Arsenal were drawn against the seven-time champions AC Milan in the most compelling clash of the Champions League last 16.
The draw, held yesterday in Nyon, Switzerland, set up a another Italy-England clash in Chelsea v Napoli.
The defending champions Barcelona drew Bayer Leverkusen, getting their wish to avoid a long trip to Russia in freezing-cold February temperatures.
That arduous task fell to rival Real Madrid, who will play CSKA Moscow. “For us, the most important thing is not to play in Russia, for the temperatures and the distance,” said Amador Bern, the Barca director.
Emilio Butragueno, the Real director, conceded that weather will be “a key factor”. He added: “The weather and the temperature, we’re not used to that. We have to be very careful.”
Umberto Gandini, the Milan director, recalled that Arsenal eliminated his side from the competition at the same stage in 2008.
“Tie of the round,” he said. “For the quality and the appeal of the two clubs it is a fantastic tie.
“It’s a rematch of Arsenal beating us 2-0 at the San Siro. It will be a great match.”
Arsene Wenger, who was not at the draw, said he has no intention of buying the Cologne striker, Lukas Podolski, in the January transfer window.
His forward line at Arsenal is set to be further depleted when Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh depart for the African Cup of Nations next month, but Wenger expressed no interest in Podolski, the former Bayern Munich player.
However, Wenger did not rule out the possibility of buying a striker. “I don’t know yet. That was an honest answer,” he said.
Wenger, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League trip to Manchester City, also revealed he would not stop the likes of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey from competing in a Great Britain side at next year’s London Olympics.
Several coaches – most notably Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson – have voiced their disapproval at the prospect of their players being part of the British team, raising fears of burnout.
Chelsea face a stern test to make the quarter-finals after drawing Napoli, conquerors of Manchester City in the groups.
“It will be difficult, having seen Napoli when they were in the same group as Man City,” David Barnard, the Chelsea club secretary said. “Unfortunately City are no longer with us, which reflects the quality of Napoli.”
Bayern Munich have a short journey to Basel on the Swiss-German border. With the final played in Munich on May 19, Bayern are looking to be the first team playing a Champions League or European Cup final in their home stadium since Roma in 1984.
Lyon v Apoel Nicosia
Napoli v Chelsea
AC Milan v Arsenal
Basel v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica
Marseille v Inter Milan
First legs to be played Feb 14/15 and 21/22, second legs
March 6/7 and 13/14