Champions League draw
The draw for the knockout stages of the Champions League has been made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon.
Given the format of the draw, which prevents group winners and countries from the same country meeting each other, there were few mouthwatering ties to anticipate. The shortest of short straws went to Bayer Leverkusen who will meet holders Barcelona, while at the other end of the spectrum, Lyon will be happy to face APOEL Nicosia.
The pick of the ties though, are the Anglo-Italian encounters between Chelsea and Napoli and Arsenal and Milan.
Champions League Last-16 draw:
Lyon (Fra) v APOEL (Cyp)
Napoli (Ita) v Chelsea (Eng)
Milan (Ita) v Arsenal (Eng)
Basel (Swi) v Bayern Munich (Ger)
Bayer Leverkusen (Ger) v Barcelona (Spa)
CSKA Moscow (Rus) v Real Madrid (Spa)
Zenit St Petersburg (Rus) v Benfica (Por)
Marseille (Fra) v Inter Milan (Ita)
Europa League draw
While Europe’s elite looked forward to next Spring, the continent’s waifs and strays pondered the hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos. Or, if we’re being literal, Thursday night Europa League football for the rest of the season.
Naturally, much attention was focussed on the fate of both Manchester clubs and in this respect the draw did not disappoint. United will face four-time European Cup winners Ajax, while City face a tricky test against holders Porto.
Europa League Last-32 draw
Porto v Manchester City
Ajax v Manchester United
Lokomotiv Moscow v Athletic Bilbao
Salzburg v Metallist Kharkiv
Stoke v Valencia
Rubin Kazan v Olympiakos
AZ Alkmaar v Anderlecht
Lazio v Atletico Madrid
Steaua Bucharest v Twente
Viktoria Plzen v Schalke
Wisla Krakow v Standard Liege
Braga v Besiktas
Udinese v PAOK Salonika
Trabzonspor v PSV Eindhoven
Hannover v Brugge
Legia Warsaw v Sporting Lisbon
Salzburg or Metallist Kharkiv v Rubin Kazan or Olympiakos
Legia Warsaw or Sporting Lisbon v Porto or Manchester City
Steaua Bucharest or Twente v Viktoria Plzen or Schalke
Wisla Krakow or Standard Liege v Hannover or Brugge
Stoke or Valencia v Trabzonspor or PSV Eindhoven
AZ Alkmaar or Anderlecht v Udinese or PAOK Salonika
Lazio or Atletico Madrid v Braga or Besiktas
Ajax or Manchester United v Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao
Goal of the day
The finish itself was fairly straightforward, but the assist was sublime. Here’s Nacer Barazite scoring the second in Austria Vienna’s 2-0 Europa League win over Malmo, after a clever flick from Zlatko Junuzovic.
Uruguayan embassy deny helping Suarez
The Uruguay embassy in London has strenuously denied speculation that they tried to intervene in Luis Suarez’s racism case, by offering to provide context to the words that the player is alleged to have used against Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
Suarez was charged on 16 November with having used “abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour… contrary to FA rules” and the further allegation that “this included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra”.
Fans take on supermarket
Thousands of San Lorenzo fans marched on the French embassy in Buenos Aires on Thursday to ask for help in reclaiming land where their former Gasometro stadium stood and which is now occupied by a French-owned supermarket.
“We have arrived at the embassy to give a petition to the ambassador advising that we, the people of San Lorenzo, are presenting a project to the Buenos Aires legislators in which we ask for the possibility of sharing the space so that we are all happy,” club historian Adolfo Res said.
Supporters hope to regain the land in the Boedo district of the capital after they were forced to sell and move away from their original ground in 1979 during the military dictatorship.
It was bought by the Carrefour supermarket chain and Res said the petition was asking them to move to another area.
“They are going to get a fee. We aren’t going to go to them with empty hands,” he added.
“For a supermarket, it doesn’t make any difference to go one or two blocks away. For us it is an act of justice.
“We want to be vindicated and to have the joy that we had on September 8th, when the city authorities declared that San Lorenzo needed a historic restoration for the rip-off that happened during the last military government.”
Donovan returns to England
Golden boy of United States football, Landon Donovan is returning to Everton on a two-month loan.
Donovan’s club, LA Galaxy, confirmed that the player would be available from the January 4 home match against Bolton and will stay until the Merseyside derby on February 25.
“The opportunity to return to Everton and play for such a well-respected club and a manager that I hold in such high regard was something that was simply too good to pass up,” the 29-year-old midfielder said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Everton in 2010 and I’m hopeful that we can experience similar success this time around.”
Everton could certainly do with some help on the attacking front; the club lie in 12th in the Premier League and have managed just 15 goals in 14 league matches.
Ridicule is nothing to be scared of
New Hangzhou Greentown manager Takeshi Okada left his players at the Chinese side laughing when he predicted they would defeat Barcelona at next year’s Club World Cup.
Former Japan coach Okada, who led the Yokohama Marinos to the J-League title in 2003 and 2004, was unperturbed by the players’ reaction.
“I want to win the Asian Champions League, go to the Club World Cup and beat Barcelona,” Okada told Japanese media at the Japan Football Association on Friday.
“Everybody laughs at this. But it is not impossible. When I said this to the players, they also laughed.
Hansa Rostock are hoping their German second-division match against Dynamo Dresden will be a sell-out on Sunday even though they have been ordered to play behind closed doors.
Fans were banned from Sunday’s game after trouble marred a previous league game against St Pauli, but supporters are still buying “virtual” tickets to limit the financial loss to the club.
“Up to this point we have sold 3,224 virtual tickets and the number is rising every moment,” a Rostock official told Reuters on Friday.
“We are delighted with the readiness of our loyal fans to stand by the club at this difficult moment,” club boss Bernd Hofmann said in a statement. “We also thank them for all their ideas and proposals to back us financially.”
I can see this catching on: there are a lot of loyal Stoke City fans who would gladly hand over money to the club, without having to suffer by watching the football.
Reid finally catches up with Maradona
Abu Dhabi Sports TV scheduled a meeting between Peter Reid and Diego Maradona at Al Wasl, where the latter is now coach.
For those of you too young to remember, Reid was one of the hapless England players toiling to keep up with Maradona, while he slalomed his way to one of the greatest goals of all time.
The pair were reunited – somewhat awkwardly – in Dubai at the club Maradona now coaches, Al Wasl. Reid certainly gets closer to the Argentinian than he did 25 years ago, although just being in the same country, he managed that.
Manchester City outcast Carlos Tevez is certainly enjoying his self-imposed break from football.
Tevez appeared relaxed as he posed for pictures with young fans before hitting the first tee for his round in the Angel Cabrera Classic in Cordoba.
Certainly beats working for a living.