Friday, 10 December 2010

UEFA Champions League Knockout Stage is Set

The Top 16 Teams from across Europe look to Square of and await the Knockout Stage Draw on December 17, 2010

By Rhydon Atzenhoffer
December 9, 2010

The last 16 of the UEFA Champions League have been decided. Some squeaked by, others dominated, and some surprised even the most hopeful in their campaign towards Europe's most elite club championship. With all the teams from Europe's three biggest leagues, English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Italian Serie A, advancing the remaining qualifiers will be tested once again by Europe's finest clubs.

Tottenham Hotspur and Internazional Milan battled it out in Group A with the Lilly Whites taking the top spot in the group. Many did not predict this, nor did many predict the mercurial form of Gareth Bale to step into the spotlight in such a fashion. With the help of Spurs newcomer Rafael Van Der Vart, and midfield maestro Luka Modric, the London club look to continue their demolition of competition in the next round. Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez led his new charges at Inter to the second place spot and will look to continue marching on despite his squads injury problems at the back.

Despite their horrid domestic form, German Bundesliga's Shalke 04 took top honors of Group B. The club will look to continue their European success in the light of a struggling league campaign despite the ranks of Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, legendary Raul, and captain fantastic goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. French side and prominent Champions League club Lyon continue onto the knockout stages through their second place finish.

Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils of Manchester United cruised through to the second round atop of Group C. The Rooney saga of the early season seemed to have little affect on the wildly successful Scot's charges. Spainish side Valencia also had a relative dominant group stage and advanced by a margin of five points ahead of third place Rangers whom will have to ply their trade in the Europa League.

Barcelona and FC Copenhagen were the advances from Group D as both moved on with comfortable margins. The Danish club were nearly able to shock the dominant Spanish side but only managed a draw that was not deserved by the Catalonian Giants in any form, and Copenhagen will have to put up that same kind of challenge against whomever they face over their two legged tie.

Group E produced some fine matches and out of the frenzy. German Champions Bayern Munich advances in first place while Italian slumpers AS Roma side the coattails of success into the knockout stages. Chelsea crushed nearly all in their path on the way to winning Group F while Marseilles and Spartak Moscow fought till the final day to see whom would move on with the French side taking the honors and Moscow dropping to the second tier Europa League.

Spanish Giants Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho obliterated Group G with a draw against AC Milan thanks to Mourinho's only fear, Fillipo Inzaghi. The Serie A table toppers took the second prize with an 8 point gap behind the Madrid wrecking crew, barely staving off Ajax Amsterdam. They will hope for better performances in the Knockout Stage or else they will be set for a quick return home to the peninsula.

Group H saw Shakhtar Donetsk advance from the top stop while Arsenal had to punch their ticket to the next round on the very last day. Arsene Wenger's men are in fine form at the moment and with the timely return to health of Robin Van Persie, whom captained their 3-1 win over Partizan Belgrade to see them through, the London club may be hitting health and form at the right time.

The draw for the knockout round is set for December 17th and we will await the match-ups with great anticipation. It will be very interesting to see what happens with the draw and this could prove to be one of the best knockout stages of the last few years.

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