Thursday 22 February 2018

Fergie relishing Real heavyweight contest

Sam Wallace

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has said he is more than happy to have drawn Manchester United in the Champions League.

"It's a good draw," Perez said after the last-16 pairings were revealed. "We have played them twice before and knocked them out both times."

Real defeated United in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2000 and 2003.

United manager Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, revelled in the chance to welcome Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford as well as Real's manager, Jose Mourinho.

"Well, it's the tie of the round," Ferguson said. "It's a great opportunity for our fans to see Cristiano again and also for me to meet up with Jose again – I'll need to order some good wine!"

Real will host United at the Bernabeu on February 13, with the return leg at Old Trafford on March 5.

The other two British teams in the draw do not have easy ties either.

Arsenal will play Bayern Munich, current leaders of the Bundesliga and beaten finalists in 2010 and 2012, hosting them in London first before travelling to Germany.

"We will face a good team in Germany," Arsenal's German defender Per Mertesacker said. "They are top of the league and went through to the knockout stage in a phenomenal way. They have strong individual players and have created a great team."

Celtic will face Italian champions Juventus, who took four points from Chelsea in the group stage, helping to knock the defending champions down into the Europa League.

In the Europa League draw, Chelsea have secured one of the easier ties.

Making their first appearance in the competition, Rafael Benitez's team will face Sparta Prague.

Tottenham Hotspur, managed by 2011 Europa League winner Andre Villas-Boas, have drawn French league leaders Lyons, a "tremendous" tie said Villas-Boas, who added that it was like a Champions League dress rehearsal.

Liverpool have one of the hardest ties of the round, against Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg, who recently spent €50m on Hulk and €40m on Axel Witsel.

Newcastle United have Ukrainian opponents in Metalist Kharkiv.

All of the Europa League first-leg ties will be held on February 14 with the return legs on February 21. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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