Champions League first round draw

Arsenal to face Barcelona

December 17, 2010
By ESPNsoccernet staff

Arsenal will renew their Champions League rivalry with Barcelona after being pitted against the favourites to win the competition during Friday's draw in Switzerland.

The draw will take place in Monaco
GettyImagesThe UCL draw will take place in Monaco

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Barcelona knocked the Gunners out at the quarter-final stage last season and beat them in the final in 2006. They currently sit top of La Liga, having recently trounced arch-rivals Real Madrid 5-0 in El Clasico.

"My reaction is very simple - difficult but possible," Arsene Wenger told Arsenal's official website. "I didn't want anybody really, in that all teams would have been difficult. You could have said that Schalke - a team with less history in the Champions League - would have been easier maybe, but the advantage is that we will be on our toes and we'll be ready.

"Revenge is not on my mind. We want to qualify and we want to knock them out. So is it difficult? Yes. Is it possible? Yes. Barcelona are certainly the favourites [for the competition] and a famous team but, on their side, they did not want us either because they know they will get a game. I think we are better than last year and we have a good opportunity to show that."

Barcelona boss said Arsenal provided a "frightening" threat and that the Gunners would be a stronger opponent than last season, particularly with their captain fully fit.

"Arsenal frighten me, but that is true of all the clubs in the draw," said Guardiola "I will be a little calmer when I start to watch their games if I can see any weaknesses. Arsenal are a classic of English football. They have been playing good football for years now. I think they will be stronger than they were last season with [Samir] Nasri now fully established in the team, plus the signing of [Marouane] Chamakh. Also there's a difference this time: Cesc [Fábregas] will be on the pitch.

"If you're not at your best, Arsenal overrun you. It should be a fantastic game because we are two very similar sides. They are a very bold, daring team, a side that forces you to defend very well. They play and defend with the ball – they are a very good team who play nice football."

Tottenham, top scorers in the group stage, also face a stiff test, against AC Milan, in their first experience of the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Milan are currently six points clear at the top of Serie A and with plenty of Champions League experience in their ranks.

At his press conference on Friday, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp said: "It's a great draw. I would have taken AC Milan before the draw. Whoever you draw is going to be tough. They're leading the league, the top team in Italy. It's a fantastic game to look forward to. It's a great challenge for us."

Chelsea were given arguably the easiest draw of the round, up against Danish champions FC Copenhagen.

Copenhagen coach Sol Solbakken feels the game will be "very difficult" for his side but is hopeful they can cause an upset.

"We have not been beaten at home in the Champions League and we have played Barcelona and Manchester United," he told Sky Sports News. "Our best chance is to play out of our skins to keep the second game interesting. Football is football and anything can happen - no-one thought we could come this far."

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said: "There's no easy games at this stage and we'll be very careful. They're a very, very good side and well clear in their domestic league going into the break, so they are a very good side and we'll be aware of that, but it's not far to travel and we'll be happy."

Holders Inter, now managed by Rafa Benitez, will face Bayern Munich in a rerun of last season's final.

Inter president Massimo Moratti said: "It's an interesting draw. For them it will be a way to avenge that defeat [in the final last season].

"We have faced Bayern many times and it is an historic showdown but it's early days to make a judgement. We will have to wait and see in which conditions physically and psychologically both teams arrive to the games.''

Manchester United play Marseille and Rio Ferdinand wrote on Twitter: " So we got Marseille in the CL, decent draw. Will be a tough game out there, never many goals between us + french teams."

Lyon will be looking for a repeat of last season when they take on Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid.

Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas said: "Last year everybody thought Real Madrid were favourites to get through and it didn't happen that way.

"Having had that bad experience we need to be prudent, giving the maximum respect to Lyon.

"It's a very important game for us, because we want to get past this barrier (last 16), but we need to have respect for a team who seem weaker than us, but who knocked us out last season."

Finally, Valencia will play Schalke and Roma have to overcome Shakhtar Donetsk.

There will be two games on each matchday. The matchdays are:
First Legs: February 15 & 16 and 22 & 23
Second Legs: March 8 & 9 and 15 & 16