Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 22 News List

FC Barcelona about to face Benfica in quarterfinal action

AP , PARIS

Favorite FC Barcelona was drawn against Benfica on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, while Italian champion Juventus meets Arsenal.

Six-time winner AC Milan faces French league leader Lyon, and the other quarterfinal pitted Spain's Villarreal against Inter Milan or Ajax Amsterdam, who play the second leg of their round-of-16 match on Tuesday.

"[Benfica] is a strong team, well equipped and one that is here on its own merits," Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes was quoted as saying by newswire Efe. "So we must not think it will be easy to advance."

The draw means Barcelona will be up against the man who scored the winner in its only final win in 1992 -- Benfica coach Ronald Koeman.

Benfica, which won the last of its two European Cups in 1962, ousted defending champion Liverpool on Wednesday, while Barcelona knocked out English champion and Premier League leader Chelsea.

Juventus' France midfielder Patrick Vieira will face his former Arsenal teammates for the first time since moving to the Italian champion in the offseason.

"It will be nice to see Patrick Vieira back at Highbury," Arsenal vice chairman David Dein said.

Dein said Thierry Henry will have a point to prove after leaving Juventus to join Arsenal -- where coach Arsene Wenger transformed him from unhappy winger to prolific striker.

Arsenal knocked out record nine-time winner Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Juventus edged Werder Bremen on away goals on Tuesday following a goalkeeping blunder.

Villarreal and four-time champion Ajax are tied 2-2 from their first leg in Amsterdam, and the return was rescheduled for Tuesday because Inter's San Siro stadium was staging AC Milan's victory 4-1 over Bayern Munich.

The quarterfinal first legs are scheduled for March 28-29, with the returns April 4-5.

UEFA also made the semifinal draw, setting up the possibility of Juventus facing Inter in an all Italian matchup. Milan and Barcelona may face each other for a place in the May 17 final at the Stade de France.

The semifinal pairings were: Arsenal or Juventus versus Inter Milan, Ajax or Villarreal; Lyon or AC Milan versus Benfica or Barcelona. The first legs of the semifinals are April 18-19 and return games are April 25-26.

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