United up against Inter, Real Madrid face Liverpool

December 20th, 2008 - 1:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Nyon (Switzerland), Dec 20 (DPA) Defending champions Manchester United will face Inter Milan in one of three English-Italian duels in the European Champions League round of 16 drawn by ruling body UEFA.Last year’s beaten finalists Chelsea take on Juventus, now managed by former Blues boss Claudio Ranieri, and Arsenal play Roma in the other duel between the Serie A and Premier League in the first knockout stage.

The fourth English club, Liverpool, were also given a difficult opponent in record nine-time winners Real Madrid at the draw made at the UEFA headquarters here Friday.

The tie is a repeat of the 1981 final and Liverpool will be confident of progressing, especially with the Spanish side finding its feet under new manager Juande Ramos.

German champions Bayern Munich will be happy after being drawn against Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon, as will Villarreal, who play Greek club Panathinaikos. Catalan giants Barcelona won’t fear Olympique Lyon and Atletico Madrid meet Porto in an Iberian duel.

The first-leg ties will take place Feb 24 and 25, with the return legs March 10 and 11.

Jose Mourinho’s Inter will welcome United to the Guiseppe Meazza before the second-leg clash at Old Trafford a fortnight later.

Former Chelsea manager Mourinho was United boss Alex Ferguson’s nemesis during his three-year reign at Stamford Bridge, during which time he won two Premier League titles as well as the FA Cup - beating United in the final - and Carling Cup.

He also won the Champions League with Porto in 2004, eliminating United on the way thanks to a last-minute equalizer from Francisco Costinha at Old Trafford.

However United, who are currently in Japan preparing for Sunday’s Club World Cup final against Ecuador’s Liga de Quito, have fond memories of Inter from 1999, when the beat the Serie A side in the quarter-finals on their way to a second European crown.

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expressed satisfaction at drawing Sporting, a team currently sitting fourth in the Portuguese league and who the 2000 Champions League winners beat and drew with in the tournament’s group phase two years ago.

“That’s not an uncomfortable draw,” he said. “It’s a team we have played before and against which we have performed positively, but with the knockout system we can’t afford one bad day.”

Chelsea fans will warmly welcome back Ranieri, who led the London club to the semi-finals of the 2004 Champions League before club owner Roman Abramovich replaced him with Mourinho, and will also be relieved to have avoided tournament favourites and Spanish Primera Liga leaders Barcelona.

“Any team at this stage of the competition is obviously quality but it could have been a lot worse, maybe Barcelona,” Chelsea secretary David Barnard told Sky Sports News.

“It obviously brings back Claudio Ranieri to the Bridge and I am sure Claudio will get a good reception from the Chelsea supporters.”

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