European champions Manchester United will play Porto in the quarterfinals of this season’s Champions League, while Liverpool and Chelsea were drawn to face each other in the knockout stages for the fourth time in five seasons.
English sides dominated the eight-team draw in Nyon, Switzerland, with Arsenal making up a quartet of Premier League clubs chasing European football’s top prize. The Gunners were drawn to face Spanish side Villarreal, who will be seeking revenge for their defeat by Arsenal at the semifinal stage in 2006. The winners of that tie will face either United or Porto, the Portuguese champions and tournament winners in 1987 and 2004, in the semifinals. In a heavyweight clash between two of the continent’s most successful clubs, Spanish giants Barcelona face Bayern Munich of Germany in the round’s final tie. Both Bayern and Barca have been in explosive form this season. The German champions put 12 goals past Sporting Lisbon in a record Champions League aggregate win in the last round. Barcelona, winners in 2007 and boasting stars such as Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry, also looked like tournament contenders as they beat French champions Lyon impressively, 6-3 on aggregate. But CNN’s Pedro Pinto said that the clash between Liverpool and Chelsea was “the match that everybody will be talking about.” Recent Champions League encounters — the pair have met in the semifinals in three of the past four seasons — have fueled a fierce rivalry between the clubs. Five-times winners Liverpool got the better of the London side to advance to the final in 2005 and 2007. But Chelsea emerged victorious last season, before losing to United on penalties in the final. Liverpool will come into the tie with their confidence bolstered by a 5-0 aggregate win over Real Madrid in the last 16 and two Premier League victories over Chelsea this season. But Chelsea’s form has been revived in recent weeks by the arrival of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. The first legs of the quarterfinals will be played on April 7-8, with the return legs a week later (April 14-15). The semifinals will be played on April 28-29 and May 5-6, with the final at Rome’s Olympic Stadium on May 27.