Manchester United’s already arduous season just got tougher.
The English champions were drawn Friday to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals, pitting them against the defending champions and the favorites.
“I was thrilled that we were in the draw. In a lot of ways, it didn’t matter who we drew,” said Manchester United manager David Moyes, who has led United into the quarterfinals for the first time since reaching the 2011 final. “But we have pulled out the favorites.”
In the other quarterfinal pairings, Real Madrid will face Borussia Dortmund in a rematch of last year’s semifinals, Spanish clubs Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will meet for a spot in the next round, and Paris Saint-German will take on 2012 champion Chelsea.
United and Barcelona will host the opening two matches on April 1, while Madrid and PSG are at home for their first legs on April 2. The return legs will be played on April 8-9.
Five-time champion Bayern will be looking to heap even more pressure on Moyes. United is a disappointing seventh in the Premier League and likely needs to win the Champions League to qualify for next season’s competition.
“Perhaps they are not in the best form, but they are still a top team,” said Bayern winger Arjen Robben, who scored a late goal to eliminate United from the competition at the same stage four years ago. “It’s a good draw, we play away first.”
Bayern, meanwhile, is unbeaten in 50 Bundesliga games under coach Pep Guardiola and leads second-place Dortmund by 23 points.
Dortmund beat Madrid in the semifinals last year before losing to Bayern in the final at Wembley Stadium. But Madrid is unbeaten in 31 games in all competitions, and Cristiano Ronaldo leads the Champions League with 13 goals this season.
“When you repeatedly make the last eight you have to count on meeting one team often,” Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said. “It could be an advantage that we first play in Madrid. It’s no time to raise the white flag yet.”
Three Spanish clubs reached the quarterfinals and at least one is guaranteed to play in the semifinals.
Although four-time champion Barcelona has excelled in the Champions League, the Spanish champions have had an irregular season at home and have yet to beat Atletico in three games - all draws.
“Being an opponent we know can be helpful or not. There won’t be any surprises,” Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes said. “They are a tough rival. We can’t allow any goals at home.”
For Chelsea, coach Jose Mourinho will need to come up with a strategy to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the English leaders travel across the channel to face French champion PSG in the first leg.
Mourinho led Chelsea against PSG in the tournament’s group stage in 2004-05, when the Blues won 3-0 in Paris before a scoreless draw at home.
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