NYON (Switzerland) • Arsenal's reward for completing a great escape is a Champions League last-16 clash with Barcelona as the two clubs were paired together in yesterday's draw.
The Gunners had less than a 10 per cent chance of making the knockout stages after losing three of their opening four group games. And the odds will once again be against them when they take on the tournament favourites.
The La Liga giants prevailed 2-1 when the sides met in the final at the Stade de France 10 years ago, and also triumphed in the knockout phase in 2010 and 2011.
Moreoever, Barcelona star Lionel Messi tends to enjoy coming up against Arsene Wenger's men, scoring six goals in four games against the Gunners.
ALL UP TO US
It's not going to be easy and it's the team that most Arsenal fans would have wanted to avoid at this stage but it's up to us to make a good fist of it.
DAVID MILES, Arsenal secretary
The only guarantee we have is that we'll have two great teams playing two great games.
ALBERT SOLER, Barcelona director
NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED
Everybody wanted to avoid Barca and Bayern so we are not so lucky but Bayern will not be glad they drew Juve.
PAVEL NEDVED, Juventus ambassador
Champions League last-16 fixtures
Gent v VFL Wolfsburg
AS Roma v Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea
Arsenal v Barcelona
Juventus v Bayern Munich
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid
Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg
Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City
First legs on Feb 16-17 and Feb 23-24. Return legs on March 8-9 and March 15-16.
Europa League last-32 fixtures
Valencia v Rapid Vienna
Fiorentina v Tottenham Hotspur
Borussia Dortmund v FC Porto
Fenerbahce v Lokomotiv Moscow
Anderlecht v Olympiakos Piraeus
Midtjylland v Manchester United
FC Augsburg v Liverpool
Sparta Prague v FK Krasnodar
Galatasaray v Lazio
Sion v Braga
Shakhtar Donetsk v Schalke 04
Olympique Marseille v Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla v Molde
Sporting Lisbon v Bayer Leverkusen
Villarreal v Napoli
St Etienne v FC Basel
First legs on Feb 18, return legs on Feb 25.
But Barcelona director Albert Soler said the holders have plenty of respect for Arsenal.
"Arsenal are a strong team," he said. "The only guarantee we have is that we'll have two great teams playing two great games. Arsenal and Barcelona have a similar style of play.
"The fans will enjoy themselves, we're two sides with a similar understanding of the game."
Arsenal secretary David Miles admitted that the club had more ideal opponents in mind after their 3-0 win at Olympiakos on Wednesday.
"On the back of the great win in Athens, we were hoping for a good draw today and I think it's the tie of the round," he told BT Sport.
"It's not going to be easy and it's the team that most Arsenal fans would have wanted to avoid at this stage but it's up to us to make a good fist of it."
Fellow Londoners Chelsea, who are enduring a torrid time in the Premier League, will face French league leaders Paris Saint-Germain in the knockout stages for the third year in succession.
The French champions triumphed at exactly the same stage last season while the 2012 champions had the upper hand in the quarter-finals the previous year.
"There is not much we don't know about Paris," said Chelsea general secretary David Barnard.
Another clash between big guns will feature former winners and last season's finalists Juventus and Bayern Munich, while 10-time champions Real Madrid were drawn against AS Roma.
Juventus could come to regret having blown their finale in the group stage, leaving Manchester City, who will take on Dynamo Kiev, with the better draw on paper.
"Everybody wanted to avoid Barca and Bayern so we are not so lucky but Bayern will not be glad they drew Juve," said Juventus ambassador Pavel Nedved.
Indeed, Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer has noted that the Italian champions are peaking at the right time.
After a poor start to their Italian Serie A campaign, they notched their sixth successive league win on Sunday to go fourth.
"Juventus are a very attractive opponent, whom we all know very well," he said.
"We ousted them in 2012-13 when we won the Champions League. Currently they are back to top form after a difficult start to the season."
Real Madrid and Roma have also seen a lot of each other in the competition, though not since 2008 when the Italians won 2-1 home and away in the last 16.
"You have to be very much on your guard. If we see ourselves as favourites, things won't go well for us," said Real director Emilio Butragueno.
"We know what can happen if you have 10 poor minutes on a European night."
The rest of the ties, which see all eight group winners at home in the second legs, feature two-time runners-up Atletico Madrid against 1988 champions PSV Eindhoven, with Benfica, twice former winners, meeting Zenit St Petersburg.
Wolfsburg, who dumped out Manchester United to reach the knockout phase for the first time, will meet competition debutants Gent from Belgium.
The first legs will be played on Feb 16-17 and Feb 23-24 with the return matches scheduled to take place on March 8-9 and March 15-16.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS