Photo: Spanish soccer clubs
FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and Malaga will square off against AC Milan, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Porto, respectively, in the Champions League round of 16, whose draw was held on Thursday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Group G winners Barcelona and top Group C club Malaga have the theoretical advantage of playing the second leg at home.
Real Madrid and Valencia finished second in the round-robin phase and will host the first leg of their matchups before going on the road for the second leg.
The first-leg matches of the knockout phase will be played Feb. 12-13 and 19-20, while the second-leg matches will take place March 5-6 and 12-13.
The knockout stage of the tourney will feature marquee match-ups between Europe’s most storied teams, including AC Milan vs. Barcelona, Real Madrid vs. Manchester United, Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich and Celtic vs. Juventus.
Turkey’s Galatasaray and Schalke 04 will be pitted in a low-key contest, while soccer purists have their eye on the pairing of Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund due to both teams’ attractive style of play.
AC Milan has improved after a slow start this season but must find consistency to challenge Barcelona, the big favorite to succeed Chelsea as European champs.
Real Madrid vs. United might be the most-anticipated match-up since both teams are considered prime contenders to reach the Champions League final, scheduled for May 25 at Wembley Stadium in London.
Valencia will be up against big-spending PSG, which won Group A thanks in large part to the play of their top recent acquisition, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Malaga was one of the big surprises of the round-robin phase. In its first-ever Champions League appearance, the club not only reached the knockout phase but beat out AC Milan to take the top spot in its group.