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Expect another classic: Ronaldinho
Mitch Phillips | December 16, 2005 19:40 IST
World and European Player of the Year Ronaldinho says fans should expect another classic when his Barcelona side take on Chelsea in the choice tie of the last 16 in the Champions League.
At the same stage last season Chelsea recovered from a 2-1 first leg deficit to win the second 4-2 in a superb match and advance 5-4 on aggregate.
The tie was also notable for the row between coaches Frank Rijkaard and Jose Mourinho which led to the latter getting banned for two games.
"It will be another top contest between two coaches with high tactical awareness, we should expect something good," said Ronaldinho.
The Brazilian said he felt last season's off-pitch antics played no part in the result. "It was our own mistakes that let us down," he said.
"To go 3-0 down after 20 minutes is not normal by today's standards. We kept chasing the game, we scored two goals and then suffered another goal. It was a completely unique match."
Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon was also keen to play down the coaches' row, which led to the retirement of Swedish referee Anders Frisk who received death threats following Mourinho's claim that he spoke to Rijkaard at halftime in the first leg.
"I've always been on good terms with their president so we will put all non-football issues behind us and look forward to some fantastic football in February," he said.
In another mouth-watering Anglo-Spanish encounter nine-times champions Real Madrid take on Arsenal for the first time, a match-up welcomed by Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein.
"Pure show business," he said. "It's a huge game and very exciting.
"We would have loved to have played them in the final and we would love to get to Paris as a lot of our boys know the way there very well. But now we'll have to do it the hard way."
Last season's runners-up AC Milan face Bayern Munich in another heavyweight showdown. "Bayern are a great team and a great club, so it's a shame we have to play them so early on," said vice-president Adriano Galliani.
"But we have a good tradition against them. We beat them in the semi-finals back in 1990 (when Milan went on to win the final), so let's hope we can progress."
European champions Liverpool face Benfica, who advanced at the expense of Manchester United in the group phase.
"The press will be looking on us as favourites so it's a reverse of the situation we had from the quarter-finals on last year," said Liverpool secretary Bryce Morrison.
Olympique Lyon, knocked out by PSV Eindhoven on penalties in the quarter-finals last season, have a chance for revenge after again being paired with the Dutch.
"We are happy to play them again and hope to change the result this time," said Marino Faccioli, director of football at the French league leaders.
"They've lost some players but the team still has the same organisation."
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas added: "The fact that there are several clashes between favourites is good news if we do qualify because if means that some of the big names will be gone."
Inter Milan president Giacinto Facchetti said of his side's meeting with Ajax Amsterdam: "I would be lying if I said I wasn't happy.
"We could have got Chelsea or Bayern, but it would be a serious mistake to underestimate Ajax who are a good team with some interesting young players."
Juventus also fared well, being matched with Werder Bremen. "I would say we'll come into the tie as slight favourites, but we'll still have to be very focussed," said Juve president Roberto Bettega.
"We all know about the physical challenge and the aggression of German football."
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage