Champions League: Tough draw for Arsenal and Chelsea
In-form Gunners will not be easy meat for Messi and Co in last 16
Arsenal thought they had crawled out of a hole, only to plunge straight into a deeper one.
The prize for their gallant comeback in the Champions League group stage?
A clash with the team everyone wants to avoid - Barcelona.
The euphoria had barely died down in the Arsenal camp after they beat Olympiakos 3-0 away in the sixth and final group game last week to secure qualification for the Round of 16, despite losing three of their first four matches.
Manager Arsene Wenger then hailed their heroics as the "greatest escape".
But the Frenchman could be looking for the escape hatch now.
Barcelona represent the creme de la creme.
Few teams marry style with substance with such fluidity and execute a game plan as ruthlessly.
They have won four of the last 10 Champions League titles.
Up front, they possess one of the most fearsome strikeforces the world has ever seen - Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
The last-16 encounter, which will be played over two legs (Feb 23 at the Emirates Stadium and March 16 at the Nou Camp), will also reopen some old wounds at the London club.
The only time the Gunners qualified for the final of the competition, in 2006, they lost 2-1 to Barcelona.
Arsenal haven't had much luck against them in more recent meetings either.
The Gunners were eliminated by Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the 2009/10 season, and in the Round of 16 the following term.
But, with confidence on a high after going top of the Premiership with the 2-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday (before this morning's match between Leicester City and Chelsea), Wenger's men will not be afraid of the Catalan giants.
They can take inspiration from Deportivo La Coruna, who came back from two goals down to hold Barca to a 2-2 draw last Saturday.
If the Gunners hit form and catch Barca on their off-day, they may be able to spring a surprise.
Arsenal were not the only team who got the short end of the straw following the draw for the Round of 16 in Nyon, Switzerland, yesterday.
At least they could blame their predicament for finishing second in their group, which sealed their fate of meeting one of the group winners in the next round.
Chelsea, who topped Group G, must contend with a clash with Paris Saint-Germain, arguably the toughest of the lot in the runners-up pool.
Last year, when the Blues won the English Premiership crown at a canter, they were knocked out by the French outfit at the same stage, on the away-goals rule.
Overcoming a side containing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura may prove even tougher this time around, as the Blues have looked woefully out of sorts this season.
The Premiership's other representatives, Manchester City, can have no complaints, however.
Against Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine, manager Manuel Pellegrini will fancy his chances of leading his team to the last eight of the competition for the first time in their history.
City had wrested top spot from Juventus in their group right at the death, after a win over Borussia Moenchengladbach in their final group match.
Juventus, who relinquished pole position following their loss to Sevilla, have paid the price. The Italian club, beaten finalists last year, will play mighty Bayern Munich next.
ARSENAL v BARCELONA
It is not easy and the one (Barca) to avoid at this stage, but it is up to us and we will give them a game. Messi, Neymar, Suarez... you could go on, but we have our own worldclass players.
— Arsenal secretary David Miles
We must have maximum respect for Arsenal. But we are the reigning champions and that gives you an edge.
— Barcelona director Albert Soler
PSG v CHELSEA
It’s the third time we’re going to face them. The advantage is we know them well, but they know us too.
— PSG coach Laurent Blanc
There is not much we don’t know about Paris. You only know if it’s a good draw after the tie.
— Chelsea general secretary David Barnard
ROMA v REAL MADRID
For me, it’s a great to be able to test ourselves against a team like Real Madrid.
— Roma coach Rudi Garca
You have to be very much on your guard. If we see ourselves as favourites, things won’t go well for us. We know what can happen if you have 10 poor minutes on a European night.
— Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno
JUVENTUS v BAYERN MUNICH
Everybody wanted to avoid Barca and Bayern so we are not so lucky, but Bayern will not be glad they drew Juve.
— Juventus ambassador Pavel Nedved
Juventus were finalists last year and one of the best teams in Europe. We have a lot of respect and it will be two crazy games.
— Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola
DYNAMO KIEV v MAN CITY
City are a solid, well-balanced team, but we have already played against them and had success. Everyone has weak points. Our job is to find them.
— Dynamo Kiev coach Sergei Rebrov
They (Kiev) have a good side and it will be difficult for us. But we are improving and gaining experience in the competition.
— Man City director of football Txiki Begiristain