LONDON - England's chances of producing three semi-finalists in the Champions League for the third successive season were dented on Friday by a tough-looking last 16 draw. Holders Manchester United were paired with Italian champions and Serie A leaders Inter Milan while Premier League leaders Liverpool take on nine-times champions Real Madrid after the draw made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Last year's runners-up Chelsea were paired with Juventus, managed by former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, while Arsenal, finalists in 2006, play AS Roma in a third Anglo-Italian clash. The Manchester United tie will see another former Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, returning to face Premiership opposition in his new role in charge of Inter. "Obviously Jose has put us out of the competition before," said United's communications director Phil Townsend in reference to Mourinho's success at the same stage in 2004 with eventual European champions Porto. "But equally we put Inter out in 1999 when we went on to win the tournament so maybe that's a good omen for us." Real Madrid's meeting with Liverpool will mark only the second time that the Spanish nine-time European champions have met the English five-time winners in the competition. Their only previous encounter came in the final of the 1981 European Cup with Liverpool winning through 1-0. "It's mammoth, it really couldn't be a much bigger tie and I think our fans will be absolutely delighted that we've picked them up at this stage of the competition," reckoned Liverpool club secretary Bryce Morrison. Liverpool boast by far the better form as current Premier League leaders while Real languish sixth in the Primera Liga, a daunting 12 points behind leaders Barcelona. "The problem at our club is that we have had a lot of injured players but there is plenty of time for them to recover before we play Liverpool in February," said Real Madrid director Jose Luis Lopez Serrano. GREAT RELATIONSHIP "There is a great relationship between the two clubs and I'm sure there will be two very interesting games in Madrid and Liverpool. It will be difficult for us to get through obviously but I think it will also be difficult for them." Chelsea secretary David Barnard played down talk of Ranieri having the chance to take revenge against his former employers. "I don't think 'revenge' will be the right word for Claudio's return because he was given a great reception by the fans when he left the club and I'm sure he'll get one when he comes back," Barnard told Reuters. "He'll know a lot of our players of course and the fact Juve got to the knockout stage shows that they're a quality team." Barcelona, the only non-English side to reach the semi-finals last season, play Olympique Lyon, who are in the knockout phase for the sixth successive season. "Everything is possible," Lyon coach Claude Puel told reporters. "We'll have to see where the two teams stand in February and March. "We like a challenge," Puel added. "Anyway, if you want to go all the way, you have to eliminate all the opponents you face. We'll be the outsiders but we have a chance." Villarreal, who reached the semi-finals in their first appearance in 2006, drew Panathinaikos while the other pairings were Atletico Madrid vs Porto and Sporting vs Bayern Munich. The ties take place on February 24/25 and March 10/11 with the final on May 27 in Rome. Draw in full Chelsea vs Juventus Villarreal vs Panathinaikos Sporting Lisbon vs Bayern Munich Atletico Madrid vs Porto Lyon vs Barcelona Real Madrid vs Liverpool Arsenal vs Roma Inter Milan vs Manchester United ARSENAL FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas Q&A Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas One on One Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright Boy's A Bit Special Theo Walcott, Armand Traore Perfect XI Ian Wright What Happened Next? Gus Caesar, Peter Marinello Plus! Rate Arsenal players (and others) on Talentspotter CHELSEA FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: One on One Gianfranco Zola, Nicolas Anelka Boy's A Bit Special Michael Mancienne, Scott Sinclair Perfect XI Ruud Gullit, Marcel Desailly Sing When You’re Winning Vidal Sassoon Plus! Ruud Gullit on Weekend Wonders and Chelsea on Talentspotter LIVERPOOL FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Ian Rush, Craig Johnston Q&A Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres One on One Michael Owen, Nicolas Anelka, Kevin Keegan Boy's A Bit Special Danny Guthrie Ask A Silly Question John Barnes, Peter Crouch, Luis Garcia, John Aldridge Perfect XI Jamie Carragher What Happened Next? Julian Dicks Plus! Rate Liverpool players (and others) on Talentspotter UNITED FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Wayne Rooney, Peter Schmeichel, Carlos Tevez Q+A Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistlerooy One on One David Beckham, George Best, Ask A Silly Question Bryan Robson Boy's A Bit Special Danny Simpson Perfect XI Garth Crooks, Bryan Robson, Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona What Happened Next? David May, Norman Whiteside Sing When You’re Winning Dominic Monaghan, Ian Brown Plus! Rate United players (and others) on Talentspotter
19 December 2008
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