Friday, September 4, 2015

Barcelona-PSG, Bayern Munich-Juventus in UEFA Champions League quarterfinals

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Martial Trezzini/Keystone/AP
Martial Trezzini/Keystone/AP

LONDON (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain's new status among the European elite will face its first real test after the French club was drawn Friday against Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals. 

Barcelona avoided leading rivals Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in Friday's draw but could get a challenge from PSG, which has been strengthened from spending by its wealthy Qatari owners since 2011. 

"They are the favorites, not only against us but all the teams. But you just have to (treat) these moments like a big party," PSG sporting director Leonardo said. "It's a big event for us, the first year back in the Champions League for so many years. 

"If we had to sign for this before the season, it would be perfect. To play a quarterfinal against Barca will be very special." 

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The three Spanish qualifiers for the last eight were kept apart, with nine-time champion Madrid taking on Galatasaray and Malaga facing Borussia Dortmund. 

The other quarterfinal is between Bayern Munich and Juventus, both repeat winners of the continent's top club competition. 

The first legs will take place on April 2-3, with the return matches the following week. 

PSG-Barcelona should be the highlight, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to return to the Camp Nou in the second leg to play the team that traded him in 2011 after his big-money move to Spain turned sour. The Sweden striker will miss the first leg because of suspension. 

There will be no shortage of glamor thanks to the presence of PSG midfielder David Beckham and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who became the second-highest scorer in Champions League history with 57 goals after his double in the 4-0 second-leg win over AC Milan in the last 16. 

That helped Barcelona become the first team to overturn a 2-0 deficit from an away first leg. 

"We will meet various players we know very well," Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta said. "The teams that reach the quarterfinals have all played well. The draw is good or bad depending on whether you are back here in three weeks. 

"We just had an experience in the last 16 that will make us be very prudent." 

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho must find a way to stifle the threat of Didier Drogba, his former striker from their time together at Chelsea, when Galatasaray plays in the competition's quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. 

Drogba, who converted the penalty last year that won Chelsea its first Champions League title, is looking to capture the trophy in back-to-back years after signing an 18-month contract with the Turkish club in January. 

The Bayern-Juventus match will be a contest between the leaders of the German and Italian leagues. 

"At the moment they are the best Italian team, a really tough opponent. It's a test of caliber," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, whose team has lost in two of the past three finals. "They will be huge Champions League nights ... It's an even match-up." 

In the Europa League, Chelsea was drawn against Russian club Rubin Kazan in the quarterfinals after having dropped into European club football's second-tier competition follow its failed Champions League title defense. 

Tottenham was drawn against FC Basel, Newcastle will play Benfica and Lazio takes on Fenerbahce.

The Associated Press
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