Xenia Sports – London
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard believes facing Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 is “the toughest draw we could have had”.
The Blues have been given a difficult obstacle to climb as they seek a first Champions League title since 2012, with fellow Premier League sides Liverpool and Manchester City drawn against German opposition in RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach respectively.
Atletico are only being kept off top spot in LaLiga on goals scored compared to Real Sociedad, and have not lost to the Blues in their last six European encounters.
Lampard said: “I think most people will say it’s the toughest draw that we could have had. When you go on current form, how they’ve been in LaLiga, European experience, quality of team and player, I think most people would say that.
“On the other hand, all draws are difficult in the Champions League. We have to have belief in ourselves and, when that game comes around, you’re going to have to beat these sort of teams if you’re going to win the Champions League so it is what it is.”
Chelsea beat Atletico in their first meeting in October 2009 – a 4-0 win in which Lampard scored – but the Spaniards have held the upper hand since, including in the 2014 semi-finals.
The first leg will be played in Spain on February 23, with the return match at Stamford Bridge scheduled for March 17.
Atletico ended Liverpool’s reign as European champions at the last 16 stage last season. This time around, the Reds are up against Leipzig, who eliminated Manchester United by beating them 3-2 in the sides’ final group game last week.
The sides have never faced each other in a competitive match before, and the first encounter will be in Germany on February 16, with Anfield hosting the second leg on March 10.
Manchester City also take on Bundesliga opponents in the shape of Borussia Monchengladbach.
Blues boss Pep Guardiola said: “I learned when I was in Germany how big and important and historical a team Gladbach are. I respect the beauty of their football.
“They went through the group with Shakhtar (Donetsk) and were able to go through and played an exceptional game against Shakhtar after Shakhtar beat Real Madrid twice.
“All I can say is I want to arrive in the best condition when we play them. We want to compete as best as possible and go through.”
Guardiola failed to beat Gladbach in any of his last four Bundesliga meetings with them during his time as Bayern Munich coach, having won both encounters in his opening season in Bavaria in 2013-14.
However, he fared better when City faced Borussia in the group stage in 2016-17, his first year at the club, beating them 4-0 at the Etihad and drawing 1-1 in Germany.
The sides had also met in the previous season’s group stage, and their first head to head was in a UEFA Cup tie in 1979, when Gladbach won 4-2 on aggregate. The first leg at Borussia-Park is on February 24, before City host Gladbach on March 16.
The tie of the round is arguably Barcelona v Paris St Germain.
The French side were finalists last season but will have bad memories of facing Barca in 2017, when their 4-0 first-leg lead was overturned in a dramatic 6-1 defeat at the Nou Camp.
Holders Bayern Munich will take on Italian side Lazio, while Cristiano Ronaldo returns to his native Portugal with Juventus to take on Porto.
Europa League holders Sevilla are up against Borussia Dortmund while 13-times winners Real Madrid take on Atalanta, who reached the quarter-finals last season.