Man City and Arsenal draw the big guns in Champions League
Arsenal and Manchester City have paid a severe price for not topping their Champions League groups by drawing European giants Bayern Munich (9/4 favourites) and Barcelona (5/1) respectively in the first knock-out round.
Coral have pushed the Gunners out to 40/1 after they were paired with champions Bayern, while City have been eased to 16/1 after drawing awesome Barcelona.
In strict contrast, Chelea (now 12/1) and Manchester United (14/1) have been handed the kindest of draws. There are no easy games at this stage of the competition, but Jose Mourinho and David Moyes could hardly have wished for better outcomes than games against big outsiders Galatasaray and Olympiacos.
They say that bad things come in threes and they certainly have for Arsenal after the defeat in Naples last week, which deprived them of top spot in their group and then the 6-3 thrashing at the Etihad.
They are making all the right positive noises down at the Emirates and rightly pointing out that they only lost to Bayern at the same stage of the competition last season on away goals, but the German powerhouses probably thought they had the job done after winning comfortably in London and are unlikely to take the foot off the gas again (although they were still perhaps a bit guilty of that against City last week).
It’s a nightmare draw, all right, but looked at from the other side, it will not have been what Pep Guardiola wanted either.
And the same goes for Gerardo Martino. In fact if there was one team the Barca boss would have wanted to avoid in the last 16, it is City with the Blues now beginning to make a real impression in Europe as well as stamping their authority on the domestic front.
Mourinho wanted a reunion with Didier Drogba and he has got his wish, but if Chelsea can’t get past Galatasaray over two legs then they don’t deserve to win the Champions League. The same goes for United against an ordinary Olympiacos outfit.
The other ties look fairly straight forward to predict: Real Madrid (9/2 to win the tournament) will surely have too much for Schalke, while PSG (14/1) and Borussia Dortmund (16/1) will be happy with their draws against Bayer Leverkusen and Zeint St Petersburg respectively.
Atletico Madrid (14/1), too, will be favourites to see off AC Milan, who are nothing like the force they were a few years ago.
But we are, of course, thinking about how these games might pan out if they were played next week instead of in February and March when league tables and form might look very different.