Barcelona to face AC Milan in Champions League

GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Published:

NYON, Switzerland (AP) -- Barcelona and Real Madrid were kept apart in the Champions League quarterfinals and semifinals draw Friday, though the defending champion must first beat AC Milan before the Spanish giants can hope to meet in a potentially stellar final.

Barcelona will travel for the first leg against seven-time winner Milan, in a quarterfinals clash that reunites the two European powers after they met in the group stage.

Madrid, the nine-time winner, got the most favorable draw -- playing away first against the competition's surprise team APOEL of Cyprus.

Chelsea will play away to Benfica first in their quarterfinal. Marseille was drawn at home first against Bayern Munich, which hosts the final on May 19.

Quarterfinals first-leg matches are played on March 27-28, and return matches are on April 3-4.

In the subsequent semifinals draw, Marseille or Bayern will host APOEL or Madrid in the first leg.

Benfica or Chelsea will play at home first against Milan or Barcelona. Semifinals first legs are played on April 17-18 and return matches on April 24-25.

Barcelona had the best of Milan in the group stage, drawing 2-2 at home before winning 3-2 in a high-class encounter at San Siro.

"It is a psychological advantage," said Barcelona director Amador Bernabeu, anticipating another meeting with Milan's former Barca forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. "But to play Ibra is another thing. We respect him all the time."

Milan director Umberto Gandini said the Italians would have to overcome "the best club in the world."

"It's probably the most entertaining, the most attractive football clubs playing each other. But I know they are not happy about playing us," Gandini said.

Madrid arguably had most to be happy about -- avoiding the drama of facing either Barcelona or a reunion for Real coach Jose Mourinho with his former team Chelsea.

"We are glad to avoid them, it's true, but it doesn't mean we are in the semifinals," Madrid director Emilio Butragueno said. "APOEL is the big surprise. They have all our respect."

APOEL, which started in the second qualifying round last July, is the first Cypriot team to advance so far in the world's most prestigious club competition.

"It's a dream, an experience for us,"APOEL chairman Phivos Erotokritou said. "To have Real playing in Cyprus is going to be a feast for the people. We're happy that the first game is at home in Nicosia because you imagine if the first game was away with a result we couldn't bear."

Still, APOEL has shown resilience by progressing to the last-eight while scoring just seven goals in its past eight games.