For the English clubs, the UEFA Champions League knockout stages probably seem as though they are light years away, with some playing up to nine games prior to the round of fixtures in mid-February.

Über alles? | Arsenal face a tricky tie against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in the knock-out stages. (Image | Bleacher Report)

Über alles? | Arsenal face a tricky tie against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in the knockout stages. (Image | Bleacher Report)

The draw has thrown up a number of mouthwatering ties, one of which will see Arsenal line up against Bayern Munich.

Arsène Wenger’s side last faced Bayern in 2005, losing 3-2, and will do well to get anything from this tie as the German giants are nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, boasting a remarkable goal difference of +37.

Scottish champions Celtic are up against tough opponents in Juventus, and it would hardly be surprising to see both of these teams exit the competition at this stage.

The remaining British side, Manchester United, are facing a torrent of Premier League matches over the Christmas period with more to come in January.

Opponents Real Madrid, meanwhile, will have welcomed the La Liga winter break with open arms this year after a poor first half to their domestic season which sees them languishing in third place, 16 points behind Barcelona.

Pressure is building on manager José Mourinho, and results are desperately needed at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

While Mourinho and his players must make an impact in the league when they return to action next month in order to retain any hope of closing the gap on Barcelona, they must also prepare to face the “big game” side that Sir Alex Ferguson will hope to play.

Deadly | Strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have scored 26 league goals between them already. (Image | Bleacher Report)

Deadly | Strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have scored 26 league goals between them already. (Image | Bleacher Report)

It is possible the Red Devils will favour a 4-4-1-1 formation for their clash with Madrid, with Wayne Rooney playing just behind Robin Van Persie.

Meanwhile, it is hoped that Nemanja Vidic coming back into the squad will shore up the leaky United defence.

Midfielders Luis Nani and Shinji Kagawa could also return in the New Year to offer Ferguson more firepower, and they are certainly not to be dismissed despite going up against the superstars of Real.

Extra spice in the tie is provided by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford for the first time since his £80million move across the continent.

Mourinho and Ferguson, arguably the two best tacticians in the game, will reignite their intense rivalry for the clash, with the Special One having won six of their 13 meetings.

The Portuguese has made no secret of his desire to return to English football later in his career.

Perhaps this year the stars may have aligned in his favour, as the game against the Premier League runners-up could well serve as a job interview for the former Chelsea manager.

Now motivated purely by the desire to reclaim the domestic crown from noisy neighbours Manchester City, Ferguson could bow out of the game at the end of the season should he be able to take United’s league title tally to 20 and silence Roberto Mancini.

Similarly, Mourinho could be departing Madrid sooner rather than later as tensions surface between him and his players, notably captain Iker Casillas.

Spain ‘keeper Casillas was dropped for the first time in a decade against Málaga, a game Los Merengues went on to lose.

Should Mourinho be able to overcome Ferguson in February, he may well find himself in the dugout at Old Trafford as the 2013/14 season begins.

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