Chelsea, the defending Champions League winners, were eliminated during the group stage, which means a new champion will be crowned as teams prepare for the knockout rounds. The draw for the Round of 16 took place on Thursday.
Most of the usual suspects, from Barcelona to Manchester United, are still alive. There are also a couple surprising contenders, namely Celtic and Galatasaray. As the Blues illustrated last season, it's impossible to count any club out if it gets hot at the right time.
Let's take a look at the Round of 16 matchups. They will be played in a home-and-home format with matches taking place in February and March.
Round of 16 Matchups
|Team||Team||First Leg||Second Leg|
|Galatasaray||Schalke||Feb. 20||March 12|
|Celtic||Juventus||Feb. 12||March 6|
|Arsenal||Bayern Munich||Feb. 19||March 13|
|Shakhtar Donetsk||Borussia Dortmund||Feb. 13||March 5|
|AC Milan||Barcelona||Feb. 20||March 12|
|Real Madrid||Manchester United||Feb. 13||March 5|
|Valencia||Paris Saint-Germain||Feb. 12||March 6|
|Porto||Malaga||Feb. 19||March 13|
Matchup to Watch: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United
Undoubtedly, the most prominent matchup of the opening knockout round is Real Madrid taking on Manchester United. The perennial powerhouses both had their sights set on a deep run, but only one of them will reach the final eight.
Madrid continue to be led by dynamic striker and former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has already tallied six goals in six Champions League appearances this season. He's joined by a terrific midfield featuring Mesut Ozil and an elite goalkeeper in Iker Casillas.
United are one of the few clubs that can match Madrid's star power. The talented attacking duo of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney is going to cause some problems for the Blancos' back line. The Red Devils do have some question marks of their own at the back, though.
Star to Watch: Lionel Messi
Who else? The unstoppable Barcelona forward has shattered the record for most goals in a calendar year and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Messi and Co. are set to take on Milan in the Round of 16.
The most amazing thing about the Argentine superstar, and there are plenty of things to choose from, is his remarkable consistency. He rarely goes into a slump, and that is a major advantage for Barca in this type of tournament.
Barcelona were eliminated in the semifinals by the eventual champion Blues last season. But their unbeaten start in La Liga, thanks in large part to Messi's brilliance, suggests they are one of the top contenders to take home the trophy in 2013.
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