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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

Top Ten Most Expensive Footballers On The Planet

Brazilian sports business consultants – Pluri Consultoria – have this week published online a list of world football’s most valuable player (MVP).

Its no real surprise that the top three are the three players contending Ballon d’Or – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta. Further down the list Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Manchester United’s Nani makes an appearance, while the highest value Premier League player is Wayne Rooney.

In today’s Picture Special, we have a look at the top ten most expensive footballers on the planet, according to Pluri Consultoria..

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona | €140 million)

Lionel-Messi

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid | €96.6 million)

cristiano-ronaldo

3. Andres Iniesta (Barcelona | €68.4 million)

Andres-Iniesta

4. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United | €60.2 million)

Wayne-Rooney

5. Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid | €56.1 million)

radamel-falcao

6. Neymar (Santos | €55 million)

neymar

7. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City | €53.7 million)

sergio-aguero

8. Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona | €51 million)

cesc-fabregas

8. David Silva (Manchester City | €51 million)

David-Silva

10. Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid | €44 million)

Mesut-Ozil

Rest of the list.. 

11. Eden Hazard (Chelsea | €43.7 million)
12. Angel Di María (Real Madrid| €43.6 million)
13. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid | €42.5 million)
14. Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain | €40.5 million)
15. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona | €40 million)
16. Gerard Piqué (Barcelona | €39.5 million)
17. Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg | €39.4 million)
18. Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur | €39 million)
18. Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich | €39 million)
20. Juan Mata (Chelsea | €38.7 million)
21. Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid | €38.5 million)
21. Robin Van Persie (Manchester United | €38.5 million)
23. Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich | €38 million)
23. Luka Modric (Real Madrid | €38 million)
25. Lucas Moura (Paris Saint-Germain | €37.3 million)
26. Nani (Manchester United | €35.9 million)
27. Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona | €35.5 million)
27. Edinson Cavani (Napoli | €35.5 million)
27. Vincent Kompany (Manchester City | €35.5 million)
30. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid | €34.6 million)
31. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich | €34.5 million)
32. Yaya Toure (Manchester City | €34 million)
33. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich | €33.8 million)
34. Mario Balotelli (Manchester City | €33.5 million)
35. Oscar (Chelsea | €33.1 million)
36. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-German | €32.6 million)
37. Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma | €32.5 million)
37. Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund | €32.5 million)
39. Ramires (Chelsea | €32 million)
40. Edin Dzeko (Manchester City | €31.7 million)
41. Luis Suarez (Liverpool | €31.5 million)
41. Marcelo (Real Madrid | €31.5 million)
41. Xavi (Barcelona | €31.5 million)
44. Fernando Llorente (Atletic Bilbao | €31 million)
45. Fernando Torres (Chelsea | €30.6 million)
46. Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint-Germain | €30.5 million)
47. Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain | €30.2 million)
47. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid | €30.2 million)
49. Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg | €29.5 million)
50. Dani Alves (Barcelona | €29 million)
51. Arturo Vidal (Juventus | €28.5 million)
52. Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich | €28.5 million)
53. Pepe (Real Madrid | €28.3 million)
54. Claudio Marchisio (Juventus | 28 million)
54. Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan | €28 million)
54. Javier Mascherano (Barcelona | €28 million)
54. Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund | €28 million)
54. Pedro (Barcelona | €28 million)
59. Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund | €27.5 million)
60. Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid | €27.5 million)

Top Ten Most ‘Liked’ Footballers On Facebook

It’s been a landmark past week for Portugal and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Fresh from celebrating his 100th cap for his country, Los Blancos striker has hit 50 million ‘Likes’ on social networking site Facebook.

