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Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011

Barca receives favorable draw for CL round of 16


NYON, Switzerland — Defending champion Barcelona got the luck of the draw on Friday and will play Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Champions League.

News photo
Fully loaded: Robin Van Persie will lead Arsenal against AC Milan in the Champions League round of 16. AP PHOTO

As Barcelona avoided a long trip to Russia in freezing cold February temperatures, that arduous task fell to rival Real Madrid, which will play CSKA Moscow.

"For us, the most important thing is not to play in Russia, for the temperatures and the distance," Barcelona director Amador Bernabeu said.

The draw also set up a pair of Italy-England clashes. Arsenal will face AC Milan and Chelsea was drawn to play Napoli.

Also, it was: Marseille vs. Inter Milan; FC Basel vs. Bayern Munich; Lyon vs. APOEL Nicosia; and Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Benfica.

The first legs will be played Feb. 14-15 and 21-22, with the return matches scheduled for March 6-7 and 13-14.

With the two Russian teams unseeded after finishing runner-up in their groups, two seeded teams were sure to be sent on the long journey north.

"It will be a key factor. The weather and the temperature, we're not used to that," Madrid director Emilio Butragueno said. "We have to be very careful."

On Feb. 21 in Moscow, Madrid can expect to find temperatures at the Luzhniki Stadium close to minus-15. At that point, UEFA guidelines allow the match referee to consult with teams and decide if the game should be played.

A week earlier in Leverkusen, Germany, Barcelona should kick off in the relative warmth of zero degrees.

Milan director Umberto Gandini recalled that Arsenal eliminated the seven-time European champion at the same stage in 2008.

APOEL, the first Cypriot club to reach the knockout round, shaped as the weakest of the seeded clubs and was paired with Lyon.

Benfica also goes to Russia to play Zenit St. Petersburg, while two matchups are almost local derbies. Inter has the fewest possible kilometers to travel to face Marseille and Bayern has the short journey to Basel on the Swiss-German border.

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