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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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Butragueno: An honour to play United

Real Madrid's director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno says he would have preferred to avoid meeting Manchester United so early in the competition, after the two European giants were paired together in Thursday morning's Champions League last-16 draw.

• Blog: Meeting of European masters

The games, which will take place next February, will also see Barcelona once again face AC Milan, while Valencia and Malaga were given achievable ties against Paris Saint German and FC Porto respectively.

Speaking just after the pairings had been announced, Butragueno told Spanish TV station Canal Plus that he would have preferred to meet Alex Ferguson's side at a later stage.

"I would have liked to play against United later on, but they will not be happy either," el Buitre said. "It will be a nice tie for the fans and the players. It is an honour to take on such a prestigious team.

"We hope to arrive in good condition and with all our players available. It was maybe not our preference, but we must prepare well. This is a motivation for the players, fans and the club."

Real president Florentino Perez says the club is confident heading into the tie, given last season's La Liga champions defeated United in the quarter-final stage of the competition in 2000 and 2003.

"It's a good draw," Perez said. "We have played them twice before and knocked them out both times."

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