Friday, 21 December 2007

CL Draw: Anglo-Italian ties drawn

Champions League drawReigning European champions AC Milan have been paired with Arsenal and Inter will face Liverpool following today's Champions League first knockout round draw. Roma will tackle nine-time winners Real Madrid in another tough tie for the Italian trio.

Both Milan giants have the benefit of playing their second-leg games at home after finishing top of their qualifying groups.

Roma, who finished second in their group, will have to host Real Madrid in Rome, before travelling to Spain for the return leg.

Matches will be played over two legs on 19/20 February and 4/5 March, although the second leg of Inter's encounter with Liverpool will be held on 11 March due to a stadium clash with city rivals Milan.

Milan director Umberto Gandini believes his team have been given the toughest draw with current English Premier League leaders Arsenal.

"We have seen better draws in the past. We have drawn the most difficult team," he said. "The percentages of getting an English team were very high. You could say it was Milan against England given Inter's draw too."

Arsenal's managing director Keith Edelman admitted that he would have preferred an easier tie.

"It's going to be a great match, very exciting," he said. "We've only played them once in a competitive match in 1994 (the European Super Cup), we drew at Highbury and lost at Milan so we can hopefully turn that round. We would have preferred an easier one at this stage but everyone will be looking forward to this tremendously."

Inter chief executive Ernesto Paolillo also believes his side got the toughest draw with last year’s beaten finalists Liverpool.

"We feel Liverpool are the strongest team, what better team to have as an opponent?" he said. "I think Liverpool will make it difficult for us and I hope it will be difficult for them as well. The history is in favour of Liverpool but our team has been in good form so I hope we will be in the right condition to win this match."

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry is aware of the threat posed by the Serie A leaders.

"It's a big one but was it going to be whoever we had drawn," said Parry. "It's a long time since we played them, they are a very good team. It's going to be tough but there are no easy ones at this stage. Every team at this stage is a good team, if you look at who we could have drawn it was never going to be easy so we shall take who we get."

Luciano Spaletti’s Roma were handed the task of beating the current Spanish Primera Liga champions Real Madrid, but director Antonio Tempestilli feels they are not scared of the opposition.

"Real have indisputable credentials, but Lazio showed that they are beatable," Tempestilli said. "When we were drawn together, their sporting director Predrag Mijatovic grimaced – a sign that we are also a team to be feared. We want to arrive at the tie with a full-strength squad and then we are confident that we can get through."

"We have been paired with an Italian team, and as such it will be very tough," Real Madrid's sporting director Mijatovic said. "They are a great team, who have excellent players. We have to go and give them the maximum respect, but I think that we have a decent chance of getting through."

Full draw:
First Leg: Tuesday 19 February
Liverpool v Inter (1945, UK Time)
Olympiakos v Chelsea (1945)
Roma v Real Madrid (1945)
Schalke v Porto (1945)

First Leg: Wednesday 20 February
Arsenal v AC Milan (1945)
Celtic v Barcelona (1945)
Fenerbahce v Sevilla (1945)
Lyon v Manchester United (1945)

Second Leg: Tuesday 4 March
Barcelona v Celtic (1945)
Manchester United v Lyon (1945)
AC Milan v Arsenal (1945)
Sevilla v Fenerbahce (1945)

Second Leg: Wednesday 5 March
Chelsea v Olympiakos (1945)
Porto v Schalke (1945)
Real Madrid v Roma (1945)

Second Leg: Tuesday 11 March
Inter v Liverpool (1945) *

* Due to the stadium clash between AC Milan and Inter, the Second Leg match of Inter will now take place a week later.

Source: UEFA

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