Iconic match-ups await in Champions League draw

BY foxsports • December 17, 2009

Beckham to Old Trafford. Mourinho to Stamford Bridge. Or Ancelotti to the San Siro.

Three icons of European football could return to the scene of past glories after UEFA draws the matchups for the Champions League knockout round-of-16 on Friday.

The draw structure keeps apart winners of the eight first-round groups, which include three English and three Spanish sides, who will play their first-leg matches away at one of the runners-up.

Neither can teams play an opponent it has already faced or one from its own country.

So, Group B winner Manchester United could be drawn against AC Milan, which will have former United favorite David Beckham back in its ranks when he joins on loan from Los Angeles Galaxy next month.

"Since I left in 2003, I've not gone back and played at Old Trafford," Beckham said. "Seven years have passed and I would like it to happen. Me against Manchester United would be great."

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho has Group D winner Chelsea, which he led to two straight English Premier League titles between 2004-06, as one of six possible opponents.

That tie would send Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti back to the city he left last season after eight years coaching Milan - another of the Blues' seven potential opponents.

Ancelotti was twice a European champion as a Milan player, in 1989 and '90, and coached the Rossoneri to two more victories in 2003 and '07.

Milan's seven European titles are eclipsed only by Real Madrid's nine and the storied rivals already met in this year's competition, with the Spanish side losing 3-2 at home before topping Group C.

Madrid has not hoisted the famously huge silver trophy since 2002 and has failed to get past the first knockout round for the past five seasons.

But with the added incentive of hosting the May 22 final at its Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Madrid embarked on a €250 million ($360 million) offseason spending spree to lure the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xabi Alonso.

Ronaldo has delivered six goals to be top scorer in the competition.

Real's desire for a 10th title has been given added urgency by the fact that bitter rival Barcelona, a three-time champion, won it in 2006 and again last season.

Barcelona is, therefore, currently defending Europe's honor at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, where it will play Argentina's Estudiantes in the final on Saturday.

Spain's Sevilla and England's Arsenal also won their groups to earn home advantage in the second-leg matches in March, along with the two most successful teams from the six-match first phase.

French champion Bordeaux, which like Chelsea is unbeaten so far, and Italy's Fiorentina both got five wins to earn the most prize money from UEFA.

Bordeaux has collected €11.5 million ($16.5 million) in participation bonuses and prizes based on results.

All 16 clubs in Friday's draw have pocketed at least €9.9 million ($14.2 million), and will each get a further €3 million ($4.3 million) for taking part in the first knockout round. All will later collect a share of a €337 million ($484 million) pool of television rights money distributed by UEFA.

Joining the two Milan clubs as group runners-up are German pair Bayern Munich and Stuttgart, Portugal's Porto, Lyon of France, Russia's CSKA Moscow and Greek champion Olympiakos.

Olympiakos has come the furthest having played through two qualifying rounds to reach the group stage, where it advanced alongside Arsenal.

First-leg matches are played February 16-17 and 23-24, and return matches on March 9-10 and 16-17.

Also Friday, UEFA will draw the knockout round-of-32 matches for the inaugural Europa League, a rebranded version of the UEFA Cup, at its headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

The 24 teams advancing from the group stage, including UEFA Cup champion Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine, are joined by the eight third-place finishers from the Champions League groups.

They are: Liverpool, Juventus, Marseille, Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg, Rubin Kazan, Unirea and Standard Liege.


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