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UEFA Champions League Last 16 Draw
The draw for this season’s Champions League last 16 has taken place and it has certainly produced some exciting encounters to look forward to. These matches will be played on February 24 and 25, and the second legs two weeks later on March 10 and 11. Here is the full draw as it was drawn in Nyon, Switzerland:
Chelsea vs Juventus
Villarreal vs Panathinaikos
Sporting Lisbon – Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid v FC Porto
Lyon vs Barcelona
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
Arsenal vs Roma
Inter Milan vs Manchester United
Reigning champions Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson face their old friend, former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and his Inter side, who were knocked out by Liverpool at the same stage last year. Mourinho made it clear that he wants to draw one of the “big four” English clubs, and he certainly got his wish, and the first game will be played at San Siro. The game at Old Trafford will no doubt rekindle memories of Mourinho’s famous celebration as he ran down the touchline back in March 2004 when his Porto side scored a last-minute equalizer to send United out of the Champions League. Of course, Mourinho and Porto lifted the trophy that season by beating Monaco in the final.
Sir Alex Ferguson is also looking forward to the tie. Ferguson believes it will be very interesting to go up against Mourinho as he has character with a good personality. Contrary to what happened between the pair when Mourinho was in charge at Chelsea, Ferguson also said he always got on well with the current Inter Milan manager. It didn’t take long for Mourinho to also start psychological word games when talking about Man United. He stated that he wanted to be drawn against the best and that he got the European champion. Manchester United could also be crowned club world champions this weekend in Japan. Meanwhile, another English team, Liverpool, were drawn against reigning Spanish champions Real Madrid and their new manager, former Tottenham boss Juande Ramos. The former Tottenham manager is fresh from taking over at the Bernabeu and will no doubt be looking forward to returning to England with nine-time winners Real Madrid. Liverpool have a perceived advantage going into the second leg at Anfield due to finishing top of their group. The tie was a replay of the 1981 Paris final, which England won 1-0 thanks to a goal from defender Alan Kennedy. It was the last time that these two giants of European football met in a competitive game.
The draw also gave Italy coach Claudio Ranieri the chance to make an emotional return to London and Stamford Bridge against his former club Chelsea, last year’s beaten finalists. Ranieri is now the manager of Italian giants Juventus. Ranieri was a popular figure at Stamford Bridge before being replaced only by Jose Mourinho in 2004. This despite Ranieri guiding them to the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they lost to Monaco, who, as mentioned above, went on to beat Mourinho and Porto. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal will have their first game at home when they take on Roma. The Arsenal manager believes the Gunners, like every other team left in the competition now, have a good chance of lifting the trophy in Rome in May. Despite these difficult relationships for Arsenal and Chelsea, they will be relieved that the draw was made as they could be paired with current favorites Barcelona. They will be extremely happy to have avoided the Catalans, however, as mentioned above, both Arsenal and Chelsea face tough ties against Roma and Juventus.
The “unfortunate” team that drew Barcelona was French champions Lyon, and looking to the future, their sporting director Bernard Lacombe admitted they were very worried. Lyon could not have been handed a more difficult game.
Spanish team Villarreal, who finished in second place in the group stage behind Manchester United, received, at least on paper, one of the easier connections. They will face Greece’s Panathinaikos, who pipped Inter Milan to the top of their group. Therefore, Panathinaikos will equally live that they did not finish second, since United would be waiting for them. The former champions, and I guess the dark horse for this season’s competition, Bayern Munich, will play the Portuguese team Sporting Lisbon, and in the final game of the round, another Portuguese team Porto will fight another Spanish team, Atletico Madrid.
At the beginning of 2009, we should really expect some great games. No doubt there will be plenty of drama and a few shocks, the UEFA Champions League will never disappoint when it enters the sudden death stage.
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