The draw for the first knockout phase of the Europa League has also taken place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon today, with Giorgio Marchetti and Eric Abidal doing the honours.
There are a few interesting fixtures amid the dross, with Arsenal pitted against the only English coach left on the European stage this season (after David Unsworth and Everton bowed out): Ostersunds of Sweden, managed by Graham Potter.
A former defender for both Stoke and West Brom, Potter has taken Ostersunds up from the fourth tier of the Swedish league and into the top flight, then into the Europa League (via winning the Swedish cup) within six seasons.
3 – Graham Potter has won three of his six Europa League games as a manager (excl qualifiers); the only English managers to have won more in the competition are Roy Hodgson (10/21), Steve McClaren (6/18) and Alan Pardew (4/12). Unfamiliar. pic.twitter.com/KYZ4GlmeFq
Call it a premonition, but we can see Osterdsunds pulling off a shock result against the Gunners in the first leg on their plastic pitch, only to get well and truly spanked at the Emirates and exit the competition as ‘the plucky minnows who gave it their all.’
Thanks to the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid finishing second in their respective groups, the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League has pumped out several plush ties.
With Xabi Alonso at the helm in Nyon, the balls of fate were plucked from the washing-up bowl of doom in the most handsome way imaginable, with the resulting bracket seeing all five English clubs saddled with potentially tricky opponents.
The Champions League last 16 draw in full…
Juventus vs Tottenham
Basel vs Man City
Porto vs Liverpool
Sevilla vs Manchester United
Real Madrid vs PSG
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Roma
Chelsea vs Barcelona
Bayern Munich vs Besiktas
The first leg fixtures will be played when the tournament farts back into life in late February and early March.
While you’d back Man City to dispatch Basel over two legs and perhaps Liverpool likewise with Porto, we really can’t say we’re overly confident of seeing the remaining Premier League triumvirate squeaking into the draw for the quarters.
Of course, it depends which Manchester United turn up against Sevilla, but Tottenham and Chelsea both face mammoth tasks to overthrow Juventus and Barcelona respectively – the latter tie coming pre-loaded with an awful lot of comparatively recent historical weight when it comes to Champions League ding-dongs.
Elsewhere, PSG absolutely trounced all comers in Group B only to end up facing Real Madrid in the next round while runners-up Bayern Munich get Besiktas. That’s a major lol in our book.
What say you, Pies fans? Which of the English sides are you backing to make it through?
While not officially retired from professional football, Ronaldinho is mainly keeping his eye in these days by playing futsal and taking part in endless exhibition matches.
On Sunday afternoon, the 37-year-old Brazilian icon turned out in a benefit match at the Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo, where he once again delighted the punters with an effervescent cavalcade of skills and finesse.
Oh, and he also scored a monumental goal from inside his own half…
Tigres shored up the Liga MX title on Sunday night by hammering out a steadfast 2-1 victory over Monterrey to register a 3-2 aggregate win overall and snaffle the Apertura trophy for the sixth time in their history.
Added to the jubilation of success, there was also an added injection of emotion at full-time as long-serving Tigres stalwart Damian Alvarez was handed the captain’s armband by skipper Juninho and allowed to lift the silverware one last time before heading off into retirement…
As you might imagine, Jose Mourinho was not a happy bunny after watching his Manchester United side get succinctly pummelled by Pep Guardiola’s Man City side in Sunday’s Mancunian derby at Old Trafford.
Indeed, Mourinho lapsed into full “celebration police” mode in the tunnel after the match, with reports suggesting the United boss became embroiled in a petty spat with City goalkeeper Ederson which soon boiled over into a full-on fracas.
As the Guardian have it, Mourinho happened across Ederson outside the City changing room door and brattishly accused the Brazilian goalkeeper of celebrating too vehemently as music blared out of the away dressing room.
The two started shouting insults at one another in Portuguese. Mourinho is said to have accused Ederson of play-acting to waste time and then reverted to English, screaming “you fucking show respect. Who are you?”
Romelu Lukaku then got involved, with eye-witnesses reportedly describing the ensuing skirmish as “reminiscent of a pub fight”, leaving Mikel Arteta, one of Guardiola’s right-hand men, with “blood streaming down his face”.
The Telegraph also add that Mourinho was “hit on the head with a plastic bottle” as well as being showered with water and milk before the Old Trafford security staff finally intervened to break up the fight.
