortmund & Bayern Munich to go through. Just imagine how the quarterfinal games would be with these eight teams. Champions league predictions made right after the draw doesn’t mean much. 8 more weeks for the first leg games and a lot can happen in these 8 weeks.
From Chelsea fans’ point of view, this is a great draw for two reasons – (a) our chances to progress (b) the return of Didier Drogba. Hoping Chelsea consolidate their league position by then and be stronger and ruthless than they are now.