NYON, SWITZERLAND (AFP) – Holders Liverpool will return to the scene of last season’s Champions League triumph after they were drawn against Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the competition on Monday night and Manchester City face 13-time winners Real Madrid.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will travel to the Wanda Metropolitano, where Liverpool lifted the trophy in June, for the first leg of their tie against three-time runners-up Atletico.
“Madrid is the place where we only have fantastic memories, all of us, so that’s great, but this time we play Atletico there and it’s their home ground,” said Klopp.
“It’s a tough one, but if you go through all of the draws, there are pretty much four or five potential finals already in the last 16.”
Pep Guardiola’s City, who are trying to win a first Champions League crown, face a tough task against Real, the record winners of Europe’s top club prize, for a place in the quarter-finals.
The two clubs met in the 2015-16 semi-finals, the furthest City have progressed in the tournament. That tie was won 1-0 on aggregate by Real.
“It is a difficult one, of course. Real Madrid have won 13 times so they are the best,” City Director of Football Txiki Begiristain told BT Sport.
“We want to be the best so we want to beat them.”
The clash is a first competitive meeting between Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane, who won the Champions League three times in a row with Real from 2016. “They are a big opponent, very powerful in every sense,” said Real Director Emilio Butragueno. “It’s going to be an exciting tie – one of those that makes us love this wonderful sport.”
Chelsea face German giants Bayern Munich in a repeat of the 2012 final won by the Blues.
However, Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has fond memories of London, where the Bavarians beat Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 final at Wembley.
“We’re happy to go to London, we have great experiences from there. Chelsea are a dangerous team and we must take them extremely seriously,” said Neuer.
Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski is the competition’s leading scorer this season after netting 10 times in five group stage games.
Paris Saint-Germain, who impressed in the group stage and will be trying to avoid a fourth successive last-16 exit, will take on 1997 champions Dortmund.
Barcelona will play Napoli for the first time as the Catalan giants, five-time European champions, attempt to move on from last season’s painful semi-final loss to Liverpool.
Napoli appointed Gennaro Gattuso as coach last week after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked just hours after a 4-0 win over Genk which sent the Italian side into the last 16.
Italian champions Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo will fancy their chances of overcoming French side Lyon, who lost captain Memphis Depay to a season-ending injury last Sunday.
“We can’t complain. Last year we faced Atletico which was a harder draw, I think,” Juventus Vice-President Pavel Nedved told Sky.
“We can be happy, but if you’re not in form come February, March you won’t get through.”
Tottenham Hotspur, beaten 2-0 by Liverpool in last season’s final in Spain, will lock horns with Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig, who are through to the knockout stages for the first time.
Spurs can count on the experience of new coach Jose Mourinho – a two-time winner of the competition, with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010.
The Portuguese is one of five managers appointed by clubs who made it through to the knockout rounds who were not in charge when the draw for the group stage was made.
Champions League debutants Atalanta continue their adventure against two-time former finalists Valencia, who knocked out Ajax in midweek to finish top of their group.
This is the first time since the current Champions League format was introduced in 2003 that every club through to the last 16 has come from Europe’s biggest five domestic leagues.
The first legs will be played over February 18-19 and February 25-26 with the return fixtures scheduled for March 10, 11, 17 and 18.