Arsenal’s worst fears were confirmed on Friday as they were drawn to face Barcelona in the last-16 of the Champions League.
The Gunners, who have reached the knockout stages of the competition for the last 16 years but have not reached the quarter-finals since 2010, will face the reigning European champions in the new year in perhaps the standout tie of an intriguing last-16 draw.
Premier League rivals Chelsea face a similarly difficult tie against French champions Paris Saint-Germain – who famously dumped JoseMourinho’s men out of the competition at the same stage last season – while another blockbuster tie sees Juventus and Bayern Munich square off.
Manchester City , so used to their own nightmare draws in recent season, reaped the rewards of topping their group – they will now faceDynamo Kiev as they bid to reach the last-eight. Real Madrid will wonder if they have been quite so fortunate, with Rafa Benitez’s under-performing team drawn against Rudi Garcia‘s Roma, another team dealing with certain fundamental issues at this point in the season.
It is Arsenal, however, whose sinking feeling will be the greatest as club representatives leave UEFA headquarters in Nyon. They lost to the Catalan side last time they reached the final, in 2006, and were also knocked out of the competition by the Nou Camp side when they met in both 2010 and 2011.
According to reports, after the draw the Gunners’ club secretary joked: “I was told by family if we draw Barcelona don’t come home.”
Chelsea will be experiencing similar feelings of deja vu ahead of their match with PSG, who they will now face for a third season in a row. In 2014 they scraped through their quarter-final match-up, but last season Thiago Silva‘s extra-time goal famously sent Laurent Blanc‘s side through their last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge in dramatic fashion.
Beyond the travails of the English sides, it is Bayern Munich’s meeting with Juventus that will perhaps attract the most neutral interest.
“We hoped for better luck in today’s draw, but we’re confident we can put in two good performances,” Juventus representative Pavel Nedved noted.
Champions League last-16 draw in full
Gent v Wolfsburg
Roma v Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea
Arsenal v Barcelona
Juventus v Bayern Munich
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid
Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg
Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City