The beauty of UEFA Champions League is inherent in expectations. The die-hard football fans think far ahead into future and they just don’t mind waiting for months and months on end. Apart from World Cup Finals that take place every four years, UEFA Champions League final, every year, is also awaited like a baby to be born. On December 15, 2014 the round-of-sixteen draw attracted worldwide attention. It is another matter that the final in Berlin is still nearly 5½ months away. Those, who are not into football cannot appreciate the fans’ enthusiastic fervor. It was a special day for European football in Nyon, France on December 15, when UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said that it was a very exciting day on which the real heat of the competition would be sensed. As per the rules of the draw; a) the teams from the same country cannot face each other; b) teams which qualified in same positions cannot face one another, meaning Group winners will face runners-up and vice versa; and c) teams cannot face any team they have already faced in the group stages.
Last year, Real Madrid emerged as Champion’ League winners after defeating their city rivals Atletico Madrid in the final. This year, both Spanish capital clubs have once again progressed to the second round after finishing on top of their respective groups. English Premier League giants Chelsea have also reached the round of 16 by finishing at the top of their group. Similarly, Chelsea’s London rivals, Arsenal were runners-up in Group D after losing the top spot to Borussia Dortmund. With a victory over AS Roma, Premier League champions, Manchester City also qualified. But unfortunately, Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League, when they finished third. They may feature in the Europa League. It was declared before the draw that one pot will have names of the winners while the second will contain the slips of runners-up. The Seeded group winners will play away games consisting of the first legs of the round-of-16 on February 17-18 & February 24-25, 2015. The home legs will be played on March 10-11 & March 17-18 March. After all matches are completed, there will be a fresh draw for the Champions League quarter final on March 20, 2015. The group winners known before the draw were; Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, AS Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona, Chelsea, and FC Porto; while the runners-up consisted of Juventus, FC Basel, Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Shakhtar Donetsk.
UEFA had invited Karl-Heinz Riedle for conducting the round-of-16 draw. Riedle is the Champions League Final ambassador and a former Liverpool star. But he played for a longer time with Dortmund. He is best known for scoring twice in the 1997 final for Dortmund. Riedle would pick up the runners-ups in Pot 2 first. As the audience waited, Reidle appeared on the scene and picked up a slip from the second pot. The football community worldwide was watching the event live on television and social media sites as Reidle read the name of Paris St Germain. The show had begun and all the suspense was to end soon. After every two slips, it was known as to who will play whom. Therefore, when Riedle picked up the next slip from the first pot, it was known that Paris St Germain will face Chelsea. As Riedle continued, the second pair was Manchester City and FC Barcelona, third was Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid; fourth, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund; fifth, Schalke and Real Madrid; sixth, Shaktar Donetsk and Bayern Munich, seventh, Arsenal and Monaco and the last pair drawn was, Basel and Porto.
As the draw was concluded, football fans and critics got engaged in speculations and possibilities. Experts opined that the draw had been unkind to the EPL sides as they would be pitted against strong opponents. Chelsea would have tough encounter with Paris Saint German while Arsenal will have to contend with Monaco. The worst fate beckoned Manchester City, who would be required to beat FC Barcelona for the next round. Last year, Barcelona and Real Madrid had taken on Manchester City and Schalke respectively and the Spanish sides had emerged winners. This year too, the formidable Spanish clubs will hope for a repeat performance. In 2013/14, Chelsea FC beat Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals and they are paired again in the earlier round.
The first round-of-16 matches will be played on February 17, 2015, when Paris Saint-Germain take on Chelsea FC in Paris and FC Shakhtar Donetsk meet FC Bayern Munich at Lviv in Ukraine. These teams will play return legs on March 11, 2015. Similarly, on February 18 & March 10, the scheduled matches will be Schalke vs Real Madrid and FC Basel vs FC Porto. On February 24 and March 18, the pair of matches, scheduled would be; Manchester City vs FC Barcelona and Juventus vs Borussia Dortmund. On February 25 and March 17, away and home games will be; Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico Madrid and Arsenal vs Monaco.
After quarterfinal draw is announced on March 20, four pairs of matches will be played on April 14/15 and April 21/22. The semifinal draw has been scheduled for April 24 and the round-of-four matches will be played on May 5/6 and May 12/13 and of course the biggest match between two finalists will be contested in Berlin on June 6, 2015.
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