Belfast Telegraph

We aren't afraid of being pitted against Real in Europe: Wenger

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has backed his side to beat holders Real Madrid if they get paired with the Spanish outfit in Monday's draw for the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Gunners advanced to the knockout stages as group winners for the first time since 2012 after beating Basel 4-1 in Switzerland on Tuesday night.

Theoretically, topping the group gives a team an advantage as they face a side who progressed in second position.

But, despite breaking their hoodoo, Arsenal could still land a tricky tie - with Real among the possible opponents - as they look to get into the quarter-finals for the first time in six years.

Last season's Europa League winners Sevilla are another possibility, along with German pair Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen and Portuguese giants Benfica and Porto.

Arsenal face Stoke at home in the Premier League today before attentions turn to the draw in Nyon and, with Wenger's side having lost just twice in all competitions this season, he insists the Gunners can beat anyone.

"You look at the teams you can get, some look more prestigious, more difficult, and you would like me to say 'I do not want this or that'," he said. "But that will already put us in an inferior position if it happens. Yes, you can take Real Madrid as maybe a favourite to win, because they are the holders of the competition.

"But even against Real Madrid we'll have a chance to qualify and we'll have to do the absolute maximum to achieve that.

"It's another inconvenient fact for us that we haven't qualified for the quarter-final for six years. That will be a huge challenge but I'm sure we will relish that."

The draw takes place at 11am on Monday, when Wenger will be out on the training pitch with his players ahead of Tuesday's trip to Everton.

And he said he will not nip away to watch the draw. He said: "No, I prefer to be on the pitch than being nervous in front of the television."

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