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Tough Atletico test awaits Chelsea in the UCL

LONDON. — Liverpool will look to learn lessons from Manchester United’s defeat to RB Leipzig last week after landing the Germans in the last 16 of the Champions League football, while Chelsea face a tough task to reach the quarter-finals after being pitted against Atlético Madrid.

And Frank Lampard believes Chelsea have been handed the “toughest” Champions League draw possible as they face Atletico Madrid in the last-16.

Lampard’s side finished top of Group E but have been handed a tricky test in the knock-out phase against Diego Simeone’s men.

Atletico have suffered just two defeats in all competitions this season, while the Spanish club dumped Liverpool out of the Champions League with a win at Anfield in March. And Lampard admits his Chelsea players could not have been given a more difficult draw.

“I think most people will say it’s the toughest draw we could’ve had when you go on current form, how they’re doing in La Liga, European experience, quality of the team and players, I think most people would say that,” said Lampard. “On the other hand I think all draws are difficult in the Champions League.

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“We have to have belief in ourselves when that game comes round. We’re going to have to try to beat these sort of teams if we want to win the Champions League, so it is what it is. I’m saying any draw would be tough I just think if you look they are top of La Liga.

“I watched them knock Liverpool out last year, who are obviously a great team and they have that experience and quality in their squad.

So I think most people would say they were certainly one of the toughest teams we could’ve got on paper.

“We’ll just have to turn up and do our job and be confident we can beat them.”

Three English teams took part in the draw for the knock-out stages, with United the notable absentees after their humbling by Leipzig in their final group game saw them drop into the Europa League.

Manchester City landed the kindest assignment, earning a tie with Borussia Mönchengladbach, but there were tough draws for Liverpool and Chelsea.

First-time semi-finalists in last year’s competition, Leipzig will not be intimidated by facing Liverpool. Julian Nagelsmann’s side have fared well against English Premier League opponents of late, thumping Tottenham in the last 16 last season before overwhelming Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United with a fast start at the Red Bull Arena last Tuesday, and will be confident of posing Jürgen Klopp’s side some awkward questions.

Although Liverpool boast the greater experience in the competition, winning it for the sixth time in 2019, it will be intriguing to see how Klopp fares against another German coach. The 33-year-old Nagelsmann is 20 years younger than his Liverpool counterpart and boosted his credentials as one of the brightest young managers in Europe when he outwitted Solskjaer to finish second in Group H.

At least Liverpool have avoided a meeting with Atlético, who knocked them out at this stage last season. Instead that task falls to Chelsea, who lost to Diego Simeone’s side in the semi-finals in 2014. Second in La Liga and tough to break down, Atlético will be no pushovers. Chelsea, who spent heavily in the summer, will have to be at their best to grind the Spaniards down.

Perhaps Chelsea might have been happier facing Barcelona, who are a shadow of their former selves at the moment. In one of the ties of the round, however, the struggling Spanish La Liga giants discovered the cost of finishing second to Juventus in their group when they were drawn against last season’s beaten finalists, Paris Saint-Germain.

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Neymar, who joined PSG from Barcelona in 2017, will be desperate to steal the limelight from Lionel Messi and shine against his former club.

In different circumstances Messi might have been wearing the light blue of City this season. Yet despite failing to sign the Barcelona forward last summer, Pep Guardiola will still feel that he has enough attacking talent to see off Gladbach, who reached the knock-out stages for the first time after pipping Shakhtar Donetsk and Internazionale to second place in their group.

Elsewhere the reigning champions, Bayern Munich, will be confident of beating Lazio.

Atalanta, who earned a famous win over Liverpool at Anfield last month, will adopt a fearless approach against Real Madrid, who only sealed qualification after beating Gladbach last week.

Sevilla will be tough opponents for Borussia Dortmund, who have placed Edin Terzic in caretaker charge after firing Lucien Favre, while Juventus will face Porto.

The first legs will be spread across two midweeks, taking place on February 16, 17, 23 and 24, with the second legs on March 9, 10, 16 and 17.

Meanwhile, Manchester United will play Real Sociedad in the Europa League last-32, while Arsenal will face Benfica, and Tottenham will meet Austrian side Wolfsberger.

The first leg of the last-32 fixtures is scheduled for February 18, while the return games will be played on February 25. All seeded teams are to play at home for the second leg on February 25.

 

Champions League last-16 draw

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Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City

Lazio v Bayern Munich

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea

RB Leipzig v Liverpool

Porto v Juventus

Barcelona v Paris St-Germain

Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund

Atalanta v Real Madrid

Europa League last-32 draw in full

Wolfsberger v Tottenham

Dynamo Kiev v Club Brugge

Real Sociedad v Manchester United

Benfica v Arsenal

Red Star Belgrade v AC Milan

Royal Antwerp v Rangers

Slavia Prague v Leicester

Salzburg v Villarreal

Braga v Roma

Krasnodar v Dinamo Zagreb

Young Boys v Bayer Leverkusen

Molde v Hoffenheim

Granada v Napoli

Maccabi Tel-Aviv v Shakhtar Donetsk

Lille v Ajax

Olympiakos v PSV — The Guardian

HERALD