Barca braced for Bayer as Ranieri relishes renewing old rivalries

BARCELONA sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta is wary of history repeating itself after his side were drawn against Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Barca will be confident of progressing against a Leverkusen side currently sixth in the German Bundesliga, but will remember their defeat to the same opponents in the 1987-88 UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

Zubizarreta, who was part of that team, said: “When their name came out I remembered that I’d played against them before, and they knocked us out of the UEFA Cup. We hope that will not set a precedent and we can overcome them.”

Barca president Sandro Rosell added: “When you reach the last 16 we have to be ready to face any opponent, and as such we would have been happy with whatever team we got. Every team has its pros and cons.”

Enthusiasm is also high at the BayArena and director of sport Rudi Voller said: “This is an absolute highlight for our young players and for our fans.

“We are rank outsiders and we have nothing to lose so the pressure will be minimal. But we won’t hide and if we can play to our best twice and if Barcelona have an off day, then maybe we have a small chance.”

Barca’s arch-rivals Real Madrid will also be satisfied after pulling out CSKA Moscow.

But director and club legend Emilio Butragueno warned: “They are a dangerous team and they showed that by knocking out Lille and beating Inter in Milan. In football you never know.

“We must be wary because we will play the first leg in February and we will find a low temperature in Moscow. We need to take it game by game because a bad night could leave you out of the competition.”

Bayern Munich’s director of football Christian Nerlinger, whose side will host this season’s final at the Allianz Arena, said they have got the draw they were looking for after being paired with Basle.

“When you see the other opponents in the hat, then Basle were the one we wished for,” he said.

“Basle are a team who have knocked Manchester United out and that speaks for their quality. But it is obviously a tie that we expect to come through.”

Inter Milan, champions in 2010, will face Marseille and coach Claudio Ranieri is relishing the chance to take on OM counterpart Didier Deschamps.

“It will be a nice challenge with Deschamps,” Ranieri told Gazzetta dello Sport. “He already knocked me out of the competition in 2004 when I was at Chelsea and he was in charge of Monaco.

“I hope it goes better for me this time around.”

Ranieri, who replaced Deschamps at Juventus in 2007, insists his side will not take the French giants lightly.

“I cannot say whether it is a positive draw or not,” he said.

“We just have to think about ourselves and prepare for these games in the best way possible.

“I just hope that we get to February in good form and with my players in good physical shape.”

Elsewhere in the last 16, Zenit St Petersburg take on Benfica and Lyon were pulled out against last-16 surprises APOEL Nicosia.

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