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Champions, Europa draw: Shock, joy and a test for French clubs

Fabrice Coffrini, AFP | UEFA director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti (L) and Liverpool football legend and UEFA Champions League Final Ambassador Ian Rush at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 17, 2017.

French clubs Monaco and Lyon have their work cut out after European league quarter-final draws on Friday. In Champions League action, Monaco will face Borussia Dortmund, while Lyon has drawn Turkish champions Besiktas in their Europa League clash.

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In the Champions League quarters, free scoring Monaco’s Borussia Dortmund draw will see goalking Pierre Emerick Aubameyang return to his old club.

Monaco are one of the Champions League's strongest sides, with a young team playing attractive attacking football. Coach Leonardo Jardim’s side eliminated giants Manchester City in a 12-goal thriller. There is no question that they will cause problems for Dortmund, who have been inconsistent this season.

"I saw Monaco's match against Manchester City and I am aware that they have a goal difference of +58 in the league. It's a difficult match," said Dortmund chairman Hans Watzke.

This will also be the first time the two sides meet in a UEFA tournament and should provide ample entertainment for fans of the two squads and football lovers alike.

Upbeat Lyon

Lyon
are seen as second favourites after Manchester United to lift the Europa League trophy after overcoming Roma, and were upbeat despite a tough draw.

"They're a great team and there'll be an amazing atmosphere," said Lyon advisor Bernard Lacombe.

Besiktas director Ali Naibi felt the same way. "Playing the second leg in front of our own crowd will help. Lyon have experienced and talented players, so it'll be difficult," he warned.

The first clash of the two-leg match will take place in Lyon's Parc Olympique Lyonnais on April 13. The second leg will be played in Istanbul on April 20.

Manchester United are set to face Belgian club Anderlecht in the Europa League quarter-finals. The Red Devils hope victory in the Europa competition will earn them a passage into next season's Champions League.

Jose Mourinho's side are the only English club left in the second-tier European competition after labouring to a 2-1 aggregate win over Russian side FC Rostov in the last 16.

Barcelona: Comeback Kings?

Champions League title holders Real Madrid will face their former coach Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich as Juventus were drawn against comeback kings Barcelona.
English champions Leicester play their first quarter-finals in the top-tier European competition against Atletico Madrid as France's Monaco clash with Borussia Dortmund over two legs in April.

Ancelotti, who led 11-time winners Real to their tenth Champions League title in 2014, was looking forward to a special tie.

"It is going to be exciting to play against them. We are very confident and want to win the Champions League this season," said Ancelotti, who also won the European title twice with AC Milan.

"I think we have the ability to beat Real Madrid."

A “classic”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was relishing a 'classic' as his five-time winners target more than just a sixth straight semi-final appearance.

"This is a classic, which is probably the absolute top draw that lay in the pot," said the former Germany striker.

"All football fans in the world can look forward to it."

Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno, however, appeared downcast.

"It is one of the worst draws we could have got without a doubt but it is also for them," said Butragueno.

"We would have liked to have faced them further on in the competition," the former Spanish international said.

"It is not the best draw, but we too have top quality players with a lot of experience and it is a great tie. For sure the whole world will be watching these two games."

Revenge for Juventus?

Italian giants Juventus could avenge their narrow 2015 final defeat against Barcelona, but face the daunting task of muting the competition's top marksman Lionel Messi.
Barcelona's dramatic comeback from 4-0 down in the last 16 first leg, crushing Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in a Neymar-inspired rout, was ample warning for any rival.

Juventus vice-president Pavel Nedved hinted at the size of the task ahead of them.

"You need to be at your best for 180 minutes or more to overcome Barca," said former midfielder Nedved.

"It's a fascinating tie. Juve have improved a lot since 2015 and this team can play without fear against Barcelona."

The Foxes challenge in the Champions League

Leicester landed last year's beaten finalists Atletico Madrid, a draw which prompted British bookmakers to slash the odds making Atletico third favourites to lift the trophy in the June 3 final at Cardiff behind Barcelona and Bayern.

The Foxes [Leicester] will travel to the Spanish capital for the first leg in the week beginning April 10, with the second match the following week.

Leicester are England's sole representatives following the elimination in the last 16 of Manchester City and Arsenal.

Diego Simeone's Atletico have reached the Champions League final in two of the last three seasons, losing to city rivals Real on both occasions, last year on penalties.

"Facing a team who have reached the final in two of the last three seasons is a massive challenge but it's just the kind of tie you expect in the quarter-finals of the Champions League," said Leicester replacement manager Craig Shakespeare.

"Atletico Madrid are a very good team with some fantastic individuals with experience in the competition, but we'll be ready to give everything to progress.

"It will be a brilliant occasion for our supporters and for everyone at the club but, before the players can begin to think about these games, we have Premier League matches to come that are of huge significance to our season. They will be our sole focus."

Spanish strong record in Europa

Spanish sides have won seven of the last eleven second-tier European titles and hopes of further domination rest on Celta Vigo's shoulders as they take on Belgian club Genk.

Two former winners were pitched together as Dutch giants and 1992 champions Ajax face Germany's Schalke 04, who won in 1999, in home and away ties to be played on April 13 and 20.

Schalke's Dutch striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar, formerly of PSV Eindhoven, tweeted "Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam," to show his delight at landing his former rivals.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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