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Arsenal to Face Milan in Champions League
Difficult ties for remaining clubs in last 16
Posted Dec 20, 2011 by Chris White
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The draw for the last 16 stage of this season’s Champions League could have been kinder to all of the teams remaining in the competition, with all eight ties looking potentially tricky. Arguably the pick of the draw though sees Arsenal coming up against AC Milan in a repeat of their 2007/08 knockout stage clash, which Arsenal won 2-0 on aggregate, courtesy of a victory in the San Siro.
Arsene Wenger’s side were indebted to two players no longer at the club that night – Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor – so they will be looking for someone else to step up and lead the side when they go to Italy in February, before brining the giants of European football back to the Emirates two weeks later. David Miles, the Arsenal club secretary was at the draw and said what everyone else was thinking in that “It’s probably the pick of the round.”
“There were probably other teams we would have preferred but the last time we played them we knocked them out, and we won in the San Siro. Having been on the rough end of Barcelona for two years running, it’s nice to know it couldn’t happen a third time so in a way it’s a good draw for us,” he said.
It’s no easier for the other English club left in the competition, with Chelsea drawn against Napoli, who are currently fifth in Serie A. Chelsea have been off the pace in recent weeks domestically, despite beating Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, only managing a draw at Wigan at the weekend, and club secretary David Barnard, who was present at the draw in Nyon in Switzerland, said “Napoli were in the same group as Man City and City are no longer with us so that has some bearing on the quality of Napoli. We all know it’s going to be a difficult game but there are no easy matches in the Champions League.”
Champions Barcelona, who won the Club World Cup in Japan at the weekend, have been drawn against German club Bayer Leverkusen. The Spanish giants were the club everyone wanted to avoid, but Leverkusen are no pushovers and reached the final ten years ago. Barca will be without David Villa for the foreseeable future, having suffered a broken leg in training in Japan.
Real Madrid, the nine time winners, face a long, cold trip to CSKA Moscow which won’t be an easy journey in February, but you wouldn’t bet against them getting the job done anyway and then coming back to the Bernabeu and finishing it off.
Inter Milan, who won the tournament in 2010, have a relatively short trip to Marseille, who have proved to be particularly difficult opponents in recent years, knocking several “bigger” teams out in the knockout stages.
Inter beat Bayern Munich to win the tournament two years ago, and the Germans are in the knockout stages again. This time, they’ve been drawn against the side who knocked Manchester United out of the competition, FC Basel, who have reached the second round of the tournament for the first time in their history.
Another side doing the same is APOEL Nicosia who become the first Cypriot club to make it through the group stages. Their reward is a clash with Lyon who, like Marseille, have proven Champions League pedigree and are not to be underestimated despite losing their French league crown last season.
The final game in the second round sees the winner of Manchester United’s group, Benfica drawn against Zenit St Petersburg in a clash that could be determined on whether or not the Portuguese club can adapt to the cold conditions in the Russian city in February.
Champions League Last 16 Draw:
AC Milan v Arsenal
Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
FC Basel v Bayern Munich
Lyon v APOEL Nicosia
Marseille v Inter Milan
Napoli v Chelsea
Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica