Well everyone, it's that time of the year again. As much as we love the cold winter English football, we still have some urning for that day in February. Yeah, I'm talking about the day that those two-legged, pressure-packed, tear-jerking ties are played. This year's tourney has been a unique one thus far, and I expect the same out of the knockout rounds. So without further adieu, let's look at the draw.
Ties to be played February 24/25 & March 10/11
Now I'll analyze all 8 ties starting with the easiest and ending with the toughest match. But today, I'm only going to analyze matches 8-4. Sorry, but I want to get you guys talking about something.
8. Villareal v. Panathinaikos- Panathinaikos is the suprise team of the tourney and they were given a very pleasant surprise with this news. I'm not knocking Villarreal but this is one of the teams that Panathinaikos were looking to face. Now, who should you watch in this tie?
Villarreal's player to watch will be quick forward Giuseppe Rossi and the key player for Panathinaikos will be the good 'ole warhorse Giorgos Karagounis , who is the captain and almost always goalscorer. This tie is going to be about how well these two sides can defend. Villarreal have some quality defenders which are led by defensive midfielder and captain Marcos Senna. So Villarreal should be able to defend well. So when it comes down to it, the ability of Panathinaikos to play good, solid defence is the key. If Panathinaikos can play well on D, then they can progress but if not then they are going home very unhappy.
Prediction: Panathinaikos 2, Villareal 1
7. Atletico Madrid v. FC Porto- Well, both of these sides have worked hard and player very well so far. This will be a very open tie (or at least it better be) and it could be one of the top matchups when its all said and done.
Atletico's man to watch will continue to be Sergio “Kun” Aguero. Porto's man to watch will be Lisandro López . These two players will have the majority of the ball running through them and it will be key to see how well they finish off chances. If Kun plays best, Madrid will win but if Lopez plays the best then Porto will win. The winner of this tie will be the side that uses their speed and controls the other side from using their speed against them. This will be a fun tie to watch and I expect plenty of goals.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 4, FC Porto 3
6. Sporting Lisbon v. Bayern Munich- This tie should not be all that close. Sporting Lisbon is a good side, but Bayern Munich are pure class and are essentially the Euro 2008 runners-up. This tie should also be an open one because of Munich's new tactics under manager Juergen Klinsmann and because of Porto's pressure-free postion coming in.
The men to watch for Sporting are Miguel Veloso and João Moutinho (captain). These two have to play near-perfect football if Lisbon are to have any chance whatsoever against that unrelenting Bayern attack. Bayern's wonderful attack is led by midfielder Franck Ribéry and strikers Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose .
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3, Sporting Lisbon 1
5. Lyon v. Barcelona- This tie is going to be a very fun one to watch. I'm not totally convinced that Lyon can stay with Barca over two legs, but I do think they can make it tough on the Catalan giants. This will be a very open affair and should see Barca show just how good they are, which is very. With a big one Barca will be the favorites to go on and win it this year. But we'll have to wait a while for that one.
The man to watch for Lyon is Karim Benzema . The kid is tied for the top goalscorer in the tourney so far with 5 goals and his performance will be key. It will also be interesting to see if Juninho can work some of his magic of a free-kick. Barca's man is Lionel Messi . If these two guys are at their best, then the matches will be very good and we will see lots of goals. Barca are high-class and they will show it in this tie. Their talent will be too much for the handful of capable men on Lyon's side.
Prediction: Barcelona 5, Lyon 3
Check back in tomorrow to see who I think will win the other four matches. It's been Keeper once again, and I'm out.