'Draw is difficult...but it's also exciting'

Wenger admits Milan tie is 50-50 while Villas-Boas says it could have been easier

Not since Graeme Le Saux and David Batty traded punches 16 years ago has English football been without a representative in the Champions League quarter-finals but that prospect loomed yesterday after the surviving clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea, were handed demanding second-round ties against Italian opposition.

Arsenal must play Serie A champions and seven-times European Cup winners Milan; Chelsea face Napoli, conquerors of Manchester City in the group stages.

Despite their opponents' pedigree, both English sides should start as narrow favourites, but the draw was nevertheless scant reward for topping their qualifying groups. The London clubs could only look on enviously as Lyon, who only squeezed through because Dinamo Zagreb collapsed in the last group-stage round, drew rank outsiders Apoel Nicosia.

Holders Barcelona expect to progress against Michael Ballack's Bayer Leverkusen, to judge from the verdict of president Sandro Rosell ("We got Bayer, well, perfect"). So will Bayern Munich, who host the final, even if opponents Basle unexpectedly put Manchester United out. But Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid have a tricky tie against CSKA Moscow, during which they are likely to have to play in Moscow on a plastic pitch in sub-zero temperatures.

It was in Moscow that Le Saux and Batty came to blows as Blackburn Rovers departed the Champions League in ignominy. Back then only League champions were allowed entry. The competition has much greater depth now (Nantes and Panathinaikos made the semi-finals in 1995-96) and Arsenal and Chelsea were sanguine about their fates.

"I think we have one of the most difficult draws, but whichever team you get in the last 16 will be difficult," Andre Villas-Boas said. He added: "They are a side that works collectively very well and [Napoli coach] Walter Mazzarri organises his teams very well."

Napoli's swift counter-attacking expertise will present another test of Villas-Boas's determination to turn Chelsea into an expansive attacking team. The Portuguese was happy to have the second leg at home. "It is a big advantage," he said. "It can stimulate your fans to create the right environment to help you to go through. The last two matches at Stamford Bridge, against Valencia and Man City, saw a totally different stadium environment."

Chelsea look likely to have to meet the challenge of dealing with Edinson Cavani after the Uruguayan pledged his immediate future to Napoli following speculation linking him with moves to England and Spain.

"I like English football a lot – there are teams that are both strong and exciting," Cavani said, "and there's lots of space in the Spanish game which would suit me, but my future is with Napoli. I have no doubts about that."

Arsenal director David Miles admitted of Milan: "There are other teams we would have preferred," but added that having lost to Barcelona in the last two seasons any opponent was an improvement. Manager Arsène Wenger said: "It is a difficult draw, but an exciting one, they could say exactly the same thing. It is a 50-50." Arsenal's injury list should have been trimmed by then with Jack Wilshere a possible inclusion.

Arsenal lost the Super Cup in a foggy San Siro in 1995 but beat Milan four seasons ago. Milan went out to Tottenham last year when their ageing team was exposed and while there has been some new blood, Milan have not convinced in Europe this year, losing in Barcelona and being held away to Bate Borisov, of Belarus, and Viktoria Plzen, of Czech Republic.

By February, Milan could have an attack to give coach Max Allegri dreams and nightmares with the club hoping to add Carlos Tevez to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho. Owner Silvio Berlusconi said he hoped the Argentine would put glory ahead of money. "At Milan he could gain international prestige, which would not happen at Paris Saint-Germain," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
Life and Style
gaming
Arts and Entertainment
Carl Barat and Pete Dohrety in an image from the forthcoming Libertines short film
filmsPete Doherty and Carl Barat are busy working on songs for a third album
Arts and Entertainment
films
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible