Barcelona to face AC Milan in quarter-finals

Reuters

Fri, 16 Mar 13:49:00 2012

* Barca to face AC Milan again

* Possible final against Real Madrid

* Real to visit upstarts APOEL (Adds Guardiola, Bayern quotes, detail)

Titleholders Barcelona will have to again face seven-times winners AC Milan in the Champions League quarter-finals after a draw which also cleared the way for a final against their eternal rivals Real Madrid.

Rank outsiders APOEL Nicosia, taking Cypriot football into unchartered territory, were handed a glamorous last-eight tie against Real as they continued what chairman Phivos Erotocritou described as "a dream."

Bayern Munich, whose 7-0 demolition of FC Basel in the last 16 made them another team to be feared, must overcome Olympique Marseille if they want to keep up their hopes of reaching the May 19 final in their own Allianz Arena.

The four-times champions would then have to face nine-time winners Real, assuming the Spaniards avoid an upset defeat by APOEL, in the semi-finals.

The winners of the Barcelona and Milan tie will take on Chelsea or Benfica, the Portuguese side trying to recapture past glories, after they were paired in the other two legged quarter-final to be played this month and next.

Barca and Milan, who met in the 1994 final which the Italians won 4-0, have already clashed in the group stage this term with a 2-2 draw at Nou Camp followed by a 3-2 win for the Catalans at San Siro in a match where both teams had already qualified.

"If you want to be champion of Europe you have to beat the best and Milan is without doubt among them," Barca coach Pep Guardiola told reporters in Spain.

"Milan have seven European Cups on their curriculum, all their players are of exceptionally high quality and it will be a very tough tie.

"They are an excellent team in every way, very strong defensively and with quality in midfield and up front that is extremely high. Their players have come through a great number of battles and they know what they are about."

Led by 12-goal Lionel Messi, the Catalans will visit San Siro for the first leg on March 29 as they continue their attempt to become the first side since Milan in 1990 to defend their European crown.

Milan director Umberto Gandini told reporters: "It was pretty much evenly balanced when we met in the group stage.

"We drew away and we lost in Milan with a strange penalty, I know they will not be happy to play us."

Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return to Nou Camp, which he left in acrimonious circumstances, will add further spice to the meeting.

TOO FRENZIED

APOEL have already surpassed expectations by becoming the first Cypriot team to reach the last eight and Erotocritou was reluctant to predict an even greater upset than their round-of-16 elimination of Olympique Lyon.

"We have beaten teams like Zenit (St Petersburg), like Porto, we will try," he said. "I know chances are minimal but we have got quality players and we will give it a try.

"It has been a fantastic dream but maybe the dream is getting near to the end."

He said record nine-times winners Real would face an atmosphere in the first leg in Nicosia that even APOEL officials found too frenzied.

"Unfortunately, it is too passionate to be honest, sometimes we suffer because of that. But this is how we are," Erotocritou added.

Former Real striker and current director Emilio Butragueno said: "APOEL have been a wonderful surprise for everyone. We have to be extremely respectful, they are a good team.

"With the support of their crowd it's going to be very difficult for us, we have to be focused on every detail. You never know in football."

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay, whose side got past Napoli in thrilling fashion on Wednesday after extra time, was happy to travel for the first leg against the Portuguese.

"It's good we have the away game first and we can build a foundation from there," he said.

"Ramires and David Luiz will know a bit about Benfica and also we know a lot about Benfica because they topped the Manchester United group and they are a very good side."

Marseille assistant coach Guy Stephan, whose side left it late to overcome Inter Milan in the last 16, told L'Equipe TV: "It's going to be a very important tie that will weigh on the end of our season. We'll have the disadvantage of playing the first leg at home.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted it could have been worse. "It won't be easy. But I think we can fundamentally be satisfied with the draw when you see that Milan are playing Barcelona, for example," he said.

"They knocked out Inter Milan, so we've been warned. We'll try and come away from Marseille with a good result. It would be nice if we could go there and push the door open just a little bit."

Quarter-final first legs will be played March 27/28 with second legs April 3/4. Semi-final first legs are scheduled for April 17/18 with second legs April 24/25.

 

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