The former Manchester United star has 12 million more ‘Likes’ than his greatest rival on the pitch – Lionel Messi. His huge online following means that every 5 per cent of the users on Facebook are a fan of the Portuguese skipper.  In our today’s Picture Special we have a look at the top ten most ‘liked’ footballers on the world’s most famous social networking site.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid | Portugal (50,282,401 Likes)

2. Lionel Messi – Barcelona | Argentina (38,707,688 Likes)

3. David Beckham – Los Angeles Galaxy | England (21,557,388 Likes)

4. Ricardo Kaka – Real Madrid | Brazil (18,783,751 Likes)

5. Andres Iniesta – Barcelona | Spain (11,005,764 Likes)

6. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United | England (10,653,989 Likes)

7. Iker Casillas – Real Madrid | Spain (7,902,171 Likes)

8. David Villa – Barcelona | Spain (7,303,228 Likes)

9. Mesut Ozil – Real Madrid | Germany (7,223,803 Likes)

10. Neymar Jr. – Santos | Brazil (6,921,961 Likes)

El Clasico – Barcelona v Real Madrid Preview

There are very few fixtures in world football that capture the imagination quite like the meeting between the two giants of Spanish football – Barcelona and Real Madrid, as the El Clasico returns tonight.

Two old adversaries will lock horns at Camp Nou in the latest installment of a derby dual which will perhaps decide the fate of the league at a point sooner than ever before. Barcelona are currently at the top of the table and hold an eight-point lead over their arch rivals. It’s no rocket science that anything apart from a win for Real Madrid will mean a huge task for them to overturn the deficit and defend their league title.

TEAM NEWS

Barcelona

Barcelona will assess Gerard Pique’s fitness ahead of Sunday’s Primera Division showdown with Real Madrid at Camp Nou. The Spain defender has not played for two weeks because of a foot injury but managed to train in the gym on Friday. Carles Puyol (elbow) and Thiago Alcantara (knee) are ruled out, meaning converted midfielders Alex Song and Javier Mascherano are likely to resume their partnership in central defence.

Real Madrid

Sami Khedira and Angel Di Maria are set to return to the starting line-up for Real Madrid, who have no injury concerns. The biggest selection dilemma for boss Jose Mourinho is likely to be over the playmaker role, with Mesut Ozil, Luka Modric, Kaka and Michael Essien all vying for a starting berth.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 221
Barcelona Wins – 87
Draw – 46
Real Madrid Wins – 88

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

29-Aug-12 – Super Cup – Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
23-Aug-12 – Super Cup – Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid
21-Apr-12 – La Liga – Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
25-Jan-12 – Copa del Rey – Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
18-Jan-12 – Copa del Rey – Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

FORM GUIDE

Barcelona – WWWWW

02-Oct-12 – Champions League – Benfica 0-2 Barcelona
29-Sep-12 – La Liga – Sevilla 2-3 Barcelona
22-Sep-12 – La Liga – Barcelona 2-0 Granada
19-Sep-12 – Champions League – Barcelona 3-2 Spartak Moscow
15-Sep-12 – La Liga – Getafe 1-4 Barcelona

Real Madrid – WWWWL

03-Oct-12 – Champions League – Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid
30-Sep-12 – La Liga – Real Madrid 5-1 Deportivo
24-Sep-12 – La Liga – Rayo Vallecano 0-2 Real Madrid
18-Sep-12 – Champions League – Real Madrid 3-2 Manchester City
15-Sep-12 – La Liga – Sevilla 1-0 Real Madrid

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
The Argentine magician was an ever-present threat in the Champions League on Tuesday, setting up goals for Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas in the 2-0 win at Benfica. Barcelona will need Messi to be at his best again and keep the action firmly in the Real Madrid half to prevent the understrength defence from being troubled by the visitors.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Madrid’s star striker comes into this clash in the fine form and on the back of two consecutive hat-tricks against Deportivo and Ajax respectively. The torment of Barcelona in April when he scored the winning goal in this fixture last season which won Real the title, the Portuguese will again look to take command of this fixture.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Barcelona (4-3-3): Victor Valdes; Dani Alves, Alex Song, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta; Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi, David Villa.

Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso; Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo; Karim Benzema.

MATCH ODDS

Barcelona 17/20, Draw 11/4, Real Madrid 3/1

PREDICTION

With Barcelona having to deal with many injuries in the heart of the defence and Real Madrid having their best players in top form, its Real Madrid’s game to lose. As all games between these two sides, this one is also expected to be an open, end-to-end game of football with both sides going for the win. A win for the Catalan giants and they go eleven points ahead of their fierce rivals, but a win for the reigning champions and they are back in the race. An exciting match is expected followed by a win for the defending champions.

