Paris Saint-Germain will face Real Madrid, while Liverpool will face Inter Milan in two of the standout Champions League rounds of 16 after an embarrassed UEFA forced to repeat the draw on Monday due to a “technical problem”.
PSG originally appeared together with Manchester United in a duel that would have pitted old rivals Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo against each other.
In the revised draw, however, they face 13-time record European champions Real, while the Old Trafford team face Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.
UEFA had previously attributed a “material error” to a “technical problem with the software of an external service provider” when it announced that the draw for the round of 16 of its flagship competition would have to be repeated three hours later.
With the draw broadcast live from UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, the problem became apparent when Manchester United was drawn against Villarreal when the two clubs could not have played against each other in the same group.
The ball with the United name on it did not appear to be placed properly and was therefore not included as a possible opponent for the next team to come out of the pot.
With the entire draw compromised, a red-faced UEFA had no choice but to start over.
PSG owned by Qatar, with attacking stars in Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria, will now face a side from Real currently at the helm of La Liga, led by former Paris coach Carlo Ancelotti.
The Spaniards knocked out PSG in the same stage of competition in 2017/18, and relations between the clubs were last at a low point when Real openly sought the signature of Mbappe, whose contract expires at the end of this season.
Madrid are unlikely to be happy with the new draw as they initially had an easier draw on paper against Benfica in the first game before the problems began.
Liverpool face a similar situation. After they were initially drawn against the knockout debutants Red Bull Salzburg from Austria, they will now face three-time former winners Inter, the champions of Serie A and the current Italian leaders.
In the group stage, Jürgen Klopp’s team beat Inters city rivals AC Milan twice.
Salzburg have six-time Bayern Munich winners instead, while last season’s defeated finalists Manchester City will face Sporting Lisbon and Benfica will face Ajax.
City had originally been partnered with Villarreal but coach Pep Guardiola accepted that a new draw was the only fair solution.
“I think it’s fair. It was a mistake, but sometimes things like that can happen. If there was a mistake, you have to repeat it so that it is not suspect, ”he said.
Villarreal will now face Juventus, while a tie in the original, botched draw, which was later repeated, brings reigning champions Chelsea to French defending champions Lille.
Thomas Tuchel’s team, who would have finished second behind Juventus in Group H, could have played with Bayern or Madrid, will be relieved in this draw.
United’s draw with Atletico means the Spanish club face Ronaldo, who knocked them out of competition five times in the last decade, including two derby finals with Real in Madrid.
The first legs will be played in the second half of February, the second legs in early March.
This year’s Champions League final will be played on May 28 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The mess at the draw comes at an inopportune time for the European Football Association, at the end of a year when relations with some of the continent’s biggest clubs were weakened by a failed attempt at a breakaway 12-team Super League.
UEFA will shortly be rolling out a new format for the Champions League group stage from 2024, increasing the number of clubs involved from 32 to 36, with each team guaranteed 10 group matches versus the current six.
Full Champions League draw in the last 16:
Red Bull Salzburg (AUT) v Bayern Munich (GER)
Sporting Lisbon (POR) in Manchester City (ENG)
Benfica (POR) – Ajax (NED)
Chelsea (ENG) – Lille (FRA)
Atletico Madrid (ESP) – Manchester United (ENG)
Villarreal (ESP) – Juventus (ITA)
Inter Mailland (ITA) – Liverpool (ENG)
Paris Saint-Germain – Real Madrid (ESP)
1st leg from 15.-16. February and 22.-23. February and return matches from 8.-9. March and 15.-16. March