NYON, SWITZERLAND (AFP) - Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid will continue their bid for a first European Cup treble in 40 years against Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain after the big-spending giants were on Monday (Dec 11) drawn together.
No club has won the European title three years running since Bayern Munich in the mid-1970s, underlining how big an achievement it would be if Real– 12 times winners overall – go on to lift the trophy again in May with the final being held in Kiev.
They know exactly what it takes to be European champions, and in Ronaldo, have the most prolific goalscorer in the competition’s history.
Real director Emilio Butragueno expressed regret that one of the favourites would be eliminated so soon in the competition.
“For the potential of the two teams, luck has worked out this way and one of the two teams will be out at the last-16 stage, which we think is a bit soon taking into account they are two of the contenders for the title,” Butragueno told BeIN Sports Spain.
PSG made waves in the transfer market in the close season when they signed Brazilian star Neymar from Barcelona for a world-record €222 million (S$353.5 million), followed closely by great French hope Kylian Mbappe, who will cost €180m when his loan deal from Monaco becomes permanent next summer.
“Every summer, they (PSG) have signed great players, they get stronger all the time and they have had a nearly impeccable group stage,” acknowledged Butragueno.
“With Neymar and Mbappe, they have improved a lot up front, they are a very dangerous team who will demand the best of us. We need to face both games like finals and for the fans, it will be a thrilling tie.
“Mbappe and Neymar are very dangerous. We need to play at our best, but we can’t forget this team has won the Champions League twice, we hope to have all the injured players back and the key is who has the luck over two games.”
Butragueno added: “Of course it is the big tie of the round. Chelsea-Barca is important too, but I think for the players that will be on show, it is the most attractive of all the ties.”
PSG ambassador Maxwell said the Real tie threw up the chance for the Parisian club to atone for their 6-1 hammering by Barcelona that eliminated them in the last 16 last season.
“It’s a good draw, with two good games to play,” Maxwell said. “Our fans will like it after we were knocked out by Barcelona last season.
“It will be nice. It’s a beautiful challenge for the club. I think we’re ready for that.”
Real’s LaLiga rivals Barcelona were drawn against the English Premier League champions Chelsea, while this season's runaway leaders Manchester City play Basel, who have had some fine results against English sides in recent years.
Five-time winners and current Bundesliga table-toppers Bayern Munich drew Turkish champions Besiktas, while last year’s beaten finalists Juventus take on Tottenham.
Bayern’s director of sport Hasan Salihamidzic said the German champions would not be underestimating Besiktas, who should enjoy some raucous support from the city’s prominent Turkish community.
“We know how strong they are after we followed their games against Leipzig. It will be a difficult task, but we are looking forward to the unusual atmosphere in their stadium,” he said.
“One always says that it is a disadvantage to play at home in the first leg, which is right – it certainly won’t be an advantage – but we are strong enough to accept that and we will give our all.”
With a record five English clubs in the draw, three-time champions Manchester United face Sevilla and Liverpool, five-time winners, will be up against two-time former
Unfancied Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk will play Italian Serie A side Roma.
The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League as follows:
Basel v Manchester City
Bayern Munich v Besiktas
Chelsea v Barcelona
Juventus v Tottenham
Porto v Liverpool
Real Madrid v PSG
Sevilla v Manchester United
Shakhtar v Roma
The first legs are to be played from Feb 13 to 14 and Feb 20 to 21 while the second legs will commence from March 6 to 7 and March 13 to 14.