Mouth-watering. Clash of the Titans. Return of Cristiano Ronaldo. Sir Alex vs. Jose Mourinho.
These were some of the multitude of exclamations that were uttered when the draw for the Knockout Stages of UEFA Champions League 2012/13 was revealed earlier today.
For the standout tie of the round was Manchester United vs. Real Madrid. The two biggest football clubs in the world will do battle in the round of 16 come February and again in March 2013 to secure their passage into the last 8 of the competition. Full draw is as below:
Other tantalizing fixtures include Arsenal taking on Bayern Munich, Barcelona tussling with AC Milan and Juventus getting to battle Celtic. But those pale in comparison to the battle of the big two in club football!
One has to hark back to the 2002/03 season for United & Madrid’s last meeting at the European stage – Madrid running out eventual winners by 6-5. The stakes are much higher this time around. With their La Liga defense looking all but over, what with a 13 point deficit to Barcelona, and talks of Mourinho heading for the Bernabeu exit, the CL remains Madrid’s top priority.
For Sir Alex, another European triumph might only be second on his to-do list after wresting back the EPL crown from City but that doesn’t make it less wanted. Especially after those defeats to Barcelona and their disappointing campaign last season in the CL.
As I said in my post about the group stages’ draw – once gain, Le Jeu Commence!