It's that time of year again; the UEFA Champions League is preparing for its return after the winter break and the remaining 16 clubs have been finalising their squads for the knockout stages. For most clubs, nothing changes compared to the squads that successfully negotiated the group stage, but for those clubs who have been active in the January transfer window, changes are often afoot.
Real Madrid were the first to make headlines, announcing that their 16 year-old wonderkid and new signing Martin Odegaard would join their UEFA Champions League squad for the knockout stages, even if the young midfielder is officially registered to their B team, Real Madrid Castilla, in the third tier of Spanish football. After their transfer ban stopped them from signing and registering any new players in the window, FC Barcelona naturally announced the very same group of players.
However, their UEFA Champions League rivals for the upcoming Round of 16, Manchester City, have been active in the transfer market. Frank Lampard's deal in Manchester was extended to the end of the season, while the Citizens splashed the cash to prise Wilfried Bony away from Swansea for the princely sum of £28 million. The stocky Ivorian striker will add a different dimension to their increasingly-faltering attack, a sense of physicality that City has missed since the loan/sale of Alvaro Negredo.
Powerful, quick, good in the air; Bony possesses all the attributes to make life a living hell for Barcelona's in-form defense and Manuel Pellegrini is clearly backing his new signing to thrive as he makes the step-up from Premier League competition to UEFA Champions League football.
It's a gamble, particularly as his inclusion in the squad comes at the expense of Stevan Jovetic. The Montenegrin striker hasn't exactly set the world alight in Manchester; blighted by injuries, he was yet to score in this season's Champions League campaign, but he does boast an impressive record in the knockout stages, unlike the majority of the City squad.
In his last appearance in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Jovetic bagged a brace for Fiorentina, who pushed Bayern Munich to the limit, losing only on away goals back in 2010. Bayern of course went on to contest the final that season, but Jovetic's brace nearly sent them packing at the first hurdle -- will Pellegrini come to regret his omission in a month's time? Only time will tell...
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