• Champions League

Wenger happy to avoid Barcelona

ESPN staff
December 20, 2012

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger got his wish in Thursday's Champions League draw as his side were spared another showdown with Barcelona, yet he admitted the rise of German sides is ominous ahead of a last-16 tie with Bayern Munich.

Fluent German speaker Wenger, who is believed to have rejected an approach to take over at Bayern back in 2009, held his weekly press conference before the draw for the last-16 of the Champions League, but he was full of praise for the rise of German teams.

He was also keen to highlight the consistency of his team, with their appearance in the last-16 of the Champions League for a 13th consecutive year a record he is right to feel proud of.

"The general secretary of UEFA confirmed that only five teams from the last-16 of a year ago are back again," Wenger said. "There are 11 newcomers and it shows how quickly it changes. It also shows how difficult it is to be in there every season because the turnover is quick.

"The German clubs have made a big, big leap forward in recent years. The Spanish clubs are traditionally there and in England we have a little deficit because usually at that level we have four, but there are only two this season."

Wenger will be relieved to have side-stepped another meeting with Spanish league leaders Barcelona, as he will be hoping to save a reunion with Lionel Messi and company until a possible final at Wembley next May.

"I don't think anyone is happy to play Barcelona," Wenger said. "[But] even against Barcelona, I believe we would have a good chance, but I would rather avoid that."

Bayern Munich believe they are favourites against Arsenal, according to chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Twice before Arsenal and Bayern have met in the Champions League, with the Germans advancing on both occasions.

The runaway Bundesliga leaders were satisfied with the draw and are looking forward to a reunion with Arsenal star Lukas Podolski, who played for Bayern from 2006 to 2009. "We know Arsenal well. We can be satisfied with this draw," Rummenigge said. "It won't just take care of itself. It's important we go in search of a good result and score a goal there.

"I think we enter this match as the slight favourites, but we can be making the mistake of underestimating them. Arsenal have struggled at times in the league over the last few months.

"I wouldn't call this a lucky draw, but one that we can overcome. I look forward to seeing my old friend Arsene Wenger and I hope we can reach the next round."

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