Thursday, 20 December 2012

Ferguson Faces Special Test

Manchester United will face Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in Champions League last 16 showdown.

Celtic face Italian champions Juventus and Arsenal will take on last season's runners-up Bayern Munich.

United's clash with Real - which will see Cristiano Ronaldo face his former team - was the pick of the ties, and Sir Alex Ferguson's men have the advantage of playing away first.

Arsenal and Celtic, who were group runners-up, will both play their second legs away.

Barcelona, the bookies' favourites, will take on seven-time winners AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund, who many pundits are tipping to win the competition this season, will face the improving Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk.

Turkish champions Galatasaray will face Schalke, Valencia face Zlatan Ibrahimovic's PSG and Porto take on Malaga.

Thursday's round of 16 draw in Nyon represented another milestone on the road to a Wembley final that promises to be a unique occasion for fans and players alike.

As the UEFA Champions League season moves into knockout mode, preparations are already under way to make May's final in London a truly spectacular occasion.

Congratulating the clubs who have reached the round of 16, at  the House of European Football in Nyon, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said UEFA and the organisers would give the 25 May final at Wembley Stadium a unique flavour – a fitting celebration to mark the 150th birthday of The Football Association, the world's oldest national association.

"The first thing is to congratulate the 16 clubs who are here," Mr Infantino told the audience. "You represent nine different national associations and the lineup for the draw includes nine former champions of Europe.

"When you get into the knockout rounds it becomes even more legitimate to dream about being crowned kings of Europe. This season, the coronation will take place at Wembley Stadium and we are determined to make it an unforgettable event."

Certainly, all eyes will be turned on London in the late spring: the UEFA Champions League final will be preceded by the UEFA Women's Champions League final at Stamford Bridge on 23 May, with the European football family also convening in the UK capital on 24 May for the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress.

"In a not-so-distant past," Mr Infantino continued, "the UEFA Champions League final was an event that flew into town and flew out again. But, in recent years, UEFA has been steadily working towards a greater symbiosis with the host city.

"Nobody needs to promote London even further as a tourist destination. It is already immensely popular. But we do want to give the final a special flavour associated with the host city. To combine the UEFA Champions League with London in a way that will help make the final a unique occasion that will live on in the memories of the fans and the players."

Galatasaray v Schalke 04
Celtic v Juventus
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund
AC Milan v Barcelona
Real Madrid v Manchester Unitedtd
Valencia v PSG
FC Porto v Malaga

First legs to be played 12/13/19/20th February, and second legs to be played 5/6/12/13th March, 2013.

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