Champions League: Arsenal and Chelsea Draw Tough Competition

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Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring a goal in a match that took his team to the Champions League quarter finals. Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters

Arsenal and Chelsea both have a mighty task ahead of them if they're going to make the Champions League quarter finals, after the London clubs were paired with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) respectively in the round of 16 today in Nyon, Switzerland.

Barcelona, the Catalan giant with a reputation for playing football as graceful as it is devastatingly effective, leads La Liga on goal difference from Atletico Madrid, having lost just twice in 15 games so far this season.

PSG, meanwhile, is unbeaten in 18 games in Ligue 1 in the 2015-16 season, and has an apparently impregnable 17-point lead over Angers. Managed by former Manchester United defender, Laurent Blanc, PSG is bankrolled by Qatar Sports Investments, the fabulously wealthy investment arm of the Qatari state.

Chelsea, the defending Premier League champion, has endured a period of unprecedented poor form under Jose Mourinho that has left it in 15th place, 18 points behind Arsenal, which leads the league following a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa yesterday.

The two clubs have met each other in both of the past two seasons, with Chelsea coming out on top in the 2013-14 quarter final and PSG sneaking through, somewhat shockingly, last spring after extra time.

Barcelona defeated Arsenal in the 2006 final, after Arsene Wenger's side had taken the lead. Arsenal was also beaten by the Spaniards in the 2009-10 quarter finals and 2010-11 round of 16, though they have not met since.

Manchester City, meanwhile, was drawn against Dynamo Kyiv, the Ukrainians who are currently undergoing a three-game stadium ban imposed by UEFA, for racist behavior towards Chelsea supporters in Kiev's Olympic stadium in November.

That ban means City's visit to Kiev will be played behind closed doors, with no fans, home or away, present.

In the Europa League, European football's oft-derided 'second-tier' competition, Manchester United—who German team VfL Wolfsburg inelegantly dumped from the Champions League last Tuesday—will face Midtjylland, the Danish club famous for its adoption of Moneyball principles, the system pioneered in baseball that attempts to find value in cheap players discarded by other clubs.

Midtjylland has already nipped at English opposition in this year's competition, having beaten Ronald Koeman's Southampton 2-1 on aggregate, in the group stages in August.

Tottenham Hotspur will face Fiorentina, of Italy's Serie A, for the second time in two seasons, while Jurgen Klopp , Liverpool's German manager, returns to his homeland to face Augsburg.

The Europa League may appear underwhelming but is important in maintaining English football's coefficient—the system used by UEFA to determine the number of Champions League places allocated to each nation.

Serie A is closing in on the Premier League, with 10.333 points to English football's 10.625. Should English clubs underperform in the knockout stages of the Champions and Europa Leagues, then Serie A could steal the fourth Champions League spot that is currently the preserve of La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Premier League.