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Arsenal in trouble?


Juventus Turin crushed Celtic Glasgow away 3-0, Paris St-Germain got a precious 2-1 victory in Valencia, Dortmund got an inspirational 2-2 draw against Shaktar Donetsk of Ukraine and Manchester United taught Real Madrid some lessons in humility by getting a precious 1-1 draw out of the game in Madrid as the Champions league came back in full force.

It is now win or get eliminated! This is the debut of the "thriller" stage of the Uefa Champions league.

However, this time around, it could be a defining moment for several clubs and coaches. Some are playing for their immediate future as we speak!

Porto v Malaga: This is the game of two extremes.

Porto are the best tuned team in Europe for finacial and sporting success. They buy good and relatively unknown players, notably from South America (eg Falcao, now of Atletico Madrid, or the Hulk, now at Zenit St Petersburg), give them proper build up via a less stressful league and eventually use the platform of the Champions League to add value to them and eventually sell them for a huge profit.

Malaga are a team in the Chelsea mould; owned by a rich sheik from Qatar and believe more in an assembly of stars and a star coach, in Manuel Pellegrini, to construct success. They have been a success I must add.

They both are successful in their own rights but, with Malaga banned from further participation in European continental club championships due to infringement of the Uefa financial FairPlay rules, they need this year's Champions League like a fish needs water. Elimination could be costly for club and actors.

As Porto host talented Malaga it resembles a Libertadores Cup tie, due to the number of South Americans who will be featured, more than a Champions League contest.

Galatasaray v Schalke : The surprise contest.

Galatasaray are rebuilding, not only the image of their country's credibility, but also sporting success. In comes Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder of Holland and all of a sudden Schalke of Germany now have a real fight on their hands.

Didier Drogba announced his arrival in Turkish football with style as he struck the opening goal in Galatasaray's 2-1 win at Akhisar Belediye on Friday night.

Schalke, who lost their charismatic coach Juup Stevens to the sack in mid-December 2012, now lie ninth on the league table, three places down from where they were before the coach change. So things are not looking up at the moment and Galatasaray could exploit this but, then,never write off the Germans.

Milan v Barcelona: game of the usual suspects.

These two teams just love playing each other in this competition you must say. In the past five years they have been drawn against one another three times, with Barcelona Getting the upper hand in all games but one.

Milan are not quite lethal at the moment, unlike in the recent past, but they are still a force in Europe with a well-rounded coach.

Barcelona, however, with so many points ahead and really gliding at the domestic level, should be fresh enough to see off this "Milanist" team but it will not come without a fight from Milan.

That said, I do hope milan come to the game with a reservoir of carbohydrates because they are going to need all the energy they can get to even rival this free-flowing Barcelona side.

Arsenal v Bayern Munich: Arsenal's defining game of the year.

Simply put, Arsenal have all the odds against them and recent form (elimination by Blackburn Rovers from the FA cup at the weekend) does not help matters.

Defeat for Arsenal could be the straw that breaks Arsenal's back.

I wonder how the fans will stomach elimination; three full months of no European Cup games, certainty of going an eighth year title-less and the possibility that even a fourth place position on the league table, that guarantees lucrative Champions League participation, could be out of reach.

It is certain that Arsene Wenger, the board of directors and the players are under a lot of pressure at the moment.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, their opponents,Bayern Munich, are effortlessly 15 points clear in the German Bundesliga and won the last five games since the winter break without conceding a goal. It is not the presence of ex-Bayern colleague, Lucas Podolski, in the Arsenal Ranks that will be giving them sleepiness nights.

Bayern should approach this game with so much serenity and confidence in knowing that their opponents of the day are wounded but you never know, Arsenal might just surprise us all and become fierce like a real wounded lion after all.


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