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Soccer: Milan face Atletico test in Champions League

Juventus set to return to Turkey in Europa League

16 December, 17:09
Soccer: Milan face Atletico test in Champions League (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, December 16 - AC Milan on Monday were drawn against in-form Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the first knockout round of the Champions League.

Atletico cruised to the last 16 of Europe's premier club competition, winning five out of their six group games and drawing the other.

They are also level on points with Barcelona at the top of the Spanish top-flight.

Milan finished second in Group H with nine points, four behind group winners Barcelona, and are struggling in Serie A, trailing leaders Juventus by 25 points in 12th place, albeit with a game in hand.

The seven-time European champions are Italy's only survivors in the Champions League after Napoli and Juventus failed to progress from their groups.

Atletico's and Milan's respective form may be very different, however, when they actually face each other, with the first leg at Milan's San Siro Stadium on February 19 and the return leg in Madrid on March 11. "You accept draws, you don't comment on them," said Milan Chief Executive Adriano Galliani.

"I saw Atletico Madrid yesterday. They are top of the table alongside Barcelona and they are ahead of Real Madrid. "They are doing really well". Juventus, meanwhile, will have to go back to Turkey when European soccer action resumes in February, after being drawn against Trabzonspor in the round of 32 of the Europa League. The Serie A champions are in the continent's secondary club competition, having failed to qualify from the group stage of the Champions League after losing 1-0 last week to Galatasaray in Istanbul. That defeat meant they finished third in Group B, behind Real Madrid and Galatasaray, which gave them a place in the Europa League, the final of which will be played at their home stadium in Turin. Juve put the painful Istanbul loss behind them on Sunday when they trashed Sassuolo 4-0, thanks to a hat-trick by Argentine forward Carlos Tevez and a goal by full back Federico Peluso, to pull six points clear at the top of Serie A.

Second-placed AS Roma can cut the lead back to three points if they win at Milan late on Monday. Napoli, who also failed to progress despite winning four of their six Champions League group games and entered the Europa League, will face Swansea in the round of 32.

The Welsh opponents play in the English Premier League. "They are tough opponents," said Napoli coach Rafa Benitez, who led London team Chelsea to victory on the Europa League last season. "They've made great progress in recent years. Swansea are a team who are on the up and love passing the ball and playing well.

"Their coach (Michael) Laudrup likes possession of the ball and he gets a squad with some quality players to express themselves brilliantly". Fiorentina will take on Danish side Esbjerg and are on course to face Juve in the last 16. Rome side Lazio have been pitched against Ludogorets of Bulgaria.

On Sunday Napoli consolidated third place in Serie A and stayed in the hunt for the championship by thumping Inter 4-2 at home. Fiorentina leapfrogged Inter and moved into fourth place thanks to an impressive 3-0 win over Bologna. Juventus have 43 points from 16 games, while Roma have 37 points and a game in hand. Napoli have 35 points, Fiorentina have 30 and fifth-placed Inter have 28.

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