PARIS: Holders Manchester City were handed a tie against FC Copenhagen in Monday’s draw for the Champions League last 16, from which the meeting of last season’s runners-up Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid appears the standout tie. Pep Guardiola’s City, who are looking to retain the title they won in Istanbul last June, will be expected to comfortably get the better of the Danish side, who qualified from their group at the expense of Manchester United after beating the Red Devils 4-3 at home.
The clubs met in the group stage of last season’s Champions League, with City winning 5-0 at home before being held to a 0-0 draw away at the Parken Stadium. Inter, the Serie A leaders, were one of the teams to avoid after finishing second in their group and their meeting with Atletico will see Diego Simeone, the coach of the Spanish club, come up against a team with whom he spent two years as a player in the late 1990s.
French champions Paris Saint-Germain, who have gone out in the last 16 in each of the last two seasons and in five of the last seven campaigns, were also braced for a tough draw having come second in their group behind Borussia Dortmund. They will therefore be relieved at being handed a tie against Real Sociedad, who topped their section above Inter but are appearing in the Champions League last 16 for the first time since 2003/04, when they were knocked out by Lyon.
Barcelona’s meeting with Italian champions Napoli is another standout tie, while Premier League leaders Arsenal will be expected to get the better of Porto and reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010. “We want to try and go as far as possible, but we are very much concentrating on playing well, performing well and playing the best football we can, and then we’ll see how far we go,” Arsenal’s sporting director, Edu, told the club’s website. Sergio Conceicao’s Porto finished level on points with Barcelona in their group but were ranked in second place after losing both meetings with the Catalans.
Real Madrid will be heavily fancied against RB Leipzig, and Bayern Munich will be strong favourites against Lazio, a team they beat 6-2 on aggregate at the same stage of the competition in 2020/21. “We’ve had positive experiences with Lazio before,” said Bayern captain Manuel Neuer.
“We’ll go into the games as favourite but we won’t allow ourselves to underestimate them.” The other tie sees Dortmund come up against PSV Eindhoven, who are coached by former Borussia manager Peter Bosz and are through to the last 16 for the first time in eight years. The first legs will take place in mid-February with the return matches in March. This season’s Champions League final will be staged at Wembley in London on June 1. — AFP