Reunions loom in intriguing Champions League draw

Beckham could be handed return to United while Chelsea may meet Mourinho again

At Christmas thoughts turn to reunions and today's draw for the first knock-out round of the Champions League is unlikely to be different. The eight ties, to be determined at a doubtless snowy Uefa headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, at 11am British time, could feature a series of intriguing pairings.

David Beckham, who will soon be back on loan at Milan, could face Manchester United for the first time since leaving Old Trafford in 2003. Jose Mourinho could head back to Stamford Bridge for the first time since his abrupt departure two years ago – assuming he survives at Internazionale until February, when the ties will be played. Or Chelsea could draw Milan, which would mean an equally evocative, but much more amicable return for Carlo Ancelotti.

There could also be a return to Arsenal for Jens Lehmann and Alex Hleb, now at Stuttgart. This is one reunion which should be unreservedly welcomed by the Gunners because Stuttgart represent the best possible draw. The German club are to be respected, but, with Olympiakos and CSKA Moscow they fall into the group of weaker possible opponents. Arsenal cannot draw the Greeks as they were in the same group and they will not fancy a trip to Moscow to play on the Luzhniki Stadium's plastic surface in mid-February. Thus Stuttgart, who appointed former Tottenham manager Christian Gross as coach earlier this month, should be the preferred option.

Not that Lehmann would mind. Now 40, the German keeper said: "I'd love to come up against Arsenal, I don't mind if that's in the next round or later in the competition."

As well as not being able to face clubs previously met in the group stage, teams cannot meet another from the same country, though this does not affect the English trio as, having won their groups, they are all seeded.

Of the other clubs English teams can face there is little to choose between Lyons (who put out Liverpool), Bayern Munich (who rescued a faltering campaign with a spectacular 4-1 win over Juventus in Turin), Milan, Inter and Porto. Chelsea beat the latter home and away in the group stages but did so narrowly, Nicolas Anelka scoring the only goal in each game. Ray Wilkins, Chelsea's assistant manager told Sky viewers they were a "good side". He said this three times, without elucidating as to why this was.

For those who read the statistical runes, Bordeaux, the lowest-ranked surviving club in Uefa's co-efficients, garnered most points (16) and conceded least goals (two) in the group stages despite being in a tough section that included Bayern and Juventus. Real Madrid scored most goals (15), with Cristiano Ronaldo the leading individual scorer (six).

The last 16 largely represent, somewhat disappointingly given the attempts at rebellion from Rubin Kazan and Unirea Urziceni, the usual suspects. Juventus and Liverpool may have missed out but seven previous European Cup winners made it. The big three leagues – the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A – provide nine entrants. Olympiakos are the only survivor of the clubs given a helping hand in qualifying by Michel Platini's controversial reforms, and CSKA are the only team from the old Eastern Bloc, even though there is a strong argument that the Moscow side should have been expelled after Sergei Ignashevich and Alexei Berezutsky tested positive for banned stimulants after the 3-3 draw at Manchester United.

Picking winners is tricky, as form will fluctuate in the next two months and players will be injured. Clubs are able to add two players to their squad in the January transfer window – though to be eligible they must not have played in European competition this season. Arsène Wenger has put a striker on his Yuletide wish-list at Arsenal following Robin van Persie's injury; so has Mourinho but he has been told by Inter president Massimo Moratti he will not be receiving one. Perhaps he will get an all-expenses paid trip to west London instead.

The last 16: Who the English trio might face

Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all qualified for today's draw as group winners, along with Bordeaux, Real Madrid, Fiorentina, Barcelona and Seville. They will all face a runner-up, with the second leg at home, although each side cannot be drawn against a team from their qualification group.

Group winners

Bordeaux, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Fiorentina, Barcelona, Seville, Arsenal.

Group runners-up

Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Milan, Porto, Lyon, Internazionale, Stuttgart, Olympiakos.

* First legs on 16/17 and 23/24 February; second legs on 9/10 and 16/17 March

Major threats

Internazionale

Once again running away with their domestic league and boast Champions League winning pedigree in striker Samuel Eto'o and manager Jose Mourinho. A return to Stamford Bridge for the Portuguese would surely be the highlight of the round.

Milan

Winners of the competition in 2007, they stuttered initially under new manager Leonardo but came through a tricky group alongside Real Madrid. Incoming David Beckham hopes for a draw with former employers Manchester United.

No pushovers

Lyons

As usual, promise much but deliver little on the European stage. Still missing Karim Benzema, who left for Real Madrid in the summer, but recruited wisely in £20 Argentine Lisandro López.

Porto

Offered little resistance to Chelsea in the group stage – or to United in last year's quarter-finals – yet possess tricky striker in Hulk.

Bayern Munich

A dark horse. Perennial underachievers in the competition recently, but inflicted a record defeat on Juventus to seal qualification. They have creativity coursing through the team but star turn Franck Ribéry may well be elsewhere by February.

Kind draws

Olympiakos

Struggled to beat Arsenal's kids earlier this month and Zico's side will not be fancied to pose anyone serious questions in the next round. Dispatched 4-0 at the Emirates and lost heavily at Chelsea two seasons ago.

Stuttgart

Ambling just above the relegation zone in the Bundesliga, the Germans sacked their manager, the former Liverpool player Markus Babbel, this month. Irksome goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and midfielder Alex Hleb will long for a crack at former employers Arsenal.

CSKA Moscow

Tasted European glory as recently as 2005 in the Uefa Cup. They do, though, travel badly and are in the knock-out stages for the first time. Sacked Juande Ramos after just nine games this season.

14

Seasons since the Champions League last eight failed to feature an English team.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
football
Sport
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
News
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine