Sat, Dec 17, 2011 - Page 20 News List

Draws give mouthwatering ties in two European leagues

Reuters, NYON, SWITZERLAND

Former player and Final Ambassador Paul Breitner smiles at the draw for the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 matches yesterday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

Photo: Reuters

Holders Barcelona are scheduled to play Bayer 04 Leverkusen, while strongly-tipped Bayern Munich are to face Basel in the Champions League round-of-16 following the draw yesterday.

Seven-time champions AC Milan will face Arsenal in one of two Italian-English ties, with Napoli, in the knockout rounds for the first time, facing Chelsea.

Arsenal have advanced on all eight occasions when they have met Italian teams in the knockout rounds.

“If we remain focused and play with full force, then we have a good chance to move into the quarter-finals,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on the club’s Web site. “But please, no underestimating Basel.”

This season’s final is scheduled to be played at Munich’s Allianz Arena in May.

Surprise packages APOEL Nicosia, the first Cypriot club to reach this stage, will play Olympique Lyonnais, while Real Madrid, seeking to become European champions for a 10th time, play CSKA Moscow.

The other matches pitch Zenit St Petersburg against Benfica, who last were European champions 50 seasons ago, and 1993 champions Olympique de Marseille, who will play three-time winners Inter.

The first legs will be played on Feb. 14 and 15, and Feb. 21 and 22, with the return legs on March 6 and 7, and March 13 and 14.

Meanwhile, Europa League champions Porto will face Premier League leaders Manchester City, while former European champions Ajax will meet Manchester United in two glittering Europa League round-of-32 ties following yesterday’s draw.

All four teams were in the Champions League and dropped down to the Europa League and were, oddly, the first four teams out of the bag when the draw was made at UEFA’s headquarters.

Davor Suker, who was making the draw, was unable to open the plastic ball containing Manchester City’s name and in a moment of farce UEFA director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti and general secretary Gianni Infantino had to help to twist open the ball and reveal Porto’s opponents.

The two Manchester clubs, who are first and second in the Premier League and are set to play each other in the third round of the FA Cup next month, avoided each other in the round-of-32 draw, though they could meet later in a competition neither really wanted to be in.

The draw for the round-of-16 means the winner of the Porto-Manchester City tie will play either Porto’s Portuguese rivals Sporting or Legia Warsaw. Whoever wins the Ajax-Manchester United tie will face Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao.

Braga, who lost last season’s all-Portuguese final to Porto in Dublin, will face Besiktas in the round-of-32 with the winners meeting either SS Lazio or Atletico Madrid in the last 16.

The round-of-32 will be played over two legs on Feb. 16 and 23, with the round-of-16 on March 8 and 15. The final will be played in Bucharest on May 9.

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