Real Madrid to face Man City in Champions League quarterfinals. PSG gets Barcelona

Real Madrid and Manchester City are squaring off in the Champions League for the third year in a row.

The winners of the last two Champions League titles will meet in the quarterfinals this time after Friday’s draw set up another heavyweight clash between the only two teams who are still unbeaten in this season’s competition.

They played each other in the semifinals the previous two years, with Madrid emerging victorious in 2022 while City beat the Spanish giant last year and went on to capture its first European Cup trophy.

In their latest meeting, Madrid will host the first leg on April 9 or 10 and defending champion Man City stages the return one week after.

“If you want to win (the title) you have to beat the best teams. They might be the best team in Europe at this moment,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said of playing City. “We have all the confidence in the world. If you want to win the Champions League, you have to beat City.”

Kylian Mbappé’s path to a first Champions League title with Paris Saint-Germain in his farewell season there will next go through Barcelona.

PSG hosts the first leg as coach Luis Enrique faces his former club, which he led to the 2015 title with a Barcelona team that included Lionel Messi and Neymar — who were later reunited in Paris for two seasons.

Arsenal was drawn to play the first leg at home against Bayern Munich, whose star striker Harry Kane will go back to north London after leaving the Gunners’ archrival Tottenham this offseason.

Atletico Madrid was paired with Borussia Dortmund in the other game, with the German club having the advantage of hosting the second leg. Atletico under coach Diego Simeone showed again they are a fearsome force at the Metropolitano Stadium by ousting Inter Milan on Wednesday.

Dortmund coach Edin Terzic called Atletico “a strong opponent which is especially a little monster in knockout games.”

The Real Madrid-Man City games will be the top attraction even despite their many recent meetings. City also beat Madrid in the round of 16 in 2020.

“We need to remember that we beat them last season in the semifinal and we played at home in the second leg,» Man City director of football Txiki Begiristain said, recalling a 4-0 win last May after a 1-1 draw in Madrid.

UEFA also made the draw for the semifinals, which ensured Mbappé and PSG cannot meet Real Madrid — the team he is expected to join in the summer — until the final.

That draw arguably put the four strongest teams in the same half. When the new Champions League format takes effect next season, the two strongest teams in the expanded eight-game first phase will be seeded in a tennis-style knockout bracket and could not meet until the final.

This time, the winner between Real Madrid and Man City — who were the only teams to win all six games in the group stage — will be away in the first leg against Arsenal or Bayern.

“We certainly have the most difficult path ahead of us that you can imagine,” Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel said.

Bayern fans will be banned from the first leg against Arsenal in London because of a UEFA punishment for supporters setting off fireworks and throwing them toward the pitch at two previous games this season.

A potential Arsenal-Man City meeting in the semifinals would make it three games between them in less than six weeks. They play in the Premier League in Manchester on March 31 in a game that could have a major impact on a tight Premier League title race also involving Liverpool.

“We have been winning all games so we hope that we can keep this rhythm. Mentally we are strong,» Begiristain said.

Arsenal reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 2010 by beating Porto on penalties and leads the Premier League on goal difference ahead of Liverpool.

“We are not scared of anyone,» Arsenal sporting director Edu said. «We are in a good momentum as a team.”

Atletico or Dortmund will host the first leg of its semifinals against PSG or Barcelona.

There was a familiar and powerful look to the draw. It featured five European champions — who have combined to win 27 of the previous 68 titles — and three beaten finalists: Arsenal, Atletico and PSG.

The semifinals are played between April 30 and May 8. The final is on June 1 at Wembley Stadium in London.

The last Champions League final played at Wembley was a German derby in 2013 that Bayern won 2-1 against Dortmund. A repeat is still possible after Friday’s draws.

Source website: www.thehindu.com

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