Porto-Lazio, Sheriff-Braga in Europa League
It was a Champions League last-16 draw unlike any other. Lisbon duo Benfica and Sporting were originally paired against Real Madrid and Juventus respectively, but a technical error necessitated a re-draw. In the one that counted, Sporting landed English champions Manchester City, while Benfica were drawn against Dutch champions Ajax.
In the Europa League, FC Porto have been drawn against Italian outfit Lazio, with whom Porto coach Sérgio Conceição enjoyed tremendous success in his playing days. To reach the last sixteen of the competition Braga must overcome Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol.
Champions League draw
Sporting were the first Primeira Liga team to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, but the Lions now face a daunting task in the shape of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The English side were only beaten in the final, in Porto, last time round, are the current EPL holders and are among the favourites to go all the way this year.
Sporting have qualified for the Champions League knockout stages for only the second time and are enjoying another fine season under their brilliant young manager Rúben Amorim, but this tie will undoubtedly be the biggest test of his fledgling career so far.
Benfica have been drawn against Ajax, who are enjoying a terrific season both domestically and in Europe. The Dutch side won all six of their Champions League group games and will make a quick return to Lisbon, having handed an injury-hit Sporting a chastening 5-1 defeat in September.
Both Sporting and Benfica will play the first leg at home, travelling to Manchester and Amsterdam respectively for the decisive match.
Europa League draw
When the Europa League resumes in February it will be special occasion for FC Porto coach Sérgio Conceição. His Porto side take on Italian club Lazio, where Conceição enjoyed the most successful spell in his illustrious career, winning Serie A, the Italian Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in two memorable years in Rome.
It is also a repeat of one of Porto’s greatest European nights, the 4-1 victory over Lazio in the UEFA Cup semi-final in 2003; a key moment in launching José Mourinho’s Dragons on a non-stop sequence of triumphs.
Braga will play Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol. While Braga boss Carlos Carvalhal will be happy to have avoided the likes of Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, the Arsenalistas will be wary of the team from Moldova who accumulated 7 points in a tough Champions League group.
Porto will play the first leg of their tie at home before travelling to Italy, while Braga first play in Moldova and will attempt to finish the job at the Quarry.
by Tom Kundert