Arsène Wenger praying for Arsenal luck in Champions League draw

Posted Monday, December 15, 2014 by

Arsène Wenger praying for Arsenal luck in Champions League draw
Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Real Madrid could face Arsenal or Manchester City in the last 16.

Arsène Wenger’s suggestion that he might “go to church over the weekend” to pray for a kind round of 16 draw was a nice line but also reflected a truth that clubs finishing second in the group stage are, although managers can be loth to admit it, tasked with overturning some severe odds.

In the past four seasons, teams from pot one have won 27 of 32 ties played at this stage, with all eight group winners prevailing in 2013-14. Arsenal and Manchester City were frustrated to be drawn against Bayern Munich and Barcelona last time out but statistics do not lie and their inconsistency against teams such as Anderlecht and CSKA Moscow means they have little room for wishful thinking when the fixtures for the last 16 are drawn on Monday .

Wenger would probably find the most comfort in an old stomping ground. Monaco would offer a warm welcome to their former manager off the pitch but look the most obliging opponents on it too, struggling for consistency in Ligue 1 and scoring only four goals in winning a mediocre Group C. Neither Arsenal nor Manchester City would be too unhappy, either, to meet Porto, who have reached the last eight only once since winning the competition in 2004 and, although much higher-scoring, were another team not to be overly extended in their group.

Chelsea are not weighed down by such concerns and can enjoy the fact that two of the more obvious banana skins in pot two come from England. Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, who they defeated on away goals in last year’s quarter-finals, look the most obvious risks although a reunion with Basel, who beat them twice in the 2013-14 group stage, would hold no guarantees.

Those are the most obvious of the “sharks in the ocean” José Mourinho professed to fear last week but it is left to Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini to fear the biggest fish of all.



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