Commentary

Avoiding AC Milan

The Italian power will be the key to Friday's Champions League draw

Updated: December 15, 2011, 4:49 PM ET
By Albert Larcada | ESPN Insider
IbrahimovicValerio Pennicino/Getty ImagesChelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid want to avoid Zlatan Ibrahimovic and AC Milan.

The 20th edition of the Champions League has been whittled down to the final 16 participants. The draw for the round of 16 will be Friday in Switzerland, where we will find out the pairings. Winners from the already completed group stage will face group runner-ups in each of the matchups. The two other conditions are that clubs from the same group or the same country cannot meet. This means Inter Milan cannot face its crosstown rival AC Milan or Napoli, and Bayern Munich will not play Bayer Leverkusen. The two remaining Spanish squads (Barcelona and Real Madrid) and English squads (Chelsea and Arsenal) each won their groups while the French (Lyon and Marseille) and Russian (Zenit and CSKA Moscow) duos were each runner-ups.

Only two squads remain from each of Europe's top three leagues, making the knockout stage a bit more diverse than others in the past. The much-maligned Serie A -- which already lost its fourth Champions League spot starting next season -- is the only league with three clubs left. Surprise group winner APOEL from Cyprus and Basel -- who knocked out Manchester United -- are just a few of the unexpected participants. Using ESPN's Soccer Power Index, we can see how the draw could affect the world's most prestigious club tournament. (For a historical look at the round of 16, check out the Five Aside Blog.)

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.