Real, Barcelona kept apart in Champions League draw

Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid were kept apart in the draw for the Champions League quarter- and semi-finals here on Friday, setting up the possibility of a final showdown between the two in Munich.

Updated: March 17, 2012 10:51 IST
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Nyon, Switzerland: Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid were kept apart in the draw for the Champions League quarter- and semi-finals here on Friday, setting up the possibility of a final showdown between the two in Munich.

Real Madrid got the draw everyone wanted in the shape of Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia, while defending champions Barcelona landed Italian powerhouse AC Milan.

Sole English survivors Chelsea will take on Benfica of Portugal with the first leg in Lisbon, while the remaining tie sees Marseille go up against Germany's Bayern Munich.

Both Barcelona and arch-rivals Real have advanced to the last eight of the competition without really being tested and, given the size of the gap between them and the rest of the continent, the feeling was that only the draw could prevent them from meeting in the final itself on May 19.

That did not happen but Real coach Jose Mourinho will be happier than his Barcelona counterpart Pep Guardiola at having drawn APOEL, the first club from the Mediterranean island ever to reach the last eight of the Champions League.

"We will be up against one of the greatest teams in the history of the competition," Guardiola said.

"Milan have some fantastic players. We will need to play well in the away leg and then will need all the help we can get from our own fans."

Six of the quarter-finalists are previous winners of Europe's premier club trophy, with APOEL and Chelsea being the two exceptions.

After the routs of the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal, Chelsea saved face for the English by squeezing into the last eight in extra-time at the expense of Italy's Napoli, having lost the first leg 3-1.

Interim coach Roberto Di Matteo will not be disappointed by the prospect of taking on outsiders Benfica, who are back in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.

The club's chief executive Ron Gourlay said: "I think it's a good one for us.

"It doesn't matter who you get at this stage, it's going to be a difficult game but I think it was important for us to get the away game first and then hopefully build the foundation from there. So, I think we're pleased.

"With Ramires and David Luiz they'll know quite a bit about the club and also we know quite a lot about Benfica from the fact they topped Manchester United's group. They're a very, very strong side and we're looking forward to the upcoming games."

Benfica general manager Rui Costa said that Chelsea would be a big challenge but that the Portuguese side feared no-one.

"First of all it is no problem for us to play at home first and then go to London. We will be ready for everything," he added.

Marseille, who are back in the last eight for the first time since they won the trophy in Munich in 1993, will start as underdogs against an in-form Bayern who defeated FC Basel 7-1 over two legs to go through.

The French club's president Vincent Labrune said the match against Bayern would be "very, very difficult" and that he had feared drawing the German side in the last eight.

"Our German friends are happier than us," he told Eurosport. "But we have to try our luck to the maximum and continue to dream."

Bayern chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he was pleased with the outcome.

"I think we can be reasonably satisfied," the former striker said. "But Marseille beat Dortmund twice in the group stages. That (is) warning enough for us, It will not be a piece of cake."

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