Elimination stage gets underway for UEFA Champions League The first of two matches for the Round of 16 fixtures are complete as AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich look to be in position to advance
By Connor Phillips
Even though it may not be that popular in the United States, all of Europe is paying attention to the Union of European Football Associations Champions League. UEFA is the European branch of FIFA and oversees all of European soccer.
Over the past two weeks the Champions League has gotten back into full swing with the start of the elimination stage in the Round of 16. The UEFA Champions League is an elite competition between the best football clubs from around Europe.
At this stage in the competition, each team plays once at their home stadium and once at their opponent’s. Then the combined scores of the matches are taken and whoever has more goals overall moves on to the next round. In the case of a tie on aggregate goals, whoever has more away goals is declared the winner and advances.
The first leg of matches has already taken place and there were some very intense fixtures during this stage.
First off, Valencia played host to a recently created European powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain. PSG was bought by Qatar Investment Authority in 2011 which gave them an excess of cash to spend on high-end players. Most recently they signed the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thiago Silva and the world famous David Beckham.
PSG dominated the early stages of the match, scoring two goals before halftime. Valencia then gained the majority of possession but was unable to pull one back until the 90th minute. Ibrahimović was issued a red card in the closing stages of the match due to a studs up challenge, leaving PSG without their most potent attacker for the home match in the French capital.
The next match was that between Celtic and the Italian giants Juventus. Celtic entered the match with high hopes after defeating arguably the best team in the world, Barcelona, during the group stages. Sadly, they were unable to hold off Juventus and were defeated 3-0 at home giving them a low chance to advance to the next round.
The very next day, arguably one of the best matches of the year took place between nine-time champion Real Madrid and the most valuable sports franchise in the world, Manchester United. This match was a closely contested affair and ended up finishing in a 1-1 draw with the next match to be played at the famous home of United, Old Trafford.
Later that day there was another hotly anticipated fixture between the Ukrainian champions, Shakhtar Donetsk and the German champions, Borussia Dortmund. Both teams have great quality and this was a hard fought match in the cold of Ukraine. The match ended in a 2-2 tie that ultimately favors Dortmund due to the away goal rule.
The match between FC Bayern München and Arsenal in London was also a match that many were looking to in order to determine the quality of a struggling Arsenal side. Unfortunately, Arsenal was outplayed, losing 3-1 which, like Shakhtar Donetsk, leaves them at a disadvantage going to Germany for their second match.
Finally,possibly the biggest upset of the Round of 16 was the defeat dealt to Barcelona at the hands of AC Milan. Barcelona outplayed Milan on the day but were robbed of a victory due to a pair of goals scored by Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari respectively.
This gives Milan a distinct advantage when they travel to Spain on March 12 to try and hang onto their lead and knock Barcelona out of the competition earlier than expected.
This Round of 16 is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. The upsets balanced out with the fantastic match ups seems to have the making of a memorable run for some sides and an embarrassing crash for others. It will be an exciting sight to behold in the coming weeks.