Predicted Score: Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid

Germany v Italy Preview

Joachim Low’s Germany will have to defy history if they are to beat Italy today at the National Stadium in Warsaw and set up a repeat of the 2008 final against Spain on Sunday.

Germany boss Joachim Low knows his side must disturb Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who was allowed to dictate play in Italy’s quarter-final victory over England. Low said: “He’s the Italian player who directs the game. “We have to disturb him, stop him playing, get in his way, and think of a way how we can do better than Italy in midfield.” But Low has also called for focus from his own side, believing they must play to the strengths which has seen them win all their games so far. “It’s a confidence thing. We have to be cheeky, strong and brave,” he said. “We have to concentrate and work very hard. I don’t think we have to worry too much about our opponents. We have to impose our own ideas.”

Despite never having lost a competitive match against Germany, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli knows it will be tough to beat their opponents. “The Germans, alongside Spain, are the favourites to win the European Championship,” he said. “I’m not the first to discover how good they are, they are playing very well.”

TEAM NEWS

Germany

Low has received a boost with the news influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteigerwill be fit after shrugging off a sore ankle following the 4-2 win over Greece. But he has decisions to make after surprisingly leaving Arsenal new-boy Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller and tournament top scorer Mario Gomez out of his starting line-up against Greece. He is expected to restore the trio to his side, despite Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle adding pace to the German attack in their place, while Miroslav Klose scored against the Greeks.

Italy

For Italy, the team’s medical staff are doing their bets’ to get injured Daniele De Rossi, Ignazio Abate and Giorgio Chiellini back to fitness for the game, with the trio undergoing intensive physiotherapy. Midfielder De Rossi and right-back Abate were substituted with muscle injuries in Sunday’s quarter-final penalty victory over England, while Chiellini missed the game with a thigh problem. Chiellini has since returned to training and will probably come in for Leonardo Bonucci if he is fit, while Antonio Nocerino will likely replace De Rossi should he miss out. Coach Prandelli has a big decision to make if Abate fails to recover as fellow right-back Christian Maggio is suspended.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 30
Germany Wins – 7
Draws – 9
Italy Wins – 14

FORM GUIDE

Germany – WWWWW
22-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 4-2 Greece
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

Italy – DWDDL
22-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – England 0-0 Italy
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 2-0 Ireland
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 1-1 Crotia
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Italy 0-3 Russia

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
The 27-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder has been struggling with an ankle injury and looked uncharacteristically wasteful in possession against Greece in the quarter-finals. With the Italian midfield packed with skillful passers of the ball, the German star will be under pressure to cover plenty of ground and set the rhythm and tempo of the team in the middle of the park.

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid playmaker has had a quiet tournament until the quarterf-inal game against Greece where he showed his true best setting up two goals. The former Werder Bremen midfielder is the main creator of chances in this German lineup. His smart passes and brilliant through balls would be the key to unlocling the solid Italian defence. If he is kept quiet then the Italian would have a real chance.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
The former AC Milan player has been Italy’s best player in the tournament so far and he singled handedly dominated the previous game against England. He has been an inspirational and the guiding force behind the Italian success till now. He has been dictating the game from his defensive midfield posituon and has shown his quality time and time again. Another classy performance today and his side will have a huge chance of upsetting the favourites.

Mario Balotelli (Italy)
The Manchester City forward was one of the star performers for Italy during their penalty shoot-out win over England. The former Inter Milan striker has shown he has got the talent and potential to be the best in the world but has failed to perform on a consistent basis. His pace, his ability to get in the right position at the right time and to shoot from distance, can trouble the opposition but he needs to work more on his finishing and convert the chances he gets.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

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

The Germans are set to bring back their three big guns Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski after handing them rests in the quarter-finals against Greece. Joachim Low is set to stay with his 4-2-3-1 formation that has worked like a dream till now. However, the only worry is a nagging injury to the experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger, however, the German campaign has declared that the midfielder will play through the pain and is expected to take the field against Italy today.

Italy (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon (C); Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Balzaretti; Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi; Thiago Motta; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano.

