The Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League, the draw for which is scheduled for Thursday 20 December, promises to be particularly exciting this year, with nine former champions involved, many of whom may well end up locking horns after their names are pulled out of the hat.
Five previous winners (Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United) and three strong but less heralded sides (Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke and Malaga) find themselves in the first seeding pot, which is comprised of teams that topped their respective groups.
The second pot includes four outfits that have ruled Europe in the past (Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Celtic), two formidable former finalists (Arsenal and Valencia) and two rising powers, in the shape of Galatasaray and Shakhtar Donetsk.
In anticipation of the much-awaited draw, FIFA.com takes a look back at some of the statistics that emerged from the group stage, one of the most remarkable of its kind since the European Cup became the UEFA Champions League ahead of the 1992/93 season.
countries have teams still involved in the last 16, while the Netherlands and Russia are the most notable absentees. Spain, with four, and Germany, with three, are the best represented nations, ahead of England and Italy, who can boast only two. The remaining sides come from five different nations, namely Portugal, France, Scotland, Turkey and Ukraine.
For the very first time in the tournament, the title holders – Chelsea – failed to advance from the group phase. Current English champions Manchester City also suffered the same fate, and even the successful qualifications of Manchester United and Arsenal did little to paper over some concerning statistics for England’s top flight. This season, English representatives recorded the smallest-ever number of victories (10) and points gained (35), while never before has an English team picked up as few points (3) as Manchester City did in Group D. After having seen all of its teams reach the knockout stages on several occasions, the Premier League has now lost two of them for the second successive campaign, after Manchester United and City – again – failed to progress last year. But that setback still did not prevent Chelsea from claiming the crown, or England from having at least one side in the quarter-finals, a feat it has managed every year since 1996.
of the 16 teams who have qualified for the Round of 16 this year were not present at this juncture of the competition last season. Among the five sides most accustomed to making an appearance at this stage, four (AC Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid) are previous champions, with a combined total of 24 continental triumphs under their belts, while one (Arsenal) has been there or thereabouts for the best part of a decade. Although Real Madrid possess the most impressive Round-of-16 qualification record, having progressed to the quarter-finals 16 consecutive times, their quest for a tenth victory in the competition has been ongoing since 2002 now.
Mirroring their all-conquering national team, Spain’s clubs have demonstrated their strength and depth by aligning a full quota of four in the last 16. While the presence of Barcelona, Real Madrid and two-time finalists Valencia does not constitute a great surprise, the appearance of Malaga at this stage is less expected. The Andalusian outfit finished top of their section and are one of just two remaining teams (Celtic being the other) that had to qualify for the group phase. This 100 per cent record is not a first for Spanish football, as back in season 2008/09, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Villarreal had achieved the same collective feat.
The three German representatives that took part in the group stage, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, all claimed top spot in their groups, and all had a berth in the next round wrapped up before the final matchday. When viewed alongside the successful UEFA Europa League results being obtained by Hannover, Stuttgart, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach, the performance is proof of the current healthy state of the Bundesliga. The only blemish for German football was Monchengladbach’s premature elimination at the hands of Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League play-off round, although Die Fohlen have somewhat made up for that letdown with their subsequent Europa League displays.
teams emerged from the group stage unbeaten: Borussia Dortmund, who won four matches and drew two, as well as Schalke, Malaga and Juventus, who all won three and drew three. The highest points total, however, was actually amassed by Paris Saint-Germain, who topped Group A with 15 points, a haul acquired courtesy of five victories and one defeat. After an eight-year absence, it has been a striking return for the Parisians, whose sixth appearance in Europe’s flagship club tournament has helped to make up for the disappointment of their 2004/05 campaign, where they finished last in a group containing Chelsea, Porto and CSKA Moscow.
goal in particular will be remembered from this year's group games, and not just for its quality; for once, the player responsible for the most eye-catching effort of the tournament so far was not a recognised ‘goal machine’. During Matchday 5 at Anderlecht, AC Milan defender Philippe Mexes managed to find the net in truly spectacular style. Positioned on the right-hand edge of the box, the Frenchman controlled Riccardo Montolivo’s free kick with his chest before dispatching the ball into the top corner with a superbly acrobatic overhead kick. “I gave it a try and it went in, but I had a bit of luck,” said the former Auxerre centre-half, who is not generally known for scoring breathtaking goals.
When Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit the back of the Dynamo Kiev net on the opening day of group-phase action, he became the first player to get his name on the scoresheet for six different clubs in the UEFA Champions League. A nomadic striker, Ibrahimovic has now scored for Ajax (7 goals), Juventus (3), Inter Milan (6), Barcelona (4), AC Milan (9) and PSG (2). Below him on the exclusive list are two famous names of the recent past, Fernando Morientes (Real Madrid, Monaco, Liverpool and Valencia) and Rivaldo (Barcelona, AC Milan, Olympiacos and AEK Athens), who both accomplished it with four clubs.
previously little-known players have shown great promise in the tournament thus far. Every year, Porto manage to unearth the latest in a long line of scoring sensations, and this season has been no different, with Jackson Martinez – who was highly recommended to the Portuguese club by Colombian compatriot and former local hero Radamel Falcao – fulfilling the role to perfection. Malaga’s inspirational young attacking midfielder, Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez, better known as ‘Isco’, is another to have made waves this season, with his performances making him a contender for a call-up to the Spanish national team.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo sits atop the competition’s scoring charts with six, but Galatasaray’s Burak Yilmaz, who has nabbed six of the seven goals recorded by the Istanbul side so far, presently shares the limelight with the Portuguese attacker. Three South Americans trail the leading pair by one: Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi and two Brazilians, Chelsea playmaker Oscar and Braga forward Alan.