[Remember to like Red London on facebook or at the right side of the page]
The Italian side forced their way into the last 16 of the competition by particularly tormenting Manchester City. They were the only side in the group which Mancini’s men failed to register a win against and finished runners-up to Bayern Munich with 11 points – as many as Arsenal gathered themselves to top their group of course.
Napoli’s Champions League campaign so far has been led by the prolific Edinson Cavani who netted four goals – two of them against Man. City – in the group stage.
CSKA needed only two wins and two draws from six matches to progress to the knock-out stage after finishing in second place in Group B.
The Russian side had recorded indifferent results ahead of the final match of the group stage, and indeed, had it not been a dramatic 2-1 win at the San Siro over Inter Milan, it would have been underdogs Trabzonspor who qualified at their expense.
After securing arguably one of the biggest scalps in European football for sometime, Basel were rewarded with a place in the Champions League last 16 for only the second time in their history.
Optimism was at top gear once they began their campaign with a 2-1 win over Oţelul Galaţi at home, and when they followed up that result with a scintillating 3-3 draw at Old Trafford, Europe was starting to take note of the Swiss side.
Only group winners Benfica tasted victory over Basel in their solitary defeat in the group stage, and the Portuguese side’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United gifted Basel a golden chance of qualifiying to the round of 16 as runners-up as long us they came up with an upset at home to United in the final group-stage match. And they did exactly that. A 2-1 win over the red devils ensured that Siwtzerland will be represented in Europe’s elite club competition for the next phase at least.
Like Arsenal, Lyon came into this season’s Champions League campaign looking to preserve a consistent record of making it out of the group stages season after season. But the French side nearly saw their reliable reputation in tatters as with a game left in the first round of the competition, Lyon were favourites to be eliminated at the expense of Ajax who were in a comfortable position to join group winners Real Madrid as Group D’s survivors.
Barring the unlikely case of a heavy home defeat for Ajax against Real Madrid and a thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb on the final day, Lyon were to see an early exit from the Champions League. But they did exactly what was required to avoid that fate – even setting a new club record of their biggest ever win in the competition – as seven goals after going behind to Dinamo Zagreb clinched a 7-1 victory for them to take the unlikely route which was also decided by Madrid’s 3-0 win in Amsterdam. Bafétimbi Gomis who scored four times in that thumping will be the biggest concern for Lyon’s next opponents.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Despite beginning their campaign with a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, Michael Ballack’s Bayer Leverkusen were always odds-on to remain in the fight to progress from the group, largely due to lack of competition from bottom side Genk who paved the way for Chelsea, Valencia and Leverkusen to battle it out for the top two places.
Indeed, after beating Chelsea 2-1 at home, the German side were heading for top spot in the group until a 1-1 draw on the final matchday against Genk – coupled with a win over Valencia in favour of their London rivals – denied them from achieving that feat in Group E.
Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit joined unlikely Group G top dogs APOEL in the last 16 of the Champions League courtesy of quite an ugly battle which saw them muster nine points from six games in the end.
Andrey Arshavin’s former club began their campaign with a 2-1 defeat at APOEL, but that was followed up with vital home victories over Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk to keep their hopes very much alive in the competition. The Russian side still had to shoot a hero’s scene on the final matchday as a 0-0 draw at Porto – full of last-ditch defending and rescues by the goalkeeper – saw them qualify as runners-up of the group at the expense of their frustrated Portuguese foes.
Pitting their wits against minows Plzeň and BATE, Milan were always favourites to survive Group H alongside Barcelona. And so they did. The Italian side’s first fixture was a tough trip to their Spanish rivals, but Alexandre Pato’s side were unfazed and a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou made it clear that the Italian side could be legitimate contenders for Europe’s biggest crown this season.
However, complacency caught up with Massimiliano Allegri’s side after they secured a last 16 place with several games to spare. Indeed, AC Milan could only muster two points from their final three games – including a 2-2 draw which was gifted late on to Plzeň on the final matchday.
* Since Arsenal topped Group F, they can only be drawn against a side which finished second in their group. All the teams above were runners-up in their respective groups. No two teams from the same country can be drawn against each other until the quarter-final stage.