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'The bigger, the better'

Draw holds no fears for confident Bayern

The entire Bayern family will turn its collective gaze to UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Friday lunchtime, where the draw ceremony for the Champions League first knockout round commences at midday CET.

Germany’s most successful club know they are certain to face big-name opponents in the last sixteen of this season’s competition. Real and Atletico Madrid, London giants Chelsea and Arsenal, Sporting Lisbon, Villarreal and Inter Milan are Bayern’s potential opponents.

“I reckon all Bayern supporters are hoping for famous opposition. If we’re handed Real, Inter or Chelsea, we’d all be looking forward to it for weeks,” commented Jürgen Klinsmann, brimming with confidence ahead of the draw: “The bigger, the better. We want the bar set high, so we find out where we stand.“

Strong odds on Spaniards

A rule applying to the last sixteen which keeps clubs from the same national association apart means Klinsmann and his men face a high probability of Spanish opposition. None of Real, Atletico and Villareal can be drawn to face Barcelona, who are in the group winners’ pot along with Bayern.

The last sixteen ties will be played on 25 and 25 February, and on 10 and 11 March. As group winners, Munich will play the first leg of their tie away from home. In an intriguing aside, a mock draw conducted by FCB President Franz Beckenbauer for Premiere TV after the final group fixture in Lyon paired Bayern with the might of Real Madrid.

Factfiles: Bayern’s potential opponents

Real Madrid: Bayern versus Real rates as one of the great fixtures in Champions League history. The teams met two years ago at the same stage, Munich progressing on away goals after the tie ended 4-4 on aggregate. Real are hardly enjoying the best of seasons in Spain. The La Liga champions are a lowly sixth in the standings, a yawning 12 points off leaders Barcelona. That state of affairs prompted the departure of Bernd Schuster as head coach a few weeks ago, to be replaced by former Spurs boss Juande Ramos.

Atletico Madrid: Real’s city rivals currently lie fifth in the table. Bayern’s maiden European Cup triumph came at Atletico’s expense back in 1974. Following a 1-1 draw in the first meeting, courtesy of a late “Katsche“ Schwarzenbeck equaliser, Bayern comfortably won the replay 4-0. The teams have not met since, largely due to Atletico’s long absence from the Champions League.

Villarreal: The club’s striking all-yellow kit has earned them the nickname Submarinos amarillos (yellow submarine). Villarreal are currently fourth in La Liga, but have yet to claim a trophy on either the domestic or European stage.

Sporting Lisbon: Faced Bayern in the group phase two years ago. Bayern won 1-0 in the Portuguese capital, with a goalless draw at the Allianz Arena. Currently fourth in their domestic league.

Inter Milan: Star coach Jose Mourinho took the Nerazzurri helm last summer, aiming to add European success to a run of three Serie A championships on the trot. Inter beat FCB 1-0 in Munich to claim the Franz Beckenbauer Cup last August. Bayern won 2-0 in Milan at the group stage two years ago, followed by a 1-1 draw in Munich. Inter hold a six-point lead in Serie A at the present time.

Arsenal: Bayern eliminated Arsene Wenger’s team 3-2 on aggregate in the last sixteen back in 2005. This term, the injury-plagued Gunners have slipped a little off the English Premier League pace, and are currently eight points behind leaders Liverpool.

Chelsea: The club bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich number former Bayern star Michael Ballack among their ranks. The Germany skipper switched to Stamford Bridge on a free after the 2006 World Cup, but has yet to fulfil his dream of Champions League glory, as Chelsea lost last season’s final to Manchester United on penalties. The Blues knocked out Bayern in the 2005 quarter-finals, winning 4-2 in London and restricting their defeat in Munich to 3-2. Currently second in the Premier League, a point off leaders Liverpool.