The Gunners’ defeat to Napoli and Borussia Dortmund’s win in Marseille means Arsenal can now be drawn against five of the toughest opponents involved in the competition in the next round – they will face one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-German.
Three out of five of those are domestic champions in La Liga, Ligue 1, and the Bundesliga, one of those is the current reigning European champions and one of those is the has most expensive squad in the world. It’s not going to be easy, whomever Arsenal get in the draw but, if there were an easier option, who would it be?
The obvious answer would be Atletico Madrid seeing as they are not domestic champions in Spain, or the runners-up and are not seeded in the top pot of the Champions League as Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are. However, they qualified top of their group ahead of Zenit, Porto and Austria Wien with 16 points – they won all but one of their games and are unbeaten so far in the competition this term.
They have some of La Liga’s finest in Chelsea loan star Thibaut Courtois, Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld, Spanish midfield starlet Koke, Raul Garcia, Arda Turan, and Adrian Lopez, David Villa, Diego Costa and Leo Baptisto in their forward lines. They are a very dangerous and organized team.
Technically, they’ve been performing better than Real Madrid so far this season – Atletico Madrid sit in 2nd place behind Barcelona level on 40 points with Real Madrid trailing behind in 3rd with 37 points despite the arrival of the likes of Gareth Bale and Isco at the Bernabeu this summer and Neymar at the Camp Nou.
I would say a draw against either of the Spanish capital’s teams would be equally as unkind as each other and no one wants to see Arsenal dumped out by Barcelona yet again. So perhaps the French champions might be worth a shout?
The mega-rich Parisiens currently sit two points clear of Monaco in Ligue 1 and topped their Champions League group ahead of Olympiacos, Benfica and Anderlecht. Their squad boast the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic who Arsenal will remember well, along with Edinson Cavani, with Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti in midfield and Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Maxwell and Gregory van der Wiel at the back. They are a very accomplished side as demonstrated by their making it to the semi-finals last term.
The assumption is always going to be that Bayern Munich as the current holders are the scariest but let’s not forget Arsenal beat them 2-0 at the Allianz Arena this year and game so so close to knocking them out all together. Perhaps a case of better the devil you know would be best?
Although, under new boss Pep Guardiola they are a little bit different and equally as terrifying a prospect to face – overall I think Arsenal may prefer to avoid the usual suspects that usually make it through the rounds year in year out. Atletico Madrid haven’t made it out of the group stages since 2008/09 and they haven’t made it to the final since 1974 (in its previous incarnation the European Cup).
All of the other potential opponents in the draw have been in the final, semi-final or quarter-final last season, which is further than Arsenal have gotten for the last three seasons in a row.
On that basis, Atletico Madrid would be the kindest draw for the Gunners - who have the experience which could edge the tie -but that’s about as kind as it gets from here on out, even if Thierry Henry does not agree.
image: © wonker