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Real Madrid to face Man United in Champions League last 16

Updated: 2012-12-21 10:57
( Agencies)

Cristiano Ronaldo will return with nine-times winners Real Madrid to Manchester United, where he developed into one of the world's greatest forwards, and Lionel Messi's Barcelona take on AC Milan in the Champions League last 16.

Bayern Munich, last season's beaten finalists, play Arsenal and Juventus take on surprise qualifiers Celtic. Big-spending Paris St Germain face Valencia.

But the fate of the two Spanish giants in Thursday's draw at UEFA headquarters attracted most interest and both were pitted against clubs with decades of European experience.

Real Madrid to face Man United in Champions League last 16

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo smiles during their Spanish First Division soccer match against Espanyol at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Dec 16, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

Real, the Spanish champions, have been disappointing in La Liga this season and they finished second in their Champions League group behind Borussia Dortmund.

But Ronaldo, a United player from 2003 to 2009, will be desperate for Real to rise to the occasion against the club at which he won the European Cup in 2008.

Real manager Jose Mourinho, once of Chelsea, will also come up against his old rival Alex Ferguson.

"I'm sure it's going to be a special game for him (Ronaldo)," said Emilio Butragueno, Real Madrid's director of institutional relations. "I think the fans will be very, very happy with this very attractive, thrilling tie.

"It will be a great experience for everybody. I would have liked to have played against United later in the competition but they won't be pleased either."

United, three-times European champions, have played Real eight times and won only twice. Real, who will host United in the first leg on Feb 13, last won the European Cup in 2002.

Barcelona are now 2-1 favorites to win the Champions League although they could hardly have picked a club with more experience of success in Europe in seven-times winners AC Milan when the competition resumes in mid-February.

Real Madrid to face Man United in Champions League last 16

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates his goal against Atletico de Madrid during their Spanish first division soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona December 16, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

World player of the year Messi has scored 90 goals in 2012 and has fired Barcelona to a nine-point lead in La Liga while Milan are 14 points adrift of Juventus in Serie A and finished second behind Malaga in their group.

Barcelona vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu told Spanish broadcaster Canal Plus: "Milan are one of Europe's greats and a club that commands a huge amount of respect.

"They are not going well in their league right now but they have some excellent players. They are not currently at their best but football changes from one day to the next."

Juventus, who last won the European Cup in 1996, finished top of their group and will not be disappointed to have drawn Celtic who pulled off a major shock by beating Barcelona this season.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes Scottish lightning could strike twice.

"Over two games anything is possible," he said. "It's a beauty against one of the traditional European teams.

"In terms of quality it's going to be very, very tough."

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