Champions League: Arsenal get Bayern again, Barcelona return to Paris
NYON: Arsenal were once again drawn against Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League on Monday, while Barcelona will also come up against familiar foes in the shape of Paris Saint-Germain.
Arsene Wenger’s side had hoped winning their group for the first time in five years would spare them a tie against one of the continent’s giants in the first knockout round. But instead they must face Carlo Ancelotti’s German champions, who came second in their section, with the first leg in Bavaria.
Bayern eliminated Arsenal en route to winning the trophy in 2012/13 and repeated the feat a year later, while the teams also met in the group stage last season — the Gunners won 2-0 in London but lost 5-1 at the Allianz Arena.
“It’s an interesting and difficult draw. We know Arsenal from the last few years when we often played against them, twice already in the last 16, when we had a good experience and got through,” said Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
“Arsenal are a strong team and I rate them as stronger at the moment than in the last few years.”
PSG came second to Arsenal in Group A, leaving them more vulnerable to a tough draw and five-time winners Barcelona have eliminated the French club in the quarter-finals in two of the past four seasons, while the teams also met in the group stage in 2014/15.
“If I could have chosen another team, I would have done,” admitted Paris director of football Patrick Kluivert, a former Barcelona striker.
Barcelona vice president Jordi Mestre told beIN Sports Spain: “There is no guarantee but it does give you a certain confidence to have beaten them before. Every game is different and we will see what happens.”
‘Underdogs, every time’
Reigning European champions Real Madrid will face Napoli as they look to win the trophy for a record 12th time, while Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City face a testing two-legged encounter against Monaco.
City, currently struggling for form, cannot afford to take the principality side lightly — they are the most prolific side in Europe’s leading leagues this season and have beaten Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League in the past two years.
“We are happy to be here, and then we have avoided Real Madrid and Barcelona,” City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain told BT Sport.
“Monaco are playing probably the best football in France now. In a group with Tottenham and Bayer Leverkusen they were top and they have young players and a lot of talent.”
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said: “Manchester City are looking to win the Champions League. We are not the favourites but we believe in our qualities.”
Premier League champions Leicester City will take on last season’s Europa League winners Sevilla as a reward for topping their group in their debut appearance in the competition, with a visit to the Sanchez Pizjuan in the first leg.
Leicester’s European form — an English record 5-0 defeat at Porto last week apart — has provided a welcome tonic amid a poor defence of their domestic title but manager Claudio Ranieri insisted his team remained the underdogs.
“Whoever we played would have been a tough opponent, but I think all the teams who arrived second will have wanted to play against us and I know that we will be the underdogs once again. Always we are underdogs, every time,” he told the club’s website.
Atletico Madrid, runners up to city rivals Real in two of the last three seasons, were drawn against Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen in a repeat of their clash at the same stage in 2014/15. On that occasion, Atletico emerged victorious after a tense penalty shoot-out.
Two-time winners Juventus were drawn against FC Porto, while Borussia Dortmund also face Portuguese opposition in the shape of Benfica.
The first legs will be played on February 14, 15, 21 and 22 with the second legs on March 7, 8, 14 and 15.