Manuel Pellegrini’s side were paired with Barcelona and Arsene Wenger’s men face Bayern Munich, but both clubs will feel the tough last-16 ties were avoidable
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent
There are major losers in most Champions League draws, but not always do they come from the same part of the world. And while one of them sit top of the Premier League this morning and the other can boast a 6-3 weekend win over the same side, both Arsenal and Manchester City will be thinking about what might have been after the last-16 pairings were unveiled in Nyon on Monday.
Manuel Pellegrini will not be convinced that Barcelona respresent the toughest draw his team could have been handed, but the Manchester City boss will still have a huge job on his hands to ensure that they’re back in Nyon for the quarter-final draw in March.
The Catalan giants are not the frightening proposition they were three seasons ago, with their suspect defence being highlighted widely as the way in for opponents looking for an opening, but they remain a tough prospect for a City side playing in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time ever.
|ROUND OF 16 DRAW
Having come within one goal of toppling Bayern Munich to win Group D, the Citizens may be left kicking themselves for their inability to ensure an easier path. The visit of Lionel Messi, Neymar et al will represent the Etihad Stadium’s greatest ever occasion to date, but will also be the biggest test of what this City side is capable of.
Arsenal, meanwhile, got the toughest draw of the lot, with Bayern set to visit the Emirates Stadium just as they did in 2012-13.
Arsene Wenger will tell his side that last season’s second-leg win in Munich proves that they have the measure of the European champions. He’ll also point to FC Hollywood’s loss to Manchester City last week as further evidence that Pep Guardiola’s men can be overturned. But in reality, he would have rather seen any other name come out alongside that of the Gunners.
Like City, the Premier League leaders could have won their group. In fact, they should have won it. Group F may well have been this season’s ‘Group of Death’, but having got themselves into a great position ahead of matchday six, they have ultimately paid the price for not finishing the job off in Naples.
Pep’s Bayern look more likely than any side ever has to becoming the Champions League’s first back-to-back winners. Two meaningless defeats to City and Arsenal, plus a Superpokal loss to Borussia Dortmund, represent their only defeats of 2013. And given the way they are playing under the former Barca boss, there might not be too many more losses on the cards in 2014.
Arsenal’s 6-3 loss at the Etihad on Saturday gave clarity to the argument that Wenger’s side can be overcome by a fast, penetrative opponent who put the emphasis on the Gunners’ defensive third, and Bayern will look to do exactly the same come February.
If only they, like City, had taken the chance they had and topped their group, they might be relishing what lies ahead, instead of looking fearful.
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