Controversial draw pits Lionds vs Shalke
The match fixtures are shown on an electronic panel following the draw of the games for the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League 2012/13 at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. EPA photoGalatasaray was pitted against Schalke 04 in a Champions League round-of-16 draw that raised plenty of eyebrows yesterday.
The Turkish champion was drawn against the Germans, which was arguably the most desirable pick of all possible opponents, but the real talk of the day was that the outcome of the draws went online hours before the ceremony.
A photo emerged on the web late on Dec. 19 showing the result of the draws made during rehearsals. However, the draws made during the rehearsals turned out to be exactly the same as what came out of the hat yesterday.
The same draws happening had a “1 in 5,000 chance of happening,” according to English broadcaster Sky Sports.
UEFA did not comment on the issue, and Manchester United was the only team to note the coincidence on its website, saying, “Remarkably, the draw was exactly the same as the dummy one that took place beforehand.”
The Galatasaray camp was very happy with the draw after it avoided European giants such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus.
“That is exactly the draw we wanted,” Galatasaray chairman Ünal Aysal said. “We were prepared for any opponent, but among the probable opponents, that was what our coach and players were hoping for. Galatasaray has a huge fan base in Germany. And we will have a supporter advantage there as well. I am very happy.”
Galatasaray will host Schalke on Feb. 20, and the return game in Gelsenkirchen will be on March 12.
The draw pitted some of the European giants against each other, with Barcelona set to face AC Milan and Real Madrid ready to stare down Manchester United.
Perennial favorites Barcelona, champion in 2009 and 2011, is currently nine points clear in La Liga but received a hammer blow on Dec. 19 when it was revealed coach Tito Vilanova must undergo surgery after cancer returned to his salivary gland.
His assistant, Jordi Roura, has been placed in temporary charge.
“Yesterday [Dec. 19] was a very hard day, a tough blow,” said Barça captain Carles Puyol in comments posted on the club’s official Twitter feed. “Tito gave us strength, already talked about coming back. Personally, I’m happy about facing Milan. Not because it’s an easy opponent but because it’s a team I’ve always liked.”
Barcelona and Milan locked horns four times in last season’s competition, with Barça finishing above Massimiliano Allegri’s side in the group phase and then prevailing 3-1 on aggregate when they met again in the last eight.
United’s tie with Madrid will see Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo face his former club for the first time since leaving Old Trafford for the Spanish capital in 2009.
The sides last met in 2003, when a famous hat-trick in Manchester by Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Brazilian predecessor and namesake, gave Madrid a 6-5 aggregate quarterfinal win.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has only lost two of his 14 previous encounters with Alex Ferguson’s side, and United club secretary John Alexander admitted the club would have preferred a more gentle draw.
“Everyone wanted to keep this for later in the competition but, out of several stand-out ties, I think this is the one,” he told British television channel Sky Sports News.
Arsenal was drawn against last season’s beaten finalists, Bayern Munich, who has constructed a nine-point lead in the Bundesliga after a storming start to the season.
Celtic’s reward for reaching the knockout phase for the first time since 2007-08 is a rendezvous with Italian champions Juventus.
Big-spending French club Paris Saint-Germain will take on Valencia, while German champions Borussia Dortmund will face Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk in the tie that could produce the most exciting football of the round.