Arsenal’s remarkable UEFA Champions League survival act was rewarded on Monday…when they were paired with Barcelona in the last 16 of the competition.
Arsene Wenger’s side endured a problematic qualifying campaign, which left them needing to beat Olympiakos in Greece by two goals in their final fixture. Despite their good form in the Premier League few gave them any hope of maintaining their impressive record of making the last 16 in each of the past 15 years, but an Olivier Giroud hat-trick secured their passage from Group F.
There were no such problems in Group E for Barcelona, who qualified with an eight-point cushion over second-placed Roma. The current European champions now face the Gunners in the second round, and will look to maintain their good record against the Emirates Stadium club who they beat in the 2006 final and have since gone on to eliminate in both 2010 and 2011.
Chelsea also left it late to secure their place from Group G, and did so with a last-day 2-0 win against Porto. Jose Mourinho’s side will now take on Paris St Germain, runners-up in Group A, for what will be the third successive season. The Londoners beat the Parisians at the quarter-final stage two years ago, but the Ligue 1 side exacted their revenge at the last-16 stage last term.
Having finished ahead of Juventus in Group B, Manchester City have – finally – been handed a favourable draw as they were paired with Dynamo Kiev. The Etihad Stadium club will now fancy their chances of going further in the competition than they have ever done so, although the Russian side should not be underestimated having only just lost out to Chelsea in their Group G games.
As for the Bianconeri – beaten finalists last season – they have been made to pay for their failure to finish ahead of City and must now take on Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the last 16. The Serie A’s other representative, Roma, have it equally as tough as they were paired with Real Madrid. Back to the Bundesliga, and Wolfsburg – conquerors of Manchester United – take on Belgian side Gent.
The other two fixture see Atletico Madrid take on Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, and Andre Villas-Boas’ Zenit St Petersburg will meet Portuguese giants Benfica.
Full Draw (first team named at home in first leg):
Feb 16/March 9
Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea
Benfica v Zenit
Feb 17/March 8
Gent v Wolfsburg
Roma v Real Madrid
Feb 23/March 16
Arsenal v Barcelona
Juventus v Bayern Munich
Feb 24/March 15
PSV v Atletico Madrid
Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City