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A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

Germany v Greece Preview

The pre-tournament favourites Germany take on massive outsiders Greece  in the quarter-finals in Gdansk today – with the Germans looking to join Portugal in the final four, while the Greeks will be hoping for an upset.

Greece provided arguably the biggest shock of Euro 2012 so far by jumping from the foot of Group A to second with a 1-0 win over Russia in their final group game. And their unexpected title triumph at Euro 2004 is another indication of how dangerous the Greeks can be. Greece coach Fernando Santos believes the example of eight years ago is giving his squad belief as they enter the knockout stages. “I would like to seize this opportunity to say what an inspiration for us the 2004 success is,” said Santos. “We showed great resolution and strength and we were written off before that tournament, but we still reached the final and won the cup. That should be a source of inspiration for us this time.”

It may need more than inspiration if they are to beat Joachim Low’s team. Germany are the only team at Euro 2012 to win all their matches so far – even also winning all 10 qualifying games. Although Low is not taking Greece for granted, he remains convinced his team will progress to the semi-finals. “Logically we are favourites, but we can deal with that,” he said. “But remember – knockout games have their own character so it will not be the case that the favourite automatically reaches the next round. We saw that in the group when Russia were the big favourites and we have all seen what happened. But if we show all of our inner strength and belief, then we are strong enough to beat the Greeks of course. I am convinced we will win.”

TEAM NEWS

Germany

Germany welcome Jerome Boateng back after he missed the 2-1 win over Denmark due to suspension. Lars Bender should therefore return to the bench despite scoring the winner against the Danes. The rest of the team is expected to be the same, meaning the likes of Miroslav Klose, Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos must continue to wait for a start.

Greece

Fernando Santos must do without skipper Giorgos Karagounis and left-back Jose Holebas, who were both suspended in the win over Russia. Georgios Tzavelas had already usurped Holebas in the left-back slot so will continue, but the likes of Sotiris Ninis, Grigoris Makos and Giorgos Fotakis will battle for Karagounis’ midfield berth.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 8
Germany Wins – 5
Draws – 3
Greece Wins – 0

FORM GUIDE

Germany – WWWWL
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 1-2 Germany
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
31-May-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel
26-May-12 – Friendly – Switzerland 5-3 Germany

Czech Republic – WLDWD
16-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-0 Russia
12-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic
08-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Poland 1-1 Greece
31-May-12 – Friendly – Greece 1-0 Armenia
26-May-12 – Friendly – Greece 1-1 Slovenia

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid star has had a relatively quiet tournament so far with just one assist to his name, but Joachim Low has backed the playmaker to “explode” in the knockout rounds just like he did in the World Cup two years ago. Indeed, a return to the form he showed in South Africa which earned him a move to Real Madrid may just be what is needed to get the zip back into Germany’s build-up play in the final third, which has at times looked a bit lifeless.

Mario Gomez (Germany)
Coming from a highly successful season with Bayern Munich and with already three goals in three group games, the German striker is the favourite to win the Golden Boot award. But with Greece boasting a record of the least number of goals conceded during qualifying, the former Stuttgart striker will have to be at his very best to score today and help his side reach the semi-finals.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Greece)
With Greece most likely to sit on the backfoot and defend rather than playing some free-flowing, eye-catching attacking football, their defending will have to be up to the task to give them any chance of pulling off an upset against the slick passing game of the Germans. The 20-year-old Schalke defender, Papadopoulos was reliable at the back in the group stages and his physical strength and ability to read the game will aid him well in his duel with Mario Gomez.

Geiorgios Samaras (Greece)
The Celtic striker was impressive against the Russians the other night, holding up the ball and going past the defenders with ease. Often played out on the wide, the 27-year-old put in some dangerous crosses and also tracks back to help out his defenders. Although he hasn’t scored in the tournament yet, he remains an integral part of the Greece as justified by manager Fernando Santos by handing him a start in all the games till now.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm; Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mario Gomez.

