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Arsenal, Barca bow out

Last year's UEFA Champions League finalists Arsenal and Barcelona are both out of the competition after being dispatched by PSV Eindhoven and Liverpool respectively.

Having lost the first leg by one goal to nil, Arsenal had to beat PSV by at least two goals and they would have been in the hat for the quarter-finals draw. With PSV securing a draw with seven minutes left on the clock and Arsenal now needing two goals to win or one to force extra time I could see that Arsenal's season was literally over after being knocked out in the FA Cup and languishing a distant fourth in the league. All Arsenal can do now is prepare for next season and at the same time hold on to fourth place.

Goals by Craig Bellamy and John Arne Riise at the Nou Camp proved invaluable for Liverpool as they booked their place in the quarters thanks to the away goals rule. I think Barca blew it in the first leg where it looked too easy for them in the first half but could only score a solitary goal. Liverpool then came back in the second half and snatched the two away goals.

Valencia will now fly the Spanish flag as the only Spanish team left in the Champions League after a nil-all draw at home ensured progress on the away goals rule. Inter who are leading Serie A by sixteen points at the moment must be regretting the goal scored by David Silva with just three minutes remaining in the first leg. That goal proved decisive.

The other Spanish team Real Madrid bowed out after losing 2-1 to Bayern Munich. In a match between two teams not doing particularly well in their domestic leagues, Bayern came out tops especially with their home performance where Roy Mackaay scored a goal with less than fifteen seconds on the clock. After conceding such an early goal, and for a team seemingly low on confidence, it was obvious from then on that it was going to be Bayern's night. Ruud van Nistelrooy late penalty goal only meant a frantic finish and a more respectable loss on away goals for Real.

Only one goal was needed to separate AC Milan and Celtic and that goal was scored in extra time. This was the only match to go into extra time in this round. Celtic came as close as they could get and I think they can go out with their heads held high because they were so close to an upset but Milan's experience shown through in the end.

Another match that could have gone into extra time was the one between Chelsea and Porto but Michael Ballack, in a rare goal for Chelsea, made sure that that didn't happen. Chelsea were not at their best and especially in the first half but it looks like they drew so much from their experience to dump former winners Porto out of the competitition.

Lyon are also out after being bundled out by Roma. To me Lyon were easily the best team of the qualifying round but they could not find a goal against a Francesco Totti inspired Roma and therefore exit the competition at the first qualifying stage when I thought they could go as far as possible this time around.

Manchester United made sure that there would be no French team in the quarter finals by beating Lille 1-0 in both legs. Although Lille disputed the United goal from the first leg it was up to them to at least score twice at Old Trafford and win the tie but that they couldn't and will now have to watch from the sidelines.

Its hard to tell the favourite to win the competition at the moment. The first knockout qualifying stage was tight and you can tell with three ties being decided on goal difference, three by a one goal margin and the remaining two by a two goal margin. But I think for most of the teams going into the quarters, the most important thing is to be in the hat for the draw.

For additional news, interviews, and other features about the UEFA Champions League, checking the world wide web for podcasts can be a good option. This internet medium is considered as the the sport's aficionado's bestfriend because of valuable information that can attained from it. Many podcasts are widely available in the Internet and are often sponsored by prominent companies. For instance, telecommunications giant O2 have been sponsoring free podcasts that can be downloaded from iTunes.