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
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.
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
”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
”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
”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
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.