Germany have stuck with their best players all through the tournament and coach Joachim Low will not wish to mess with the winning eleven much. Bayern stopper Neuer will start in between the sticks and will be hoping to deal with the Greek attacks. The defence will see the return of Jerome Boateng  in place of Lars Bender after serving his suspension, despite the later scoring the winning goal against Denmark. Hummels, Badstuber and Lahm are expected to make up the rest of the defence. Khedira and Schweinsteiger will protect the defensive line while also assisting the attacking midfield trio of Muller, Ozil and Podolski. Star striker Mario Gomez, who is the joint topscorer in the competition with 3 goals and will get the nod again ahead of the veteran Miroslav Klose.

Greece (4-2-3-1): Michalis Sifakis; Vasilis Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos, Giorgos Tzavelas; Kostas Katsouranis, Giannis Maniatis; Dimitris Salpigidis, Giorgos Fotakis, Geiogios Samaras; Theofanis Gekas.

Greece coach Fernando Santos will be without captain Giorgos Karagounis and Jose Holebas, who are both suspended, while goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias is unlikely to recover from his hamstring injury in time. Sifakis who has yet to concede a goal in his two appearances since coming on as a substitute against the Czech Republic will start in the between the sticks for the Greeks. The back four of Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos and Tzavelas will guard the goal ahead of Sifakis. Katsouranis and Maniatis will play in the midfield protecting their defence as well as assisting in the attack. Ninis might get a chance over here with skipper suspended but Santos may go for the experience of Fotakis to play behind the striker Gekas and in between Samars and Salpigidis.

MATCH ODDS

Germany 3/10 Draw 21/5 Greece 10/1

PREDICTION

The Germans are known for their free-flowing attacking football, while the Greeks are known to be defensively very sound and they showed it against the Russians. It’s going to be a contest of attack versus the defence, as the Germans would look to attack from the first minute and look score an early goal, while the Greeks would look to defend and try to hit their opponents on the counter or from the set-peices. Greece have some very hardworking players who gave their best to win the match against Russia, but the Germans have talent and quality in their side alongwith some game changing individuals and that might be too much for Fernando Santos’ men to handle.

Predicted Score – Germany 2-0 Greece

Netherlands v Germany Preview

Netherlands meet Germany in today’s do-or-die Group B clash in Kharkiv, knowing that another defeat will mean the end an early exit in the group stages for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist. 

Bert van Marwijk’s side have to pick themselves up after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Denmark, in a match the Dutch had largely dominated but were very wasteful. They now have to beat rivals Germany at the Metalist Stadium, then Portugal on Sunday to be sure of qualifying from the group, which has been dubbed ‘The Group of Death’. While the Dutch will be fighting for survival, Germany know another win will put them in the quarter-finals following their 1-0 victory over Portugal.

Clashes between Holland and neighbours Germany are amongst the biggest in world football and always tend to be spicy affairs and there will be no quarter given when they renew their historic rivalry. This will be the eighth time the teams have met at a finals tournament and the fifth occasion at a European Championship. Germany have three wins against two for the Dutch and two draws. And there have been some classic matches between these countries such as the 1974 World Cup final, when Johan Cruyff’s team scored an early penalty, only to lose 2-1 to the Germans in Munich. The Euro ’88 semi-final in Hamburg was a special moment for the Oranje Army as Marco Van Basten scored a last minute winner to beat the hosts 2-1. And then there was the tempestuous 1990 World Cup second round encounter at the San Siro in Milan which Germany won 2-1, after their striker Rudi Voeller and Dutch stalwart Frank Rijkaard were sent-off before Andreas Brehme curled home a late winner.

TEAM NEWS

Netherlands

Netherlands have received a boost with the return to fitness of veteran defender Joris Mathijsen ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Euro 2012 showdown with Germany. The Malaga centre-back missed the 1-0 defeat to Denmark with a hamstring problem but looks set to return to the Dutch lineup in place of Ron Vlaar. Midfielder Wesley Sneijder should feature despite sustaining a minor knock, while coach Bert van Marwijk will have to make a very big decision of either playing Robin van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar or maybe both.