The Italians will start with the same 4-3-1-2 formation that started against England in the previous game. However they might have to make a couple of chances with Ignazio Abate and Daniele De Rossi struggling with injuries. If Abate fails to recover in time then Prandelli will have to change back to the 3-man defence with second-choice right Christian Maggio suspended. Antonio Nocerino may come in for De Rossi, if he fails to pass the fitness test. Thiago Motta will be another chance in the side and will replace Ricardo Montolivo in the lineup.

MATCH ODDS

Germany 5/6 Draw 12/5 Italy 18/5

PREDICTION

If last night’s drama was anything then this match is going to be a cracker of a game. Germany have been the team of the tournament, while Italy have been the best defensive side. The fact that Germany had 48 hours more than Italy to prepare and rest for this match is a huge advantage. The Italians were too good against an average England side, but beating the pre-tournament favourites – who have won all their matches so far – is a huge task. The history is on Italy’s side and if they are able to get past Germany today then it will surely be an upset.

Predicted Score – Germany 2-1 Italy

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

Predicting Portugal v Netherlands and Denmark v Germany

Czech Republic and Greece are the first two teams to qualify for the quarter-finals after winning their respective games last night. Czech Republic broke co-hosts Poland’s heart with a 1-0 win, while Greece stunned Russia with a similar scoreline, which saw the 2004 European Champions qualify at the expense of their opponents.

Today, its time for the last round of matches in the Group of Death. Netherlands take on Portugal in one of the most important matches in this tournament so far, while Germany, who lead the group win two wins, meet Denmark in Lviv.

Date – 17th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv

Prediction – It’s the match of the tournament with high stakes on it. Both teams Portugal and Netherlands have a chance of making it through to the next round. Netherlands need to beat Portugal by atleast a two goal margin and hope Denmark lose to Germany in the other game, while a draw for Portugal will be enough. With a win needed for the Netherlands to qualify for the last-eight, the Dutch will go with all guns blazing from the start. They will play some eye catching attacking football and will trouble the Portuguese defence a lot. Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will both start and lead the line up front for the Dutch. Portugal on the other had will look to defend and make themselves as tough as possible for the Dutch to break them down.  The Dutch will play the game on a high tempo and dominate the possession and also get an early go thanks to Huntelaar. The 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist will take the lead into the break. After the interval Dutch will continue to dominate and play most of the football in the opposition’s half. They will go for the second goal, which could send them through, and they will get it and it will Robin van Persie to score it. Portugal will go on the offence hoping to get atleast a goal back. Maarten Stekelenburg will make a couple of outstanding saves from Cristiano Ronaldo. But with just minutes left on the clock, the former Manchester United star will score and give his side the needed one goal which would take the Portuguese through to the last eight. Netherlands do win the game 2-1 but go out of the tournament.

Predicted Final Score – Portugal  1-2 Netherlands (Ronaldo ; Huntelaar, van Persie)

Date – 17th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – Lviv Arena, Lviv

Prediction – The Portugal v Netherlands is the important match of tournament so far, but this isn’t anything less. Denmark have a chance of making it through to the final eight, while Germany – who lead the group with two wins in two matches – can also go out. A win will take Denmark through but any other result and they are going back home. On the other, a point for Germany and they go into the quarter-finals as Group B winners and will face Greece, but if they lose and Portugal beat Netherlands in the other game, then the Germans can be knocked out of the tournament. Keeping this in mind Joachim Low will play a strong German starting XI against the Danes, who stunned the Netherlands in the first group game. Expect this game to be a bit cagey as both the sides will be well organised and tough to beat. Germans will dominate the game with their free-flowing football, while the Danes will look to hit them on the break. Mario Gomez, who has been in brilliant form all season, will give the Germans the lead in the first half. The score will stay the same at the break and after the interval Denmark will come out looking to create more chances and look to attack the German goal. But it won’t be of any success as the well organised German defence will deal with all the threats and later the 2008 UEFA EURO finalist will go on to score their second. Mesut Ozil will score a brilliant goal from the edge of the area to wrap up the game for his country. A win means Germany win the Group of Death and will face Greece in the quarter finals, while its the end of the road for Denmark but they go back home with pride of having defeated Netherlands in the first game and having come so close of making it to the final eight.

Predicted Final Score – Denmark 0-2 Germany (Gomez, Ozil)