Liverpool draw Chelsea, holders handed Porto
Liverpool will continue their annual European rivalry with Chelsea after Friday's Champions League quarter-final draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, pitted the Premier League duo against each other yet again.
The draw means Rafa Benitez's 2005 champions will face last season's beaten finalists Chelsea for the fifth time in five seasons - four times in the knock-out stages and once in the group stage of the competition.
Liverpool have won two and the Blues one of the clubs' recent Champions League battles, but Chelsea won the last clash 4-3 on aggregate in last year's semi-final.
Benitez's side won the 2004/05 semi-final, before the teams locked horns in the 2005/06 group stage. Liverpool then won the 2006/07 semi-final against Chelsea, who turned the tables under manager Avram Grant last term.
However, Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry believes the past meetings will have little impact on the latest clash.
"It's not about historical form, it's about form at this stage of the season," Parry said. "Obviously at the moment we're coming in to form so fingers crossed we are peaking nicely and if we can keep everybody fit we're optimistic.''
"We know what we've got to do over the two legs. We know what we're capable of doing so we will get on with it now," he told Sky Sports.
Parry also confirmed the second-leg will not take place on the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, Wednesday April 15, and will take place on the other quarter-final date scheduled by UEFA.
"'I'm literally just getting news that we will be playing on the 14th. It is a huge relief and a good outcome," Parry told Setanta Sports.
Chelsea secretary David Barnard admitted the two sides knew each other very well from their previous meetings.
"We probably know the inside leg measurements of Rafa's trousers. It's something that's completely extraordinary they should play so many times,'' he said.
"In theory it should help us being away first,'' Barnard added. "On all three occasions in the semi the team away first got through.''
Defending European champions Manchester United drew Portuguese title holders FC Porto and the match brings back memories of 2004, when then Porto boss Jose Mourinho charged up the Old Trafford touchline in delight after a 90th-minute Costinha goal took them through at the expense of the English team.
• Villarreal v Arsenal
• Manchester United v FC Porto
• Liverpool v Chelsea
• Barcelona v Bayern Munich
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is certainly not taking anything for granted and although he admitted his club were happy with the draw he insisted it was not an easy tie.
"This is a good draw for us, we've met Porto before and obviously we respect any Portuguese team," Ferguson said. "We have had a huge Portuguese influence in the club firstly with Carlos Queiroz but now with Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Nani so we understand Portuguese football."
United will play the second leg in Porto but Ferguson insists that should not be a problem.
He said: "You sometimes wonder if being at home first is a good or a bad thing but I think in this modern-day competition there is no indication of what is better, the only thing you hope is that you don't lose a goal in the home tie.
"We are happy with the draw and we are looking forward to the next round."
Arsenal will play their first leg away to Villarreal in a repeat of the semi-final of 2006, although the Gunners played the first match at home on that occasion and went through 1-0 on aggregate after success at Highbury.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger predicted another close tie and was eager for his team not be thought of as favourites.
"It is a difficult 50/50 draw," Wenger said. "We know Villarreal and we have the experience having played them before. It is maybe a good opportunity to play the first game away.
"In this game there is no real favourite and if I show you what has been said in the newspapers over the last six months you cannot put us as a favourite.
"Now many players go away on international duty and I hope we don't lose players through injuries because many of our players are coming back now from injuries. It looks like we are in a good situation.''
Barcelona, winners in 2006 drew Bayern Munich, champions in 2001 and the German giants have never lost to the La Liga leaders in Europe.
With that unbeaten record behind them Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness delighted in the draw. "This is fantastic news for our football club," he said.
"As we've been saying all along, if we're to be drawn against one of the giants, we want the first leg away from home, and that's what we've got. Barcelona at the Allianz Arena in the return is a dream come true for our fans."
Bayern boss Jurgen Klinsmann added: "Coming face-to-face with the best team in Europe at the moment is a terrific challenge for us all.
"It's something truly out of the ordinary. Barcelona will be exceptionally tough, but anything's possible. We believe in ourselves, and there's no need to be overawed."
The quarter-finals will take place on April 7-8, with the return legs the following week. The draw for the semi-finals was also made in Switzerland.
The winners of Liverpool's match against Chelsea will face the winners of Barcelona's match against Bayern for a place in the final.
United will take on Arsenal for a place in the Rome showdown - assuming both Premier League teams win their quarter-final ties.
The first leg of the semis is due to take place on April 28-29, with the return matches going ahead the following week.