PSG and Man City paired in Friday's draw
Barcelona to play Atletico Madrid
Real Madrid meets Wolfsburg
Bayern draws Benfica
When Middle East backers bought Manchester City in 2008 and Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, respectively, their eyes were surely on Europe’s top football prize: The Champions League.
After Friday, one is sure to get a step closer to the final in Milan on May 28.
Manchester City was pitted against PSG in next month’s quarterfinals, arguably the standout pairing from the draw in Nyon, Switzerland.
Though both clubs are supported by oil-rich owners who have invested heavily – City’s from Abu Dhabi, PSG’s from Qatar – neither has ever won the European title. City has reached the last eight in the competition for the first time, while PSG has only once appeared in the semifinals – in 1995 – since the advent of the Champions League format.
“My first reaction was: ‘Wow!’ But we’ll do our best, we have confidence in our team,” City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain told the club website.
Their league form couldn’t be more different. PSG wrapped up the Ligue 1 title in record time last weekend, while City needs a minor miracle to catch fairytale Leicester City in the Premier League. City, too, will likely be without pivotal defender Vincent Kompany for the tie. He sustained another calf injury Tuesday as City eased past Dynamo Kiev.
PSG knocked out another English team, Chelsea, in the round of 16.
“I have the utmost confidence that our players will produce another great European performance,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said in a club statement. “I am convinced that our team will now keep the momentum going after overcoming Chelsea. We will do all that we can to offer our supporters the dream of bringing the Club into the last four of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1995.”
Barcelona to meet fellow La Liga side
Holder Barcelona, meanwhile, will have a familiar foe in Atletico Madrid.
The Spanish champion, led by the attacking South American triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, is attempting to become the first side in the Champions League era to win back-to-back crowns. It remains on course for a second straight treble after completing victory over Arsenal on Wednesday.
Atletico, however, won’t be taken lightly by Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and his players. Atletico possesses the stingiest defense in the competition and eliminated Barcelona at the same stage of the Champions League in 2014.
Record 10-time winner Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich earned seemingly comfortable assignments, getting Wolfsburg and Benfica respectively. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid cruised into the quarterfinals by ousting Roma; Bayern needed to rally from a 2-0 deficit in the second leg to see off 2015 finalist Juventus.
“We can be happy with the draw, but we mustn’t make the mistake of underestimating a team that has qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the German team’s website. “We face two demanding matches in which we’ll have to be focused and determined if we’re to reach our goal, the semifinals.”
Bayern avoiding Manchester City meant Guardiola wouldn’t be up against the club he will be managing next season.
Benfica, titlist in 1961 and 1962, will be counting on striker Jonas to continue his fine goalscoring form. The Brazilian has 28 in the Portuguese league this term – more than Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, Neymar, PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Man City’s Sergio Aguero have managed in their domestic championships.
Jonas has managed only two goals in Europe, where Ronaldo leads the way with 13 – Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski is next on eight.
The first-leg matches take place April 5 and 6 before the second legs April 12 and 13.