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Barcelona face City test

- Bayern & Arsenal meet again; United to play Olympiakos
Luis Figo during the Champions League last-16 draw, in Nyon, on Monday

London: Manchester City’s fear of drawing one of Europe’s big guns in the Champions League round of 16 was realised on Monday when they were handed a daunting tie with four-time winners Barcelona.

Holders Bayern Munich will play Arsenal at the same stage for the second successive season, while Chelsea hero Didier Drogba will make an emotional return to west London with current side Galatasaray following Monday’s draw.

Nine-time winner Real Madrid take on Schalke 04 and last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund will play Zenit St Petersburg, who scraped through with six points after winning only one of their six group games.

French champions Paris St Germain will play Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid were paired with AC Milan.

“Very tough, we are happy because we are here and we will fight for the trophy, but it’s true that it could be maybe better,” City director of football Txiki Begiristain, who held the same position at Barcelona and spent seven years as a player at the Spanish club, said.

Despite the tough draw, City will take confidence from their strong home form which has seen them score a remarkable 35 goals in eight home league matches this season, and their win over Bayern earlier this month, although it was not enough to finish top of their group.

“Barca is a champion side who are playing with confidence and they have that champion’s mentality which is going to make it tough for us,” Begiristain added.

“But we are playing well and creating a lot of scoring chances and that gives us a lot of confidence.”

Barcelona share top spot in La Liga with Atletico Madrid, and will hope to have striker Lionel Messi back from a thigh strain in time for the first leg in February.

“It’s a tie of exceptional quality to get the competition going again in February,” Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said.

“They are two teams that attack very well and have a huge amount of talent right from the goalkeepers through to the forward line. It seems like it will be a match with everything and it is going to be a tough fight.”

Bayern defeated Arsenal on away goals in last season’s round of 16 on their way to their fifth title. The German champions won the first game at the Emirates Stadium 3-1 but lost 2-0 at home, and their chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was not looking forward to a rematch with the Premier League leaders.

“They are the leaders in the Premier League and so we have been warned,” he said.

“A few months ago we lost to them in Munich. They are a very tough team.”

The defending champions are wary of English sides after their loss to Pellegrini's team last week. “It’s a prestigious tie but a tough opponent. It was the hardest draw amongst the second-placed teams,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said after the ties were confirmed. “Arsenal are certainly not a team you'd hope to face.”

Chelsea have an intriguing tie against Galatasaray and former Stamford Bridge favourite Drogba.

The Ivorian ended his Chelsea career on a high after scoring the deciding penalty in the shootout success over Bayern in the 2012 final, and the London side’s manager Jose Mourinho spoke recently of his hope that the two teams would meet.

Three-times winner Manchester United will play Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus, while Atletico will fancy their chances against struggling AC Milan, who currently sit 12th in Serie A, 25 points behind leaders Juventus and 17 points off the last Champions League qualification spot.

“They may not be experiencing their best moment, but we are talking about Milan,” Atletico Madrid director Clemente Villaverde said. “We are not talking about just anyone here but a great team with a very significant history that will make them a force in any competition they are part of. We obviously have a lot of respect for all the teams but we do not fear anyone.”

The first legs will be played Feb. 18-19 and 25-26, with the return matches set for March 11-12 and 18-19. The final is at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light on May 24.         (reuters)