Germany

On the other hand, Germany boss Joachim Low has no pressing injury concerns but could make changes to liven up his attack after a low-key performance against Portugal. Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus and Mario Gotze are all vying for starting berths, with Lukas Podolski or Thomas Muller likely to make way.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 38
Netherlands Wins – 10
Draws – 14
Germany Wins – 14

FORM GUIDE

Netherlands – LWWLL
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 6-0 Northern Ireland
31-May-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia
26-May-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 1-2 Bulgaria
23-May-12 – Friendly – Bayern Munich 3-2 Netherlands

Germany – WWLLW
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel
26-May-12 – Friendly – Switzerland 5-3 Germany
01-Mar-12 – Friendly – Germany 1-2 France
16-Nov-11 – Friendly – Germany 3-0 Netherlands

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
The Inter Milan playmaker was impressive in the first game against Denmark but yet he was on the losing side. Sneijder was Netherlands’ star at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa helping them reach the finals, but ever since the final against Spain he has not produced the same kind of form. He has been troubled by injuries and has had a very poor season for Inter Milan. If Netherlands have to progress from the so called ‘Group of Death’ then Sneijder will have to be in top form today.

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Like Sneijder, Arjen Robben is very important to Netherlands success this summer. The Bayern Munich winger reached the Champions League final and ended runners-up in the Bundesliga this season, but the reality is that Robben has been less than impressive. The former Chelsea man missed a penalty against his old employees in the Champions League and was too selfish the other day against Denmark. Robben will have to be at his very best against a very strong German defence and especially Philipp Lahm to help his country reach the quarter finals.

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid playmaker has had a very successful season both personally and as a team. The 23-year-old has made his mark in world football and is now one of the best attacking midfielders around. The elegant midfield provides guile and craft to the German midfield and his probing passes are sure to test the Dutch backline, which looked vulnerable against Denmark. The former Werder Bremen star hardly losses possession and enjoyed a lot playing in the possession-heavy style adopted by Joachim Low.

Mario Gomez (Germany)
The Spanish origin striker is Joachim Low’s first choice striker ahead of the veteran Miroslaw Klose and is expected to start again today after the scoring the winner against Portugal the other night. The former Stuttgart hitman has been in top goal-scoring form for Bayern Munich this season scoring 41 goals 52 matches and has also netted ten goals for his country in the past one. His ability of being in the right position and at the right time will be the key and a threat to deal with for the Dutch defence.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Netherlands (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van der Wiel, Joris Mathijsen, Johnny Heitinga, Jetro Willems; Nigel De Jong, Mark van Bommel (C); Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

With Joris Mathijsen fit, the Malaga man will be back in the side in place of Ron Vlaar, who had a poor game, in the center of the defence alongside Heitinga. The young Jetro Willems impressed many the other day and he will keep his position in the side with Van der Wiel on the right. The experience of Nigel De Jong will see him get the nod ahead of Kevin Strootman along side Mark van Bommel, while Ibrahim Afellay who had a poor game against Denmark in the Group B opener, will be demoted to the bench and Robin van Persie will be moved out on the left wing. The top scorer in the qualifiers, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will lead the lineup for the Dutch with Wesley Sneijder just playing behind him and Arjen Robben on the right wing.

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm(C); Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mari Gomez.

Joachin Low said in his pre-match press conference that he is not afraid to chance winning team, but I don’t think there will be any chances for this game especially against the Dutch. This is Germany’s best team and Low will stick with it. Gomez will lead the line with Muller and Podolski join him from the wings. Ozil will operate just behind them and will try and find the killer through balls. Schweinsteiger and Khedira will play center of midfield connecting the defence and attack. Lahm will again start on the left-back with Jerome Boateng on the right-back and the pair of Hummers and Badstuber, who looked well organised against the Portuguese, in the heart of the defence. The ever safe hands of Manuel Neuer will be in the between the sticks for the Germans.

