European élite prepare for battle in last 16 draw

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Barcelona will be hoping to avoid Chelsea - and Liverpool, who lurk as a dangerous wild card - in today's Champions' League draw at Uefa headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

The eight group winners from the first round - Milan, Arsenal, Barcelona, Internazionale, Juventus, the defending champions Liverpool, Lyon and Villarreal - will be drawn against the eight second-place teams - Ajax, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Chelsea, PSV Eindhoven, Rangers, Real Madrid and Werder Bremen.

Teams from the same country cannot face each other in the round of 16, and teams that faced each other in the group stages will also be kept apart.

The most compelling possibility in the draw is a repeat of Barcelona against Chelsea - the Spanish league leaders against their English counterparts.

The two sides met last season at this stage, with Chelsea winning 5-4 over two legs in a controversial tie. Barcelona beat Chelsea 2-1 in the first leg at the Nou Camp. After the game the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, alleged that the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, had colluded at half-time with the referee Anders Frisk to influence the outcome. Though he was eventually exonerated, Frisk retired shortly afterwards, saying that he and his family had received death threats.

Chelsea beat Barcelona 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in the second leg. After that match Rijkaard and some of his team were involved in scuffles with Chelsea's security staff. The Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o claimed he had been racially abused by a steward.

Chelsea are one of three powerhouse teams that failed to win their group. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are the others. Each of the eight winners will be hoping to avoid them.

Besides Barcelona, Chelsea can draw any team bar Arsenal and the reigning champions Liverpool, who finished ahead of Chelsea in the group stage.

Nine-time winners Real Madrid cannot face Barcelona, Villarreal or Lyon, which means that Madrid will meet Milan, Arsenal, Internazionale, Juventus or Liverpool. Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham said he would have liked to face his former club, Manchester United, but playing another English team would be the next best thing.

"Luis Figo is my friend but I don't want to play Inter," he said. "I'd rather play an English team."

Arsenal and the Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich could also meet again. At this stage a year ago, the Germans beat the Gunners 3-2 on aggregate. The only team in the draw that Bayern cannot face is Juventus. They met in the group stage.

In addition to the Champions' League, today also sees the draw for the next round of the Uefa Cup, featuring Middlesbrough and Bolton.

Champions' League perms

* Group winners Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, Villarreal, Milan, Lyon, Liverpool, Internazionale.

* Runners-up Bayern Munich, Ajax, Werder Bremen, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Rangers.

The rules

1 Teams finishing first in their group play runners-up from other groups.

2 Teams from same group cannot meet in last 16.

3 Teams from the same country cannot play each other in last 16.

* Whom will they play? Liverpool finished top of Group G, so they can play Ajax, Benfica, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, PSV, Real Madrid or Rangers.

Chelsea finished second in Group G, so they can play Juventus, Barcelona, Villarreal, Milan, Lyon or Internazionale.

Arsenal finished top of Group B so they can play Benfica, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, PSV, Real Madrid or Rangers.

Rangers finished second in Group H so they can play Liverpool, Juventus, Barcelona, Lyon, Milan, Villarreal or Arsenal.

Fixtures Last 16 first legs to be played 21 or 22 February

Comments