Champions League holders Manchester City handed last-16 tie with Copenhagen

By Sports Desk December 18, 2023

Holders Manchester City will face FC Copenhagen in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Arsenal, the current Premier League leaders, will take on Portuguese side Porto in the first knockout round.

The ties, the first legs of which will take place over two weeks in February 2024, were confirmed after the draw at the Swiss headquarters of organiser UEFA in Nyon on Monday.

City played Copenhagen – who came through a group that included Manchester United – in the early stages last season, winning 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium and drawing 0-0 in Denmark.

Pep Guardiola’s side, who are currently in Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup, qualified this time with a 100 per cent record in Group G.

Arsenal were also convincing winners of Group B on their return to the competition after a six-season absence.

Their opponents Porto came through as runners-up to Barcelona in Group H.

Spanish champions Barca, meanwhile, were handed a tough task against Serie A winners Napoli.

In the other ties, record 14-time winners Real Madrid were paired with RB Leipzig and their city rivals Atletico drawn against Inter Milan.

Paris St Germain will play the fourth Spanish side in the draw, Real Sociedad, with the two German teams, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, tackling Lazio and PSV respectively.

As winners of their groups, City and Arsenal will play the first legs of their ties away.

The first legs will take place on February 13, 14, 20 or 21 with the return matches on March 5, 6, 12 or 13.

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    The holders were beaten 4-3 on spot-kicks by the Spanish giants after their quarter-final tie ended 4-4 on aggregate – 1-1 on the night – despite a dominant display from Guardiola’s side in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

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    City manager Guardiola said: “I would have preferred to win but congratulations to Real Madrid, they defended so deep with incredible solidarity and we did everything.

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    Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic both missed in the shoot-out, with the former’s effort proving a particularly comfortable save for Andriy Lunin.

    Guardiola refused to blame the Portuguese for his failure to register.

    He said: “Bernardo asked to take it, he’s a reliable player and decided to shoot in that way. What a game he had played. It happens.”

    Guardiola also had no complaints about Real’s tactics, with the Spanish side forced to sit back and defend deep for much of the game.

    “I don’t judge,” he said. “I’m not here to do this. It’s football. In this competition, that’s the way football happens.”

    City’s loss also ended their hopes of winning a second successive treble and they must now pick themselves up for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley.

    Guardiola said: “Now we will rest and on Friday we travel to London to play the game.

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    Real manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted the strength of City had forced them to soak up pressure and look to take the tie on penalties.

    The veteran Italian said: “We defended really, really well. This was about survival. Madrid is a club based on always fighting to stay in situations where there seems to be no way out – but we always find a way.

    “By the time the penalty shoot-out came, we were totally convinced we’d go through.

    “This is about the only way you can come to City and win. You work, sacrifice and win however you can.”

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    The Gunners lost 1-0 at the Allianz Arena as Joshua Kimmich’s second-half header was enough to seal a semi-final against Real Madrid with a 3-2 aggregate victory.

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    After a tight game in which Bayern also hit the woodwork twice and Gabriel Martinelli missed a glorious chance to put the away side ahead, Arteta said his side are continuing to learn after returning to the Champions League for the first time in seven years.

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    While Arsenal are still relatively inexperienced at this level, Bayern are now preparing for a ninth semi-final in the competition since the Gunners last made it that far.

    Manager Thomas Tuchel also becomes just the second man, after Jose Mourinho, to guide three different clubs to the final four and was pleased with the performance of the hosts.

    “It’s always better to play in front of your own fans,” he said.

    “With every tackle and every good action you get the support and it lifts you and gives you a second wind.

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