MATCH ODDS

Netherlands 19/10 Draw 23/10 Germany 7/5

PREDICTION

With the Dutch having to win this game to stay in the tournament, they will attack from the start. On recent form, one has agree the Germans are favourites to win and with a settled side & an opening game victory under their belt, the German players will play with less pressure compared to their opponents. The Dutch will need their star players to perform and play as a team. The 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist have a huge task of beating Germany – who have one the most settled units and the best defence in the tournament – and so we are going for a narrow win for the 2008 UEFA European Championship finalist.

Predicted Score – Netherlands 1-2 Germany

New Nike “My Time Is Now” Ad

Nike have launched a new marketing campaign entitled ‘My Time is Now’ ahead of the European Championships, featuring a constellation of star names including Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery, Wesley Sneijder and more.

The new ad has been released for the first time today and will be screened during the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea on Saturday. Other players you should be able to spot include Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Mario Götze, Mesut Özil, Yann M’Vila, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck while there are also special guest appearances from Pep Guardiola, Lauren Blanc and basketball superstar LeBron James.

Check it out here…

Chelsea’s Expected Summer Departures & Top Ten Transfer Targets

By Chelsea’s standard this season has been a disappointment. With the Blues currently two points off the pace in the race for fourth spot in the Premier League, Roberto Di Matteo’s men are staring at the prospect of missing out on Champions League football next season. And while they are into the semifinals of both the FA Cup and the Champions League, Chelsea could well end the season trophy-less—for the second successive year.

A massive overhaul of the squad is needed and if rumours are to be believed then Roman Abramovich is finally ready do it this summer.  A huge clear-out is expected at the Stamford Bridge along with many new players joining the club, with the Russian ready to give his new manager a huge transfer budget. Here, Into The Top Corner looks at the expected departures this summer and also Chelsea’s top ten transfer targets.

Expected Departures

1. Didier Drogba

Has been Chelsea’s key performer since his arrival in the summer of 2004 from Marseille, but at 34 years old he is not getting any younger and his time at the club is coming to an end. The Ivorian who has scored just 5 goals in 19 Premier League games this season is out of contract at the end of the season. With the huge wage demands of the striker it is highly unlikely a new contract will be agreed.

2. Salomon Kalou

The Ivorian played a vital part in securing the 2nd place in the Premier League last season under Carlo Ancelotti, but he has been hardly used this season, especially by Andre Villas-Boas after the player failing to agree a contract extension with club. Kalou, who joined the Blues from Feyenoord in 2006, started in both the legs of the Champions League quarter-final win over Benfica but is expected to leave Stamford Bridge this summer having made just 15 appearances all season.

3. Paulo Ferreira

He was one of the first signings of Jose Mourinho when ‘The Special One’ took over as the manager. But since the departure of Mourinho and the arrivals of Juliano Belletti, Branislav Ivanovic and Jose Bosingwa to Stamford Bridge, Paulo Ferreira has fallen down in the pecking order but whenever given a chance he has always delivered a solid performance. Having featured just 6 times this season in all competitions the Portuguese is surely expected to leave the club in search of some regular first team action.

4. Florent Malouda

The Frenchman performed really well under Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti but has fallen down in the pecking order behind Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge this season. With more than half of his appearances this season coming from the bench, the Blues will look to sell him this season and make some money before his contract expires at the end of next season.

5. Raul Meireles

Joined the Blues on deadline day this summer from Liverpool for a transfer fee in the region of £12m. Played very well in first half of the season under Andre Villas-Boas, but since the departure of AVB in March, Meireles’ form has gone missing. Many Chelsea fans have come out and criticized his performances in the Premier League especially in the match against Manchester City at the Etihad.

6. Jose Bosingwa

A big-money arrival in 2008, Jose Bosingwa has failed to make a long-term impact on the starting XI. The right back has shown stretches of being an excellent footballer, but his lack of consistency will be the reason why he is likely to depart. He has made 24 league appearances this season but regular lapses of concentration has resulted him in conceding some vital goals. His refusal to sign a contract extension will most probably see him leave this summer for nothing.

