Champions League

English duo in tricky CL draw

2013-12-12 19:20
Champions League logo (File)

London - Improving on last season's output by two, all four English teams have made the last 16 of the Champions League.

But the English resurgence in Europe's top competition could come to an end very soon as Arsenal and Manchester City are facing the prospect of a tough draw after finishing second in their groups. The other two, Manchester United and Chelsea, won their groups.

Premier League leader Arsenal progressed to the knockout stage for the 14th consecutive time but a 2-0 loss at Napoli in the final game denied the Gunners first place in Group F, meaning that they could be handed difficult opponents such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain in Monday's draw.

After finishing second in Group D behind Bayern, City can't be drawn against the German powerhouse in the next round but Manuel Pellegrini's side also faces a tough task against Europe's elite clubs.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger expressed his frustration but relief was also felt within the London club ranks as a third goal conceded in Italy would have seen then bowing out of the competition.

"In the last four or five years we had a difficult draw. Maybe this time we will be a bit luckier," Wenger said. "You look at the teams that are potentially there, at least we will know we have a difficult draw. On the other hand we have qualified for the last 16 for the 14th consecutive year and maybe the number 14 will bring us a bit of luck."

Last season, Arsenal was drawn against Bayern in the last 16 and lost on away goals.

"We got Bayern Munich last year and nearly went through. If you want to achieve something in the Champions League, you have to take every opponent seriously and I think it is better for us when we have a good lot, when there is a draw that we can concentrate on," Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker said. "When you look at the teams that finished top, if you pick one out, for me, I don't mind."

City would have topped Group D and avoided the biggest teams if it had scored an extra goal in its 3-2 win over Bayern on Tuesday.

"We didn't know if 4-2 would be enough or if we would need 5-2," City midfielder James Milner said. "We thought it needed to be 5-2 to be honest. It's not easy to score three goals here, so to score four would have been a tough task."

As group winners, past champions Chelsea and Manchester United will have — at least on paper — better chances against weaker teams including Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Zenit St. Petersburg, AC Milan and Schalke.

As for its next opponents, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has expressed a preference for Galatasaray and a match-up that would see Didier Drogba returning to Stamford Bridge. Before leaving the club, the Ivory Coast striker slotted the winner for Chelsea in a dramatic penalty shootout in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern.

"He deserves to come here," said Mourinho, who came back to London this season with the aim of lifting the trophy he delivered at FC Porto and Inter Milan. "He deserves a reception here even better (than mine), because he deserves much more than me.

"So, yes, Galatasaray is difficult. Very difficult. But I'd like Didier to be back here and feel what I felt."

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