NYON, Switzerland: Holders Barcelona and their feared attacking trident drew fellow Spaniards and 2014 finalists Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last eight on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, Barcelona’s feared attacking trio, will seek revenge for their 2-1 aggregate quarter-finals exit at the hands of Diego Simeone’s formidable charges two seasons ago.
“With Atletico Madrid everything is complicated,” said Barcelona representative Javier Bordas, who was in Nyon for the draw.
“Their strengths are well known. They are water-tight at the back and can hurt you in attack,” he said of the side who have shipped just three goals in the competition so far.
“They are our number one rival in the Spanish league, I don’t believe there was a tougher side we could have drawn. We know this is going to be really tough.”
Atletico eliminated Barca 2-1 on aggregate in the quarterfinals on their way to the 2014 Champions League final. That season Atletico went unbeaten in six games against Barca, but since then the Catalans have won all six meetings between the sides.
But while Atletico coach Diego Simeone was unflinching he heaped praise on his rivals, and if he was worried he was not showing it.
“I have said before, they work more on set-pieces, they have more counter-attacks, Neymar has been there longer, the presence of Suarez, they are a different team with more options,” he said.
“Barcelona are the best in the world for sure and what can be better for us than playing against the best in the world? It makes me very excited.”
Big European performance
In another tantalizing pair up new money outfits Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain face off after Swedish giant Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s side toppled Chelsea in the last round. It is a first ever quarterfinals for City.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaïfi was confident his side, fresh from wrapping up a fourth straight French Ligue 1 title in record time, can get to their first Champions League semi-final in twenty years.
“In the quarter-finals there are only good teams left. We have enormous respect for Manchester City, but I believe our players will produce another big European performance. I’m convinced we can keep up the pace that saw us overcome Chelsea and offer our supporters a first semifinals since 1995,” he said.
Having overcome Juventus in a dramatic come back in midweek five-time European champions Bayern Munich will have been relieved to have drawn Portugal’s Benfica.
Bayern winger Franck Ribéry warned there was no room for complacency even if the Germans, led by Pep Guardiola in his last season before a switch to Manchester City, are unlikely to lose any sleep over the pair up.
“We will have to remain very focused, it’s the quarterfinals, you don’t take these matches lightly. After the group games you never have an easy match,” said the Frenchman.
“We need a good result in the first game at home. But it’s a great draw for us,” he said.
Zinedine Zidane’s ten-time winners Real Madrid and the Champions League’s runaway top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo (13 goals), drew Germans Wolfsburg, with the added comfort of playing at home in the second leg against the quarterfinals débutants.
Emilio Butragueno the Real Madrid director of institutional relations, warned against complacency however.
“They are a German team, they are in the quarterfinals for the first time and they motivation in playing us will be huge.
“We know what it means in Europe to commit a single error and we hope to be back here for the semifinals.
There was conversely a sense of glee at Wolfsburg, whose directors beamed with delight as the draw was made.
“We can’t wait” said Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking.
“For Wolfsburg, the fans and the club it’s a wonderful draw. Real Madrid are a massive side but you’ve always got a chance.”
The two legs of the quarterfinals will be played between April 5-13, with the semi-finals on April 26/27 and May 3/4.
The finals will take place in Milan on May 28.