After an exhilarating set of group stage matches, Europe’s elite have moved onto the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
With the top two teams from each preliminary group advancing, only the cream of the crop now have the chance to claim Europe’s top prize. Of course, certain teams pose more of a threat than others, but everyone deserves recognition.
Working our way up from the so-called bottom, Basel surprised many when they edged out Liverpool to earn the second spot in their group after current champions Real Madrid locked up the first one.
In a league that has recently been overshadowed by political violence, Shakhtar Donetsk from Ukraine were able to claw their way out of Group H along with Porto.
Speaking of them, the perennial Primeira Liga giants look to claim a few scalps, armed with talent like Jackson Martinez. At the opposite end of the power spectrum, global icons such as Bayern Munich and Arsenal are primed to make moves.
Looking at the round of 16 matchups themselves, two in particular stand out.
First, in a rematch from last year, English powerhouses Chelsea look to take on Paris Saint-Germain, with both teams armed to the teeth with foreign money.
After receiving two critical goals in the second leg of last year’s matchup from now departed strikers Demba Ba and Fernando Torres, Blues supporters will be hoping that new face Diego Costa can pick up where his predecessors left off.
Additionally, in an intriguing subplot, Paris Saint-Germain defender David Luiz came to his current team by way of London. In the second matchup, another rematch, relatively new power Manchester City square off against resurgent Barcelona, with compatriots Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi matching wits and grace.
For City fans, the sight of new Barcelona striker Luis Suarez will be a familiar one, albeit not welcomed after his torturing of the Premiership last season with Liverpool. However, the likes of Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart should be up to the task.
While these matchups should draw most of the attention, others, like Borussia Dortmund vs. Juventus, look to be stellar examples of quality soccer.
At this stage of the UEFA Champions’ League, every match requires stellar play and every match counts.