PSG to play Real after Champions League draw fiasco
GENEVA, Switzerland (AP):
Real Madrid paid the highest price for UEFA’s botched Champions League draw.
Madrid were paired with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in the round of 16 yesterday after UEFA had to redo the entire draw after an error the first time around. The Spanish club had initially been drawn against Portuguese club Benfica but now instead faces PSG’s superstar attack of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, and Neymar.
PSG had been paired with Manchester United in the original draw, which had to be voided after a mistake that UEFA blamed on an external software provider. Man United had initially been paired with Villarreal even though the English club’s name should not have been placed in that bowl since the two advanced from the same group.
Next, Man United’s name was mistakenly not included among possible opponents for Atlético Madrid when it should have been. That oversight meant the entire draw had to be redone.
Atlético and Man United were then paired in the second draw.
Only one of the eight pairings came out the same in both processes: defending champion Chelsea playing Lille.
Bayern Munich will now face Salzburg, making their debut at this stage, instead of their original opponents Atlético.
Liverpool had been paired with Salzburg but were later drawn to face Inter Milan.
Also, it was Sporting Lisbon against Manchester City, Benfica versus Ajax, and Villarreal facing Juventus.
First-leg games are played over two midweeks from February 15-23. Return games are from March 8-16.
The second draw ceremony opened with an apology from UEFA tournament director Giorgio Marchetti, who tried to distance the European football body from blame by saying that the technical errors had been caused by software made by an outside provider.
The redraw meant the competition lost a stellar clash between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But the standout game still involves PSG, who was by far the best team among the group runners-up that made up the pot of unseeded teams.
Madrid eliminated PSG at the same stage in 2018, which was the first season for Mbappé and Neymar in Paris.
The PSG-Madrid games will also see Mbappé face the team he is widely expected to join when his contract expires at the end of the season.
It also brings together PSG, the club that did much to resist the breakaway Super League plans in April, with the club owner who pushed hardest for the failed project, Madrid president Florentino Perez.
Madrid had urged UEFA to retain its original pairing with Benfica.
UEFA Champions League round of 16 amended draw:
Salzburg v Bayern Munich
Sporting v Man City
Benfica v Ajax
Chelsea v Lille
Atlético v Man Utd
Villarreal v Juventus
Inter v Liverpool
PSG v Real Madrid