By the sound of it, a clonk on the noggin just about serves Mourinho right – a man who only ever conducts himself with the utmost respect for his opponents, vanquished or otherwise.
However, on 16 minutes, referee Robert Kampka faced a tricky dilemma when Sehrou Guirassy was fouled in the Freiburg box.
While most of the snow was cleared off the pitch and red lines painted, the penalty spots were clearly forgotten about, forcing Kampka to measure out the 12 yards from the goal-line before Guirassy fired home.
Somebody forgot to paint the penalty spot in Koln due to the heavy snow. The ref is forced to improvise ❄️pic.twitter.com/VHzP1XXHBO
That goal made it 2-0 (Lukas Klunter had bagged the opener) before an own-goal from Caleb Stanko put Koln 3-0 up.
However, Nils Petersen and Janik Haberer pulled two goals back for Freiburg before, incredibly, Peterson scored two penalties, one on 90 minutes and another in injury time, to seal a dramatic comeback victory.
Manchester City secured a previous 2-1 away win at Old Trafford, a result which sees the Citizens go 11 points clear at the top of the table, as well as becoming the first top-flight side to register 14 consecutive victories in a single season.
City dominated the game in the first period, with David Silva opening the scoring on 42 minutes after a corner.
However, the Red Devils managed to get themselves level before the break, via a fine finish from Marcus Rashford after an error from Fabian Delph.
Soon after the break, the visitors went ahead again, with Nicolas Otamendi netting his fourth league goal of the season after a failed clearance from the disappointing Romelu Lukaku.
United thought they had a chance to equalise again late on, when Otamendi made contact Ander Herrera in the box.
However, instead of pointing to the spot, ref Michael Oliver booked the Spaniard for diving.
Late on, Lukaku had a great chance to equalise, only to be thwarted from close-range by Ederson, with the Brazilian also superbly saving the follow-up from Juan Mata.
The game would end in victory for Pep Guardiola’s charges, with the Spaniard enjoying his ninth victory as a manager against Joe Mourinho.
A wintry Anfield hosted a somewhat disappointing Merseyside derby on Sunday, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw after Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal was cancelled out by a contentious Wayne Rooney penalty.
That decision to punish Dejan Lovren for a push on Dominic Calvert-Lewin on the box irked Reds’ boss Jurgen Klopp, who lost his cool with a Sky interview after the game.
Liverpool had dominated the game for large periods, with in-form winger Mo Salah scoring yet again, via a superb curling effort.
The hosts failed to make the most of their chances to increase their lead and, on 77 minutes, Everton were given the chance to square the game, after ref Craig Pawson pointed to the spot after Lovren had fouled Calvert-Lewin in the Reds’ box.
Rooney stepped up and converted the resulting penalty, giving the visitors a share of the spoils.
In the post-match interview, Klopp was not a happy man, taking umbrage with a Sky reporter who questioned Lovren’s decision to make the challenge on Calvert-Lewin. “We can stop the interview, because I only want to speak with someone who has a little bit of understanding of football”, snapped the Liverpool manager.
Fair dues to the interviewer for sticking to his guns! Indeed, Klopp apparently apologised later on.
Nor surprisingly, Everton boss Sam Allardyce had a rather different view of the penalty decision, saying: “He can moan all he wants but it’s a penalty. It’s an extremely brave decision and I think he got the decision right.”
A player who famously never quite lived up to his 1998 billing as the world’s most expensive player when he signed for Real Betis, Denilson was still a fantastic player.
Now 40, the 2002 World Cup winner is still a wizard with the ball, as shown by some dazzling skills during a recent star-studded Brazilian friendly game.
Lining out for the ‘Friends of Penta’ (the 2002 World Cup winning side) against the ‘Friends of Ronaldinho’ (Brazilian national league players), the winger decided to run up the wing with the ball deftly balanced on the back of his neck…
I’m trying that one in my five-a-side game next week.
The match itself, entitled the ‘Game of Dreams, was played in honour of the 120th anniversary of the city of Belo Horizente.
Along with Denilson, the likes of Rivaldo, Gilberto Silva, Junhino and Edgar Davids all took part in what looked like an entertaining 90 minutes which ended in a 4-1 win for Ronaldinho’s side.
Here’s all the goals (scored on a very wet pitch!)…