Barcelona to face Leverkusen in Champions League

Defending champion Barcelona got the luck of the draw on Friday

and will play Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Champions

League.

As Barcelona avoided a long trip to Russia in freezing cold

February temperatures, that arduous task fell to rival Real Madrid,

which will play CSKA Moscow.

”For us, the most important thing is not to play in Russia, for

the temperatures and the distance,” Barcelona director Amador

Bernabeu told The Associated Press.

The draw also set up a pair of Italy-England clashes. Arsenal

will face AC Milan and Chelsea was drawn to play Napoli.

Also, it was: Marseille vs. Inter Milan; FC Basel vs. Bayern

Munich; Lyon vs. APOEL Nicosia; and Zenit St. Petersburg vs.

Benfica.

The first legs will be played Feb. 14-15 and 21-22, with the

return matches scheduled for March 6-7 and 13-14.

With the two Russian teams unseeded after finishing runner-up in

their groups, two seeded teams were sure to be sent on the long

journey north.

”It will be a key factor. The weather and the temperature,

we’re not used to that,” Madrid director Emilio Butragueno said.

”We have to be very careful.”

On Feb. 21 in Moscow, Madrid can expect to find temperatures at

the Luzhniki Stadium close to minus-15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees

Fahrenheit). At that point, UEFA guidelines allow the match referee

to consult with teams and decide if the game should be played.

A week earlier in Leverkusen, Barcelona should kick off in the

relative warmth of zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees

Fahrenheit).

”We were hoping for an opponent that isn’t so strong as

Barcelona,” Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt said. ”We can see how we

fare against the best team in the work, that’s something. You don’t

get that chance every day.”

Milan director Umberto Gandini recalled that Arsenal eliminated

the seven-time European champion at the same stage in 2008.

”It’s a rematch of Arsenal beating us 2-0 at the San Siro. It

will be a great match,” Gandini said.

Arsenal has already eliminated an Italian opponent, beating

Udinese in the playoff round in August.

Napoli, which has never played in the knockout rounds of the

Champions League, proved itself against English opposition by

getting four points against Manchester City in their group.

”It will be difficult having seen Napoli when they were in the

same group as Man City,” Chelsea club secretary David Barnard

said. ”Unfortunately City are no longer with us, which reflects

the quality of Napoli.”

APOEL, the first Cypriot club to reach the knockout round,

shaped as the weakest of the seeded clubs and was paired with

Lyon.

”We must not speak only of luck,” Lyon president Jean-Michel

Aulas said. ”APOEL have been exceptional in the first round and

drew all three of their away matches.”

Benfica also goes to Russia to play Zenit St. Petersburg, while

two match-ups are almost local derbies. Inter has the fewest

possible kilometers (miles) to travel to face Marseille and Bayern

has the short journey to Basel on the Swiss-German border.

Bayern beat Basel home and away in last season’s group stage,

but the Swiss champions have since stepped up to eliminate

Manchester United this month.

”It must be our objective to win,” Basel vice president

Bernhard Heusler said. ”There is a big solidarity among the

players and anything is possible.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said his club had ”a good

chance of reaching the quarterfinals.”

”But please, let’s not underestimate the task,” Rummenigge

said. ”Bayern should respect any team which knocks out Man

United.”

With the final played in Munich on May 19, Bayern is looking to

be the first team playing a Champions League or European Cup final

in its home stadium since AS Roma in 1984.