Leicester City have drawn the team that ‘did a Leicester’ before Leicester after they were paired with Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It is a tough, tough match-up for the Premier League’s last representative in the competition.
Having dispatched the team who are third in La Liga – Sevilla – Leicester now face the side who are in fourth-place, and five points behind, but Atletico and their coach Diego Simeone are much more dangerous, obdurate and wily opponents with players such as Diego Godin, Koke and Gabi. Two Champions League finals in the past three seasons show what formidable cup campaigners Atletico are (although the same can be said of Sevilla, of course) and Simeone has made it his mission to eventually win this competition.
Atletico won the Spanish title in 2014 against the odds, overcoming both Real Madrid and Barcelona, and playing 4-4-2 and counter-attacking football and although they have not come from nowhere in the way that Leicester did – after all it was Atletico’s 10th title to Leicester’s first, last season – there are Cinderella similarities.
“Facing a team who have reached the final in two of the last three seasons is a massive challenge but it’s just the kind of tie you expect in the quarter-finals of the Champions League,” acknowledged Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare. “Atletico Madrid are a very good team with some fantastic individuals with experience in the competition, but we’ll be ready to give everything to progress.”
The first leg will be at the cauldron that is the Vicente Calderon, with Atletico moving to their new home this summer, and if they go out then it means Leicester will have played the last European tie at one of the most evocative stadiums.
Interestingly Atletico will have to face Real Madrid, away, four days before the first leg and although the Champions League is their priority they cannot afford to play a weakened team in a Madrid derby.
Even so they are strong opponents, and clear favourites to go through, and Leicester will know that Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro, Atletico’s French strikers, along with Yannick Carrasco, will pose a far greater threat than Sevilla’s forwards.
Shakespeare, however, said that Leicester will take the same front-foot, aggressive approach that Sevilla could not deal with. "That's what we hope. That is what is expected. We are at our best when we do that,” he explained. "You saw results in terms of the performances against Liverpool and Hull, and now Sevilla. The players think that's when they are at their best so that's what we'll encourage them to do.”
Atletico are also wary of the threat Leicester pose, and the chances spurned by Sevilla, with director Clemente Villaverde saying after the draw: “We have shown we can compete in this competition in these last years and we are confident we can avoid (such) mistakes and ensure our passage.” He added: “I don’t know about that (Leicester being the weakest team left) as in their last tie and in the group they showed they are a team who must be taken into account.”
There is history between the two sides and, also, controversy with Leicester having faced Atletico twice before – which is remarkable given their limited involvement in European competition having taken part only three times previously - in the first round of the Cup Winners Cup in 1961 and then in the Uefa Cup first round in 1997, losing both ties.
That latter tie has already provoked talk of Leicester wanting revenge given referee Remi Harrel sent off Garry Parker in the second leg at Filbert Street and with the game in the balance. It eventually finished 4-1 on aggregate to Atletico who, ominously, have never lost in Europe to an English side (won five, drawn five).
Leicester are, of course, the only Premier League team left in the Champions League and the reward for Bayern Munich, who knocked out Arsenal, is a match-up with the holders Real Madrid in what is the tie of the round. Monaco, who triumphed over Manchester City, face Borussia Dortmund while Juventus are up against Barcelona.
Ibrahimovic focused on return home
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Manchester United striker, said has said he is fully focused on reaching the Europa League in Stockholm, Sweden, in May.
"This is a trophy we want to win; we said it from the beginning," the Swede told MUTV on Thursday night. "That’s the objective, that’s the mentality and we work hard for it. When you are in the Europa League, you keep staying on your toes and you keep going for every game you play."
United will play Belgian side Anderlecht at the quarter-final stage next month following today's draw in Nyon, Switzerland. The first leg is due to be held at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium on Thursday April 13 withn the return leg seven days later at Old Trafford. The two cup ties come either side of Chelsea's visit to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday April 16.
Mourinho hits out at Premier League
Jose Mourinho has accused the Premier League and Football Association of not giving "an S" [s***] about the fortunes of English clubs in Europe and believes they are happy to see players flogged to breaking point.
The Manchester United manager believes the money sloshing around the English game is largely responsible for the frenetic fixture schedule that he fears is crippling his players this season and undermining English prospects in Europe.
But despite recognising the benefit of the huge financial income Premier League clubs receive from bumper television deals, Mourinho believes it is not too much to ask the authorities to apply “a little bit of common sense” as far as scheduling is concerned and claims all managers would welcome it.
