The group stages for the UEFA Champions League ended two months ago and with it the hopes of 16 teams that sought to become the top football club in Europe. Starting tomorrow and extending into next week, the first leg of the final 16 teams will get under way to determine the remaining eight teams. This knockout stage is the beginning of a three-month campaign in which paired teams play home-and-home series until the finals, which is a single-match winner-take-all at a neutral site. This year’s Championships are shaping up to be better than last year’s version considering how many quality clubs not only qualified for the tournament but managed to survive until this point.
All four English Premier League teams remain in contention, with Chelsea and Manchester United winning their group and receiving favorable match-ups in the next stage. Arsenal and Manchester City currently stand in second and third place respectively in the table (standings). Arsenal faces the daunting task of playing defending-champion Bayern München, while Manchester City faces Lionel Messi, Neymar and Barcelona – a matchup that on betting sites appears to be pretty even. The leg opens up at Etihad Stadium in Manchester City and it’s extremely vital for the home team to come out on top and preferably with a sizable victory. Last year in the semi-finals, Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski scored four goals at home to help his team defeat Real Madrid and earn a shot in the final.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the MLS, the inter-league UEFA is what it’s all about in Europe. The domestic season is played not so much to win the English Premier League championship as played to qualify for the UEFA championships, in which the four top EPL club teams automatically participate. for this tournament. When the group stage ended two months ago, the surviving teams get a transfer window for the month of January to bulk up before they face-off in the knockout stages. Millions and millions of dollars are spent by these teams’ owners to try and capture the UEFA title and the riches that these games confer upon the teams whose seasons are extended by so many games.
While everyone enjoys watching the regular season’s weekend games, the UEFA tournament is at a higher level of interest. Team schedules are reworked around UEFA games and all of them are played at night and tickets are extremely expensive. The format is anything anything in the U.S. that typically confers a home-field advantage in a series of games or a one-and-done in the NFL. To give you some sort of understanding as to how big this tournament is in Europe, the cheapest price of a ticket to the finals in Lisbon in May is currently starting at 1500 euros ($2055). The cheapest ticket to the Super Bowl a few weeks ago was $1600 the night before the game.