The draw for the next round of the Champions League took place at lunchtime today and Barça can be reasonably happy to have been drawn with the German team Bayer Leverkusen. Last year’s final was in England and in the last 16 we faced English opponents, hopefully this is a good omen as this year’s final is in Munich and we now face German opposition at the same stage.
There’s not a great deal to say about Bayer but they should not be underestimated as they finished above Valencia in CL Group E to qualify, and in the process they beat both Chelsea and Valencia at their BayArena stadium. In the Bundesliga they are not doing so well and are currently 6th, eight points behind leaders Bayern Munich. Historically they have not won a great deal and have never won the Bundesliga despite finishing second no less than five times in the last 15 years but they did win the German DFB Cup once in 1993. In Europe they claimed the Uefa Cup in 1988 but their biggest disappointment has been to lose the Champions League Final in 2002. Their most famous player is undoubtedly the 35-year-old Michael Ballack who Barça fans will remember fondly for his madman protest at Stamford Bridge (pictured above) when the Norwegian referee Ovrebo refused to give Chelsea a penalty in the last seconds of our Champions League semi-final of 2009. Apart from Ballack they have the wonderfully named Sidney Sam who is a quick striker or winger who scored the winner against Valencia and looked to me to be their best player.
The first leg will take place at the BayArena stadium on February 14 with the return match at Camp Nou on March 7.
The full draw is as follows:
Olympique Lyon – Apoel
Napoli – Chelsea
AC Milan – Arsenal
Basel – Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen – FC Barcelona
CSKA Moscow – Real Madrid
Zenit St. Petersburg – Benfica
Olympique Marsella – Inter Milan