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50-50 Challenge: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

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By ESPN Staff
Dec 18, 2009

Jean-Michel Aulas pleased with Karim Benzema reunion

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is looking forward to renewing the "great bond" between his club and Karim Benzema after Les Gones were drawn against Real Madrid in the first knockout round of the Champions League.

• Full Champions League draw
• Raynor: Sparks will fly

Benzema's return to Stade Gerland was one of several reunions to come out of the draw - David Beckham returning to Manchester United with AC Milan and Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho coming up against his former club Chelsea.

And Aulas is excited at seeing the France international back at the club where he made his name before moving to the Bernabeu in the summer.

Aulas told Eurosport: "He was a great player for us and it's going to be something special for him to play against his former club. He is a player I have a lot of feeling for. There's a lot of feeling between us. We have a great bond."

Madrid invested heavily in the likes of Benzema, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo in the close season and Aulas is aware the tie will be difficult for his club.

"There is no weak team here so we have to look forward to play who we are playing," he added. "I knew this morning was going to be a difficult day but we have two months to prepare and hopefully our form will come back.''

Real coach Manuel Pellegrini is optimistic his side will buck that trend against Lyon, but is not taking anything for granted.

He told the club's official website: ''To me they (Lyon) seem just as difficult an opponent as any of those we could have faced. But the most important thing is the form the teams are in at the time. We hope we will be at a good level and can get through to the next round.''

Striker Gonzalo Higuain, who was born in France but plays his international football for Argentina, added: ''Lyon are a difficult team, but at the same time we can beat them.

''This year we faced Marseille and we've experienced how tough the French teams are, but we hope that playing the return match at home gets us through the tie.''

Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain was upbeat over the defending champions' prospects after they were handed a last-16 tie with Stuttgart.

''We're confident we can overcome them, but we cannot fall into the trap of being over-confident or of making big predictions,'' he said.

On facing Alexander Hleb, who is on loan at Stuttgart from Barca, added: ''It will be a great opportunity to see how he's doing and what form he is in.''

Stuttgart have played down their chances of reaching the quarter-finals after being drawn against Barca.

However, director of sport Horst Heldt does not hold out much hope of his side making it third time lucky for a German side to knock Barca out of the competition.

"We knew we were going to get a big name and by drawing Barcelona, we have got one of the technically strongest team around," he told the club's official website. "We are going to be the rank outsiders against the defending champions."

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich were happy with a draw which they believe gives them a good chance of reaching the last eight of the tournament. The Bundesliga side will meet Fiorentina - a side they beat 3-0 in the group stage of the competition last season.

"There were certainly tougher draws in there, but this is a draw that we can cope with," Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club's official website. "But we certainly cannot under-estimate them. We have a good record against Fiorentina, but we cannot make the error of believing that we are top favourites in this tie.

"They have beaten Liverpool twice and beat Lyon in Florence. Our aim is to go through and we can be happy with the draw and we would be well advised to not only take our opponents seriously, but to take them very, very seriously."

"I am not unhappy," said manager Louis van Gaal. "I think a tougher draw was possible. Fiorentina is a typical Italian team - well organised and with a good coach and a world star in Adrian Mutu. We have beaten Juventus and I think that the players will bring the confidence from that game with them into this one. It could have been worse."

Fiorentina sporting director Pantaleo Corvino was upbeat despite seeing his team drawn against resurgent Bayern Munich.

''It is a good draw,'' he said. ''Bayern Munich is a very strong side but so are we.

''It will be a beautiful challenge for us and we will face this tie with our usual spirit of giving everything we have in order to progress to the next stage.''

In other ties, Porto will take on Arsenal, Olympiacos face Bordeaux and CSKA Moscow tackle Sevilla. Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud is happy to have avoided both Milan teams but insists Olympiacos will still pose a tricky test. Les Girondins have impressed in Europe this season and finished top of a group that included heavyweights Bayern Munich and Juventus. However, Triaud has urged his players not to take anything for granted.

"Together with Porto, the Milan teams were the ones we didn't want to be thrown against," he told L'Equipe. "But this is not an easy draw. It's a draw that pleases us. But they must be thinking the same about us...it's better to be thrown against Bordeaux than Chelsea or Real Madrid."

Sevilla were paired alongside CSKA Moscow - a draw which satisfied coach Manolo Jimenez. He said: "You need to be respectful of any team, but I'd prefer CSKA ahead of Inter. We could knock out the Italians but CSKA could also knock out Inter and us. In football you have to compete first and then show if you are better. I don't like to feel superior so there is no relaxing."

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