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At 12.00pm CET at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, FC Barcelona and the other fifteen clubs still involved in the Champions League will learn who they will be meeting in the first knockout round of the competition.
Barça are among the eight teams that topped their first round groups, and will therefore enjoy the privilege of being seeded, which means the guarantee of playing what, at least in theory, is a slightly less difficult opponent. And with teams of the calibre of Juventus, Arsenal or Paris Saint Germain in the draw, there are some tough prospects ahead, although the Catalans will also have the advantage of playing the second leg at the Camp Nou.
As teams that already met in the group phase are kept apart, Barça cannot face AS Roma again, but trips to France, Holland, Portugal, Italy, England, Ukraine and Belgium are all on the cards. Here’s a quick look at the seven teams that Barça could be facing in the games to be played on February 16,17, 23 or 24 (first leg) and March 8, 9, 15 or 16 (second leg at Camp Nou).
The French champions, managed by former FCB star Laurent Blanc, finished second to Real Madrid, the only side other than Barcelona to avoid defeat in the first phase. PSG’s top scorer in the group stage was Ángel Di María with three goals, while other standouts include Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, David Luiz and Edinson Cavani, as well as three familiar faces at the Camp Nou: Maxwell, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Motta. Barça faced the side from the French capital in the quarter finals last season, and also in 2012/13, and progressed both times.
PSV had to come from behind to beat CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night to qualify in dramatic fashion along with Wolfsburg, who topped the group with a 3-2 win over Manchester United. PSV, whose top scorers in the group stage were the Belgian striker Maxime Lestienne and captain Luuk de Jong, with two goals each, have become the first Dutch side to make the last sixteen for eight years. Now coached by former FC Barcelona player Phillip Cocu, PSV have not faced Barça since the two 2-2 draws in the 1997/98 group stage.
The Portuguese were well-poised to top Group C, but home defeat to Atlético Madrid on the final day means they have had to settle for second. Benfica’s most dangerous players are midfielder Nicolás Gaitán and strikers Konstantinos Mitroglou, Raúl Jiménez and Jonas, who scored eight goals between them in the group stage. Barça have met the Eagles four times in the competition, for the first time in the 1961 final (which Benfica won 3-2) and most recently in the 2012/13 group stage, Barça winning 2-0 at home and drawing 0-0 in the Stadium of Light.
The Italian team’s setback at Sevilla meant they finished second behind Manchester City in Group D, when just a draw would have been enough to ensure them top spot. A meeting with the ‘Old Lady of Turin’, who have been crowned European champions twice in the past, would of course be a repeat of last season’s Champions League final in Berlin, which Barça won 3–1 to complete their second treble. Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri has key players like Paul Pogba, Álvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic at his disposal.
Arsenal needed to win by two goals at Olympiacos to get out of the group stage for a 16th consecutive season, and ended up getting three. This is, of course, the side that Barça beat in the 2006 final, and the Gunners have been eliminated in the knockout stages by Barça twice since then. A meeting with the Londoners would also mean a meet-up with former FCB man Alexis Sánchez, while other key members of Arsene Wenger’s squad include Giroud, the hero in Athens, Theo Walcott and former Real Madrid midfielder Özil. Arsenal are currently top of the English Premiership, pending the outcome of Leicester City’s game with Chelsea later today.
Dynamo needed to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv on the final day and did just that to bag second place in their group behind Chelsea. Now managed by Ukrainian legend Serhiy Rebrov, Dynamo’s top scorer in the competition so far is Andriy Yarmolenko. There have been some memorable Champions League encounters between Dynamo and Barça over the years, and should they been drawn together, it’ll be their first meeting since the 2009/10 group stage, when the Catalans won both matches.
Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s side have been the surprise package of the tournament, who have followed their first ever Belgian league title with progress into the knockout stages at the expense of Valencia, who lost at home to Lyon on the final day while the Belgians inflicted the first defeat of the championship on group winners Zenit. Gent is the only one of the potential rivals that Barça have never met before and are the first Belgian side to ever make it out of the group stages in the Champions League era.
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