7. Yossi Benayoun

Joined the club in the summer of last season from Liverpool as a straight forward replacement for Joe Cole. Benayoun started the season impressively but a bad injury kept him out for almost the entire campaign. He was loaned to Arsenal at the start of this season as he was not needed at the club any more after the arrival of Juan Mata from Valencia and the return of Daniel Sturridge from Bolton. The Israeli is set to have talks on his future with Chelsea sooner than later but is expected to leave the club.

8. Hilario

Not much analysis required here. Hilario has served as Petr Cech’s backup since 2006 and has only appeared in 20 games over that stretch. Now 35, Hilario can look to finish up his career as a starter for a less-reputable club.

9. Romelu Lukaku (Loan)

Having made just 10 appearances for the club this season since his big money move from Anderlecht in the summer, the teenage is expected to spend the next season out on loan to gain some vital first team experience. With reports suggesting talks have already taken place, the Belgium international looks set to be on his way back to Anderlecht for atleast a season.

Top 10 Transfer Targets

1. Mario Gotze (Dortmund)

Gotze is one of the hottest properties in world football at the moment with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona all interested in his services. Having just signed a new long-term contract and Dortmund favourites to retain the Bundesliga title this season, a move away from Westfalenstadion looks highly impossible and it would take a huge amount of money to make that happen.

2. Edinson Cavani (Napoli)

The Uruguayan has already scored 28 goals this season and has been linked with move away from Napoli to Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City all season. Chelsea are in need of a regular goal-scorer given that Didier Drogba’s contract is set to run out this summer and Fernando Torres is still unable to make a consistent impact. Cavani could be the perfect man to fill the Ivorian’s shoes at Stamford Bridge.

3. Eden Hazard (Lille)

The young Belgium playmaker is set to leave Ligue 1 at the end of this season and that will sparkle a transfer scramble with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter all interested in him. Hazard, who has 16 goals and 12 assists to his name this season, could be a great long term successor for Frank Lampard.

4. Alvaro Pereira (Porto)

Uruguayan international wing back has been a very impressive and a consistent performer at FC Porto since his move to Portugal in 2009. Andre Villas-Boas tried to get the defender with him to Chelsea last summer but the Portuguese champions rejected the move. The former CFR Cluj defender has stayed on Chelsea’s radar is looked at as a possible long-term replacement for Ashley Cole.

5. Cesar Azpilicueta (Marseille)

Spain Under-23 international is one of the most promising right-backs in Europe. He would be a welcome addition to the Chelsea squad, as current first-choice right-back Branislav Ivanovic often struggles to link up with the attack and his deputy Jose Bosingwa is struggling to rediscover his form and is expected to leave this summer.

6. Luka Modric (Tottenham) 

Tottenham playmaker was continuously linked to a move to Chelsea last summer but the Spurs hierarchy, however, stood its ground and refused to sell their prize asset. Despite having failed to reproduce last season’s form so far, Modric is still a much-needed addition to the Chelsea squad and will surely leave White Hart Lane if Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League next season.

7. Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid)

He may be in great form this season having scored 24 goals so far, but he is still just a back-up option behind Karim Benzema & Cristiano Ronaldo for former Blues’ boss Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid. A move to London and the regular first-team football could be a tempting offer to rejected for the Argentina striker.

8. Hulk (Porto)

The strong and pacey Porto striker who can also play on both the wings and has been linked to a move to the Premier League for some time now, is apparently high up on Abramovich’s shopping list for the summer. But clearly the Portuguese champions would have reduce the Brazilian’s reported £88m release clause fee if they want any deal to be done between the two clubs.

9. Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli)

The Argentine international has been Napoli’s star performer this season along side Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani. The versatile forward who can also play on both the wings performed well against Chelsea in the Champions League scoring twice in the first leg. The 26-year-old who has scored 11 goals this season will be a very good addition to the Chelsea squad.

10. Falcao (Atletico Madrid)

The Colombian, who was linked with a move to Stamford Bridge last summer when Andre Villas-Boas took charge of the club, has taken to life in La Liga very well, netting 21 goals in the league this season. But as Atletico Madrid are unlikely to secure a spot in the Champions League a move to Chelsea may well appeal to the 26 year old former Porto striker.