After the shocks (Galatasaray), drama (Borussia Dortmund), and perhaps predictable (Chelsea), we’re down to 16 teams, UEFA’s Champions League Wednesday having identified the final club. who will move on the competition’s Round of 16. That phase is scheduled to begin play in February, though next week we’ll find out the matchups, with the competition’s eight group winners set to be drawn against the teams who finished second in group phase.
Those teams will include Arsenal, who joins Manchester City as clubs to avoid in the runners up pool. The Premier League leaders’ 2-0 loss in Naples created a three-way tie in Group F, one that sent 2012-13 finalists Borussia Dortmund through as group winners and Napoli to Europa League.
Though Arsenal and City can’t be drawn against teams from their own federation, precluding a Round of 16 matchup with Manchester United and Chelsea, the rule could work against the English duo next Monday. The Gunners are destined to face one of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Atlético Madrid or Barcelona in the Round of 16. Swap in Borussia Dortmund for Bayern, and the list is the same for City.
We’ll circle back with more on the potential knockout round matchups. For now, here’s who’s
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – Round of 16
- A: Manchester United (14 pts.)
- B: Real Madrid (16 pts.)
- C: Paris Saint-Germain (13 pts.)
- D: Bayern Munich (15 pts.)
- E: Chelsea (12 pts.)
- F: Borussia Dortmund (12 pts.)
- G: Atlético Madrid (13 pts., five games)
- H: Barcelona (13 pts.)
- A: Bayer Leverkusen (10 pts.)
- B: Galatasaray (7 pts.)
- C: Olympiacos (10 pts.)
- D: Manchester City (15 pts.)
- E: Schalke (10 pts.)
- F: Arsenal (12 pts.)
- G: Zenit St. Peterburg (6 pts.)
- F: Milan (9 pts.)
EUROPA LEAGUE – Round of 32
- A: Shakhtar Donetsk (8 pts.)
- B: Juventus (6 pts.)
- C: Benfica (10 pts.)
- D: Viktoria Plzen (3 pts.)
- E: Basel (8 pts.)
- F: Napoli (12 pts.)
- G: Porto (5 pts.)
- H: Ajax (8 pts.)
The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.
[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]
Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.
[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]
In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).
Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule
D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET
Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.
He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.
According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.
[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]
“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”
During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.
It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.
Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.
Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.
Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”
Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”
Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.
[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]
Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?
The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.
Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.
However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.
David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.
If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.
It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.
Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.
It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.