Manchester City, Arsenal and Milan were all potential opponents for us in the last-16 of the Champions League. But, in yesterday’s draw in Nyon we found out that we will go toe to toe with currently – judging by the league table – the second best team in Germany, Bayer Leverkusen.
By no means is it the worst draw in the world but it is no easy feat either. Before the draw was made we wanted to avoid the big hitters such as City until the latter stages where they will become more predominant. That was the whole point of finishing top of our group to give ourselves a greater chance to get to the quarter-finals. I said beforehand City were the team to avoid and they subsequently got drawn against FC Barcelona in arguably the tie of the round. The Catalans will be no more wary of their opponents as we are with Bayer.
The Bundesliga representatives are a good young side that is developing superbly under the stewardship of Sami Hyypia. They finished 2nd in their group, four points behind three time European Cup winners Manchester United. Their standout result came at the BayArena where they thrashed Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0.
Boasting the second best defence in their domestic league, only bettered by Bayern Munich, they are five points ahead of last year’s Champions League runners-up Dortmund. Munich are seven points ahead at the top which is no surprise to anyone but it is a testament to Bayer for being where they currently are.
Laurent Blanc seemed happy with the draw in his presser yesterday: “It could have been more difficult but all matches are difficult, especially in the knockout-stages”. It is right what he says but in no such way will he underestimate the Germans.
First-leg: Tuesday, February 18th 2014 at the BayArena.
Second-leg: Wednesday, March 12th 2014 at the Parc des Princes.