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Bayern, Arsenal to meet again; Barca face PSG

NYON: In another edition of a one-sided Champions League rivalry, Bayern Munich will play Arsenal in the round of 16 for the third time in five seasons after the sides were paired yet again following Monday’s draw.

Bayern ousted Arsenal in back-to-back seasons in the first knockout round in 2013 and 2014, and also in 2005 3-2 on aggregate in 2005, on away goals after a 3-3 draw in 2013 and 3-1 in 2014.

Still, they traded home wins in the group stage last season, and this time Arsenal are seeded so will host the return match on March 7.

“It’s an interesting and difficult draw. We know Arsenal from the last few years when we often played against them, twice already in the last 16, when we had a good experience and got through,” said Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“Arsenal are a strong team and I rate them as stronger at the moment than in the last few years.”

Paris St Germain will also try to break a jinx when they face Spanish champions Barcelona, who knocked them out in the quarter-finals in 2013 and 2014.

“If I could have chosen another team, I would have done,” admitted Paris director of football Patrick Kluivert, a former Barcelona striker.

Barcelona vice president Jordi Mestre told beIN Sports Spain: “There is no guarantee but it does give you a certain confidence to have beaten them before. Every game is different and we will see what happens.”

Holders Real Madrid, who like Bayern finished as runners-up in their group and will therefore play the first leg at home, were given a tricky clash with Serie A side Napoli.

Real are tackling history this season. They set a club record streak of 35 games unbeaten on Saturday, and are aiming to be the first team in 25 years of the Champions League format to retain the European Cup trophy.

“This is a stiff challenge,” Real director Emilio Butragueno said. “We have to be at our best to break history. We have to be focused on every detail.”

The draw also produced a potential grudge match as it pitted Bayer Leverkusen against Atletico Madrid, whose respective coaches Roger Schmidt and Diego Simeone were involved in an ugly touchline spat when the sides met two seasons ago.

On that occasion, Atletico went through on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate draw.

Arsenal had hoped winning their group for the first time in five years would spare them a tie against one of the continent’s giants in the first knockout round.

But Arsene Wenger’s side may feel this could be their best chance to beat Bayern, whose domestic and European form has not been as dominant as in recent seasons.

“We are through to the knockout stage for the 14th consecutive season, which is testament to Arsene Wenger and the teams throughout that time,” club secretary David Miles said.

“The fans will think we have got the rough end of the draw again — at some stage the tide has got to turn and we will beat them.”

Serie A champions Juventus were drawn against Porto in a repeat of the 1984 European Cup Winners’ Cup final which the Italian side won 2-1.

Sevilla and English champions Leicester City will meet for the first time as will Manchester City and AS Monaco.

Leicester’s European form — an English record 5-0 defeat at Porto last week apart — has provided a welcome tonic amid a poor defence of their domestic title but manager Claudio Ranieri insisted his team remained the underdogs.

“Whoever we played would have been a tough opponent, but I think all the teams who arrived second will have wanted to play against us and I know that we will be the underdogs once again. Always we are underdogs, every time,” he told the club’s website.

The City-Monaco pairing will pit the underachieving defence of coach Pep Guardiola’s team against the highest scorers in any of the top European leagues.

“We are happy to be here, and then we have avoided Real Madrid and Barcelona,” City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain told BT Sport.

“Monaco are playing probably the best football in France now.”

Monaco are averaging three goals per game in Ligue 1.

“We are the best attack in Europe, we score goals,” Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev said. “We should travel there fearless and play our football.”

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said: “Manchester City are looking to win the Champions League. We are not the favourites but we believe in our qualities.”

Benfica and Borussia Dortmund will renew their rivalry after a 52-year wait, the sides having previously met in the 1963-64 European Cup.

The first legs will be played on February 14, 15, 21 and 22 with the second legs on March 7, 8, 14 and 15.

The final will be on June 3 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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