Madrid, Dec 14 (efe-epa).- Barcelona will get ready for a tough set of games against Paris Saint-Germain, haunt of former teammate and star Neymar Jr., in this seasons’ Uefa Champions League round-of-16, according to the draw Monday.
Defending champions Bayern Munich have a tie with Lazio, Atletico Madrid brace for a meet-up with Chelsea, Liverpool head over to Germany for a date with upstarts RB Leipzig for the first time and Manchester City take on Borussia Monchengladbach.
For a struggling Barcelona side — in the grips of a leadership change and sitting just 8th in LaLiga —, PSG represents a tough hurdle to pass in their quest to put last year’s disastrous campaign behind them.
The Catalan side is still picking up the pieces from a tumultuous year that culminated with Lionel Messi’s failed bid to leave the club after a humiliating defeat 2-8 defeat to eventual winners Bayern Munich.
PSG, last year’s runners-up, have shed some of their strength coming into the new season. Neymar hobbled off the pitch with an injury during the team’s 0-1 loss to Lyon on Sunday, and while Kylian Mbappe remains a crucial figure, Angel Di Maria is struggling to maintain the confidence of head coach Thomas Tuchel.
Guillermo Amor, Barcelona’s director of institutional relations, acknowledged PSG’s strength in remarks to the club’s in-house TV service but insisted the LaLiga side “also had options” to make it to the next stage.
Barcelona’s main national rivals, Real Madrid, have fixtures against Italian side Atalanta. Head coach of the LaLiga champions, Zinedine Zidane, spoke of his “respect” for his round-of-16 opponent before turning his attention back to tomorrow’s league match against Athletic Bilbao.
Real Madrid are also struggling to get the season up-and-running, and scraped through the group stages this year.
Juventus have been drawn against Porto, an interesting tie for Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who returns to his home country to take on a former rival from his early days at Sporting.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, who so far this season have outshone Real Madrid and Barcelona, prepare for a match against Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, who topped their group (the Spanish side finished second behind Bayern).
Chelsea were the first team to beat Atletico at the new Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid during the 2017/18 campaign.
A host of Chelsea signings, such as striker Timo Werner and midfielder Kai Havertz, are still settling into a groove in London. The side is currently 5th in the Premier League.
Simeone’s side knocked defending European champions Liverpool out of the competition last year with dogged performances home and away.
The third and final Spanish team still in contention is Sevilla, who will ready for a game against Borussia Dortmund.
Julen Lopetegui, Sevilla’s head coach said: “We’re up against a great opponent, a really historic club.
“They can play with different setups and systems, they’ve got technically good players, physically they’re strong and they play fast-paced football. We’ll need to be at our best.”
The round-of-16 games will be split across two legs between February and March.
The full list of fixtures is as follows:
Borussia Monchengladbach — Manchester City
Lazio — Bayern Munich