After going unbeaten in the Champions League group stages, and qualifying as group winners winning four of their games, Manchester United go into the hat for the round of sixteen draw this morning. Winning the group was hugely important, meaning we’ve successfully avoided the big guns for another round at least.
United’s potential opponents in the next round are:
Zenit St Petersburg
On paper the most favourable tie would be Olympiakos of Greece, they qualified as runners up to French champions PSG, after managing to overcome Benfica and Anderlecht. They also have a former Red on their books in the shape of Roy Carroll, although the keeper hasn’t featured yet this season.
Zenit St Petersburg would be the worst tie in my opinion. The travelling to Russia is hard in itself, and playing on their artificial pitch is also another solid task. They also have some excellent players on their books, including Hulk, Andrei Arshavin and Axel Witsel.
AC Milan are another potentially tricky opponent but they aren’t what they once were. Mario Balotelli leads the line for the Italian side, and he’s backed up by the likes of Stephan El Sharaawy and Kaka. Over two legs we’d have enough to beat AC Milan quite comfortably.
Schalke 04 currently sit sixth in the Bundesliga, and they came second in Chelsea’s group to qualify for the knockout round. Julian Draxler is one of the hottest young talents in world football at the moment, and he has Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to aim at in front of him. The duo are dangerous, but putting those two aside we should have enough.
Galatasary qualified by the skin of their teeth after knocking out Juventus in the final game. Wesley Sneijder, who is constantly linked with a move to United score the all-important goal to sink the Italian champions. Their big spending chairman also brought Didier Drogba to Turkey, however they are a side struggling domestically, similar to ourselves.
All-in-all I’d fancy us whoever we draw. At this stage of the competition all the sides have standout players who could hurt United, but we should have enough to beat whoever we draw. We’ll also play the second leg at Old Trafford, knowing exactly what we need to do to ensure qualification into the quarter-finals.