Big test awaits top guns

Big test awaits top guns

Barca take on Leverkusen; former champs Milan run into Arsenal

AC Milan and Barcelona, having cantered untroubled through the group stage, finally face testing opposition this week as the Champions League resumes following a two-month winter break.

(From left) Bayer Leverkusen's Simon Rolfes, Karim Bellarabi and Stefan Kiessling stretch during a training session ahead of their Champions League last-16 clash against defending champions Barcelona on Tuesday. AP

Titleholders Barcelona, who averaged four goals per away game in the group stage, should find the going a lot tougher when they visit Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday, the scene of their last defeat in Germany.

Milan host Arsenal on Wednesday and will be painfully aware that their last three participations in the tournament have ended in the last 16 at the hands of English Premier League opposition.

APOEL Nicosia, who visit Olympique Lyon on Tuesday, and Zenit St Petersburg, who host twice former winners Benfica in the freezing Russian winter on Wednesday, are the only newcomers to this stage of the tournament.

The remaining four ties will be played on Feb 21-22.
The line-up for the round of 16 has a familiar look with eight of the teams having reached the same stage last year.

France, Spain, England, Italy and Germany are represented as usual, joined by clubs from Russia, Cyprus and Portugal, instead of Ukraine and Denmark last time around.
Manchester United were the only one of the favourites who failed to make it past a group stage which has generally become a formality for the top sides with frequent one-sided contests.

AC Milan and Barcelona faced each other in the group stage but were untroubled by Viktoria Plzen and BATE Borisov as they both qualified with two matches to spare.
Barcelona are unbeaten on their last seven visits to Germany, their last defeat coming against the same opponents in the 2000-01 season.

Leverkusen, although unimpressive in the Bundesliga, won all their home games in Group E as they qualified at the expense of Valencia.

Serie A leaders Milan lost 3-2 at home to Barcelona in the group stage, with both teams having already qualified, and Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has promised to follow Barca's example by attacking at the San Siro.

Seven-time champions Milan subsequently lost to Manchester United in 2010 and Tottenham Hotspur last year.