Created on 10-12-2015 at 09:20 AM
Paris St. Germain? Juventus? Or less of a big-name club? “I hope we get a good, not too difficult draw,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as he looked ahead to the Champions League last sixteen draw, to be made at midday next Monday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon.
Apart from PSG and their superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juventus with Germany midfielder Sami Khedira, PSV Eindhoven, Benfica, KAA Gent, AS Roma and Dynamo Kyiv are FCB’s potential opponents. As group winners, FC Bayern will play the first leg of the Round of 16 tie away from home, with the decisive return at the Allianz Arena. Pep Guardiola’s team cannot face Arsenal, the runners-up in the Reds’ Group F, until the quarter-finals at the earliest. The next round will be staged at intervals between 16 February and 16 March.
“Every year up to now I’ve said I don’t care who we face, and I’ve said it every year because it’s true,” commented Thomas Müller after Bayern’s best-ever performance in a Champions League group stage with a final return of 15 points, 19 goals scored and only three conceded. “You don’t get to choose,” agreed captain Philipp Lahm. “We’ll take whatever comes, and we’ll be favourites no matter who we play. Let’s wait and see.”
Behind closed doors in Kyiv?
PSG currently lead the French Ligue 1 by 15 points and are unbeaten in domestic competition. Their solitary defeat in Champions League Group A was a narrow 1-0 reverse away to Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, the only goal conceded by the star-studded French side. Juve contrived to throw away top spot in Group D by losing 1-0 away to Sevilla on the final matchday, but after a patchy start to the campaign La Vecchia Signora are now up to fifth in Italy’s Serie A.
The teams from the Low Countries cannot be underestimated either. Eindhoven finished second behind VfL Wolfsburg but ahead of Manchester United in their group and currently lie third in the Dutch Eredevisie. KAA Gent beat off Valencia and Lyon in Group H to become the first Belgian club in the Champions League last sixteen since 2001. Elsewhere, Lisbon giants Benfica, currently third in Portugal, finished behind Atlético Madrid in Group C.
The other two candidates are AS Roma and Dynamo Kyiv. Should Bayern draw the latter, they would play behind closed doors in Ukraine as Dynamo serve out a two-game punishment for racist incidents in the crowd during the home meeting with Chelsea in mid-October. The atmosphere would certainly be better in Rome, where Bayern triumphed 7-1 in 2013/14 and also enjoyed a private audience with the Pope. The Italians qualified behind Barça and ahead of Leverkusen, and are currently fourth in Serie A.
Champions League last sixteen
Group winners: Bayern, VfL Wolfsburg, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Zenit St. Petersburg
Runners-up: Paris St. Germain, Juventus, Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven, Benfica, KAA Gent, AS Roma, Dynamo Kyiv