Paris: Manchester United will face Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals while Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur clash in an all-Premier League tie following Friday’s draw.
Liverpool were drawn to play Porto in the knockout rounds for the second year in succession, as Ajax’s reward for eliminating the holders Real Madrid is a two-legged tie against Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus.
English hopes are high that this could be their year in Europe’s elite club competition after all four of their representatives made it through to the last eight.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United will have their work cut out if they are to go any further as they take on the Barcelona of Lionel Messi in the headline tie.
For Solskjaer, the second leg will bring back memories of the 1999 final, when the Norwegian came off the bench to score an injury time winner for United against Bayern Munich at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium.
With City and United not allowed to play their home leg in the same week, United will entertain the leaders of La Liga at Old Trafford on April 9 or 10, with the return a week later.
The last time the Premier League had four teams in the quarter-finals, in 2008/09, Barcelona beat the Old Trafford side 2-0 in the final in Rome. The clubs clashed again in the final at Wembley in 2011, with Barca winning 3-1 on that occasion.
City director of football Txiki Begiristain said the Premier League leaders are “confident” they can beat Tottenham but are wary of the threat posed by Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
Pep Guardiola’s City, who reached the last eight following a 10-2 aggregate win against Schalke, will play the first leg away on April 9, potentially at Tottenham’s new stadium, before hosting the deciding leg on April 17.
“We are confident. We are doing well, we are having a good season and we are in a good place now in the sense of the football that we are playing,” said Begiristain.
“So, we are confident, but we know Tottenham will create problems ... We played last season (in the quarter-finals) against Liverpool and did not go through. I hope this time we have better luck.”
Tottenham and City will meet three times in 10 days in April with a Premier League fixture following hot on the heels of their second leg.
“We have already proved last season against Real Madrid and Dortmund, this season against Inter or Barca away, that we are ready to compete,” Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. “Then you need a little luck and team spirit.”
Ajax, once a major European power who struggle to compete financially with clubs from bigger leagues, ousted Real Madrid in the last 16 and their tie against Juventus will be a repeat of the 1996 final, which the Serie A club won on penalties.
They also met in the final of the old European Cup in 1973 with the Dutch side winning 1-0.
“I’m neither happy nor sad. Ajax eliminated Madrid so they are no joke,” Juventus director Pavel Nedved said. “I liked them a lot against Madrid so we will have to be very careful. We will have to face Ajax with great commitment. I expect two great games.”
Juventus are unbeaten in their last 10 games against Ajax, winning five of the last six.
Porto, who won the competition in 2004 under Jose Mourinho, are confident they can spring an upset against Liverpool after last year’s mauling.
“We have to keep dreaming and believe we can go further,” said midfielder Jesus Corona.
Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool won’t underestimate Porto.
“What can I say? It’s Porto and we’ve played there already and we know how good we had to be last year,” Klopp said.
“The result in the end was a strange one; it was very good for us, of course, but it was a strange one. In the second leg, we saw the character of Porto and the quality they have.
“The first thing you have to do is make sure everybody respects the opponent the right way — and we will do that 100 per cent. We will know about the quality of Porto and then we have to play the game.”