Beckham and Milan to play Man Utd in Champs League
AC Milan midfielder David Beckham will get the matchup he wished
for against former club Manchester United in the first knockout
round of the Champions League.
The one-time Old Trafford favorite – who returns to Italy
next month for a second loan spell from the Los Angeles Galaxy –
had said before Friday’s draw he would relish the chance to play
against his old team.
“I think David wanted this match and destiny looked after
him,” Milan director Umberto Gandini said at UEFA headquarters.
United spokesman Phil Townsend said Beckham would get a
fantastic reception on his first return to the club he helped
become European champion in 1999.
“He was a terrific servant for the club and we all hope he
will be playing,” Townsend said.
Milan will host the English champion on Feb. 16, and United –
as a group winner – has home advantage in the second leg on March
Also, Italian champion Inter Milan will face Chelsea in a
meeting of coach Jose Mourinho’s current and former clubs.
Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti said it would be an emotional
game for Mourinho to oppose some of the players with whom he won
two straight Premier League titles in 2005 and ’06.
“Mourinho did a very good job and maintained a very good
relationship with these players. That’s normal,” Ancelotti said.
“It’s difficult because I think that Inter are, at this
moment, the strongest team in Italy. They are at the top of the
table. It’s difficult also for them, though, to play against
The first leg on Feb. 24 will be played at the San Siro,
where Ancelotti spent the past eight years coaching AC Milan, and
won two European titles.
“It is another derby between Mourinho and Ancelotti, but in
Milan and in London,” Inter chief executive Ernesto Paolillo said.
“(Chelsea) is the team I wanted to avoid but this is the destiny.
Mourinho has a lot of motivation to do well.”
Former Inter forward Luis Figo said his fellow Portuguese had
nothing to prove to Chelsea, which stages the return March 16.
“(Mourinho) brought titles to them and I think people there
love him,” Figo said. “It will be an emotional return for him.”
Defending champion FC Barcelona was drawn to play Stuttgart,
which has struggled in the Bundesliga and fired coach Markus Babbel
this month. The Germans host the first leg on Feb. 23 with a March
17 return at the Nou Camp.
“We have to be very smart and not have too much confidence,”
Barcelona director of football Txiki Begiristain said. “They will
have time to prepare for these games against us and we must be
British bookmaker William Hill made Barcelona a 3-1 favorite
to win the trophy, with Chelsea next at 9-2 and Real Madrid at 5-1.
Nine-time champion Madrid – whose Santiago Bernabeu stadium
hosts the final on May 22 – will take on Lyon in France in the Feb.
16 first leg.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said it would be a privilege
to play against Madrid.
“We won’t be the favorites but we will try to show that the
addition of the greatest stars in the world doesn’t make
everything,” Aulas said of Madrid’s €250 million ($360
million) offseason spending that lured Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and
former Lyon forward Karim Benzema.
“No doubt Karim is the happiest,” Real Madrid director Jorge
Valdano said. “We’ll go with utmost seriousness to advance,
something that has eluded us in recent years. But, as a group, we
are getting stronger and believing and we’ll go into it with
Arsenal drew a comparatively low-key matchup against FC
Porto, with the first match in Portugal on Feb. 17 and the return
on March 9.
“(Manchester United and Chelsea) will capture the headlines
and that probably suits us,” Arsenal club secretary David Miles
said. “We will go about our work and do a thorough job.”
Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez was content to draw CSKA Moscow
despite expected subzero temperatures in the Russian capital on
“You have to respect every team but I prefer CSKA before
Inter,” Jimenez said. “The biggest handicap could be the playing
surface, which is artificial. It’s a team that has completed its
season and now it has time to prepare for the series.”
In other matchups, it was: Olympiakos vs. Bordeaux; and
four-time winner Bayern Munich vs. Fiorentina.