Man U and Arsenal 'underdogs' after Champions League draw

Dec 20, 2012

United face Real Madrid as Arsenal are drawn against Bayern Munich and Celtic face Juventus

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MANCHESTER UNITED will come up against old boy Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho, one of the contenders to replace manager Alex Ferguson, after they were drawn against Spanish champions Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Although United's clash with Madrid is the most eye-catching of the round, Arsenal and Celtic also face tough tasks. The Gunners have been paired with German giants Bayern Munich and the Scottish outfit must take on Italian champions Juventus.

The last time United faced Real Madrid in the Champions League was in 2003 when a different Ronaldo, the Brazilian striker, was given a standing ovation at Old Trafford after scoring a hat-trick for the Spanish side. United won that game 4-3 but it was Real who went through 6-5 on aggregate.

"It's the tie that everyone wanted to see - but that nobody wanted to see, they wanted to save it for later in the competition," said United club secretary John Alexander after the draw.

It will be the first time Cristiano Ronaldo has come up against his former club since he moved to Spain for £80m in 2009, and Mourinho will hope to extend his excellent run against United. The Portuguese has only lost two of his 14 games against Ferguson's side and it was his famous touchline sprint at Old Trafford when his Porto side beat United in 2004 that brought him to the attention of English fans.

Despite that, United could have a slight advantage, says Michael Cox of The Guardian. "Real are currently underperforming in La Liga, and won't relish this encounter," he said.

However, there is a very real danger that both Arsenal and United will fall at the first hurdle and The Times notes that "the Premier League is in danger of being without a Champions League quarter-finalist for the first time since 1996".

"The group-stage exits of Manchester City and Chelsea have left England with only two clubs in the knock-out phase and both United and Arsenal will be the underdogs when the competition resumes in February," it adds.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon said he was looking forward to the Scottish side's clash with Juventus. "In terms of glamour it's a beauty," he said. Juventus are one of the great traditional European teams [so] in terms of qualification it is going to very tough, but it could have been any of the other teams and it would have been just as tough."

The other stand-out clash of the round is AC Milan against Barcelona. points out that the draw was an exact repeat of yesterday's rehearsal, when the same eight ties were drawn.

Champions League last 16 draw:
Galatasaray v Schalke
Celtic v Juventus
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund
AC Milan v Barcelona
Real Madrid v Manchester United
Valencia v Paris Saint-Germain
Porto v Malaga

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