History on United's side
When Jose Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, leads his team out against Anderlecht – who are currently leading the Belgian First Division A by two points – we're fairly sure he wouldn't mind getting a result like Sir Matt Busby did when the two sides first met in 1956. On that occasion United beat the Belgian side 2-0 in Brussells before thumping them 10-0 at Old Trafford to secure a 12-0 aggregate score.
The next time the two clubs met, in the 1968/69 European Cup, United again prevailed after nicking an away goal in the second leg to make it 4-3 on aggregate. In 2000 the two clubs met in the, now rebranded Champions League, in another high-scoring tie. United won 5-1 at Old Trafford but lost in Brussells 2-1.
Europa League quarter-final draw in full
Anderlecht (Bel) vs Manchester United (Eng)
Celta Vigo (Spa) vs Genk (Bel)
Ajax (Hol) vs Schalke 04 (Ger)
Lyon (Fra) vs Besiktas (Tur)
United to face Belgians
Anderlecht (Bel) vs Manchester United (GB)
We're just moments away from the big draw now ...
— UEFA (@UEFA) March 17, 2017
Europa League draw
Next up will be the draw for the quarter-finals of the Europa League and here's the final eight teams that will soon be picked out of Uefa's fruit bowls in Nyon.
Celta Vigo (Spa)
Schalke 04 (Ger)
No obvious favourites here, though you would imagine Jose Mourinho's side would fancy anybody other than Besiktas, though that's primarily because they're fed up of long-distance cup ties.
That shirt is something else ...
Wow, look at Ian Rush's shirt ...
... all we can think about is this old Meat Beat Manifesto track.
You may or may not know this, but Leicester City have, in fact, twice faced Atlético Madrid in European competition and manager Craig Shakepeare will be hoping to write another new chapter in the club's history as he looks to beat the Spaniards.
On their first meeting at Filbert Street in October 1961, Leicester managed to draw 1-1 in the Cup Winners' Cup game before losing the second leg at the Vicente Calderón Stadium 2-0.
The two clubs were reunited in 1997 in the Uefa Cup – see below – when Atlético, again, prevailed with a 4-1 aggregate defeat of Leicester.
The Champions League quarter-final draw in full
As you would expect from European club football's premier club competition, there are some juicy looking quarter-final ties to look forward to next month.
The Premier League champions will face last year's losing European Cup finalists Atlético Madrid while Juve go up against Barcelona in a repeat of the 2015 final.
The tie of the round, though, will have to be Bayern Munich up against Real Madrid while Borussia Dortmund's game with Monaco will, no doubt , be a high-scoring affair. Lovely stuff.
Here we go ...
Atlético Madrid v Leicester City
Borussia Dortmund v Monaco
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid
Juventus v Barcelona
Champions League draw pre-amble
When and where is it?
The draw for the last eight of the Champions League will take place on Friday, March 17 at 11am.
Nyon in Switzerland will be the venue for the draw as the competition nears its conclusion.
What time is it?
The draw will officially begin at 11am UK time, but allow for some delay, Uefa absolutely love some pomp and ceremony
What TV channel is it on?
Sky Sports News is probably your best bet, although the draw will also be livestreamed on the Uefa website. You can, of course, follow the draw live with us right here. That's what we'd recommend. Without hesitation.
Who will be in the draw?
Following Arsenal's humiliating exit at the hands of Bayern Munich, and Manchester City's disappointing defeat to Monaco, England will be represented by just one team: Leicester City.
Leicester, who have been rejuvenated under new manager Craig Shakespeare, defeated Sevilla on Tuesday night in a thrilling second leg.
Manchester City seemingly had the best chance of making the quarter-finals after winning their first leg against Monaco with a thrilling 5-3 win at the Etihad, but were defeated on away goals after a 3-1 defeat in Monaco.
What is the full line-up of teams?
Bayern München (GER)
Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Real Madrid (SPA, holders)
Leicester City (ENG)
Atlético Madrid (SPA)
Is it an open draw?
Yes it is.
That means no teams in the draw are seeded and clubs from the same national association can be drawn against each other. The side drawn first will play the first leg at home.
When will the quarter-finals be played?
The first leg ties will be played on April 11 and April 12, while the second legs will be played the following week on April 18 and April 19.
When is the semi-final draw?
The draw to decide who will play who in the last four of the competition will take place on April 21, with the matches to be played on May 2/3 and May 9/10.
When is the Europa League draw?
The draw for the last eight of the Europa League immediately follows the culmination of the Champions League draw.
We should know Manchester United's opponents in the quarter-final by 1pm UK time.
The line-up for that draw is as follows:
Celta Vigo (SPA)
Schalke 04 (GER)
Man Utd (ENG)