Grab your commemorative scarves and prime your illegal internet soccer streams, because the Champions League round of 16 begins today.
If you’re unfamiliar with the round of 16 format, the winners and losers are calculated as follows: Each match-up is split into two games — a first leg, and a second leg. The score of the first game is added to the score of the second to create an aggregate score, and the team that wins on aggregate advances to the quarterfinals. In the case of a tie (which will happen, undoubtedly), the team with the most away goals advances. In the case of a tie on away goals, the teams will go extra time at the end of the second leg, and if needed, penalty kicks.
Onto the matchups.
3. Celtic vs. Juventus
Celtic is the feel-good story of the Champions League group stages — the tiny Scottish champions beat Barcelona at home en route to a second-place finish in the group, which secured them a date with Italian giants Juventus. The consummate underdog, Celtic have the advantage of playing the opening leg at Celtic Park, where they haven’t lost since November 24th. If Gary Hooper (13 goals in the SPL this season) keeps scoring and Celtic somehow win the first leg, Snoop Dogg’s favorite club has a chance, but it’s a very small chance.
First leg: February 12th at Celtic
Second leg: March 6th at Juventus
Winner: Juventus. There’s also a 100% chance Rod Stewart will shed tears.
5. Paris Saint-Germain vs. Valencia
Paris Saint-Germain has navigated its first season as a modern super-club relatively well, steamrolling through the group stages and holding a six-point lead in Ligue 1 (it helps having a monster like Zlatan up top, he’s bagged 23 goals in all competitions), but the struggles of Manchester City will serve as a warning that instant success isn’t always forthcoming. On paper, PSG should cruise by Valencia, but these are the first real meaningful, pressure-filled games the French club has played together.
There is a chance new signing David Beckham will make his debut with PSG in the Champions League against Valencia, though he hasn’t even joined the team yet, leading to speculation it was simply a PR move.
First leg: February 12th at Valencia
Second leg: March 6th at PSG
7. Real Madrid vs. Manchester United
Some of the greatest players in the world currently ply their trade for either Real Madrid or Manchester United, but the biggest clash in this match-up is between the iconic managers. Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho conquered England with Chelsea and won the Champions League with both Porto and Inter before coming to Madrid, but a rocky La Liga season (read: 16 points behind Barcelona) and constant infighting means Mourinho may be let go at the end of the year. Tabloids tap Mourinho as the popular choice to succeed 70-year-old Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United one day, but that could all change if Mourinho leads Madrid to a 10th Champions League title.
The second leg will mark the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford, where he evolved from flashy winger to the best player in the world years ago. Oh, and Gus Johnson will be calling the action in the United States, making this must-watch, call-in-sick, quit-your-job-if-you-have-to television.
First leg: February 13th at Real Madrid
Second leg: March 5th at Manchester United
Winner: Manchester United
9. Borussia Dortmund vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
It’s an unfortunate scheduling blunder that sees Dortmund and Shakhtar play at the same time on the same dates as Madrid and Manchester United, because they’re the two most compelling matches of the lot. It’s probably worth buying a second television to see both concurrently, so plan trips to electronic outlets accordingly. With budding superstarts like Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund are the Oklahoma City Thunder of the Bundesliga: They don’t get much exposure in the United States because of a poor location, but they play a thrilling brand of soccer and score goals by the bunches. Shakhtar, meanwhile, shocked current Champions League holders Chelsea to advance to the knockout rounds, and have turned their home Donbass Arena into a fortress.
First leg: February 13th at Shakhtar
Second leg: March 5th at Dortmund
11. Malaga vs. Porto
Malaga and Porto have never played a competitive match before and may not play again for a very long time, given Malaga’s impending expulsion from next year’s Champions League. Still, all you really need to know is that Malaga’s Eliseu scored this goal earlier in the competition against Anderlecht. Advantage to the Spaniards.
First leg: February 19th at Porto
Second leg: March 13th at Malaga
13. Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal
A matchup that sounds infinitely better than it will eventually look, Bayern versus Arsenal features two teams heading in very different directions. Arsenal, currently in fifth in the Premier League, must focus on qualifying for next year’s tournament as a first priority, meaning Arsene Wenger won’t be able to rest his best players on weekend games that sandwich each clash with Bayern. The Germans, meanwhile, have a comfortable lead in the Bundesliga and have allowed an incredibly stingy seven goals through 21 games. Even if Arsenal gains possession of the ball (which isn’t a certainty), they may not be able to beat Manuel Neuer.
First leg: February 19th at Arsenal
Second leg: March 13th at Bayern
15. Galatasaray vs. Schalke
Galatasaray was just a funny-sounding team in a precarious location until the January transfer window, when the Turks splashed cash and welcomed a pair of Champions League winners in Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder to the fray. Although Drogba is 34 and Sneijder hasn’t quite been the same player since the 2010 World Cup, both were among the best players in the world during their prime, and both could individually win a match against Schalke. Though the Germans were favorites in this tie when it was drawn in December, they’ve since lost four of their last six games, and the competition’s improved.
First leg: February 20th at Galatasaray
Second leg: March 12th at Schalke
17. A.C. Milan vs. Barcelona
Despite one of the worst starts in club history, AC Milan has stabilized and is slowly climbing back up the Serie A standings. The Italians bought Mario Balotelli away from Manchester City during the transfer window to pair with Stephan El Shaarawy and create a mohawk-ed front line of doom, and Balotelli’s already scored three goals in his first 180 minutes in a red shirt. For the first time all year, it’s okay for Milan fans to be slightly optimistic.
None of that really matters, though, because Lionel Messi is inmessionante and is liable to score seven goals in the first half hour. Also, Balotelli’s ineligible to play in the Champions League because he’s cup tied from his time with Manchester City. Sorry, Rossoneri.
First leg: February 20th at Milan
Second leg: March 12th at Barcelona