Manchester United being paired with Real Madrid was the undoubted highlight of the Champions League last-16 draw, but Barcelona remain strong favourites in the outright winner market.
The Red Devils are now a 14/1 shot to lift the trophy for a fourth time in their history, while Los Blancos drifted slightly from 13/4 to 15/4 after being drawn to face Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.
As far as the other two British clubs are concerned, Arsenal will tackle last year’s beaten finalists Bayern Munich, while Celtic face a tough assignment against Juventus.
The prices for two of those four teams have also moved following the draw, with the Gunners now a 40/1 chance and Bayern at 19/4. However, Celtic and the Old Lady remain unchanged at at 100/1 and 12/1 respectively.
Barcelona have been trimmed slightly from 5/2 to 23/10 in the betting after being drawn to face AC Milan, who have drifted from 66/1 to 80/1 outsiders, while Dortmund are fourth favourites at 13/2 following their pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Elsewhere, the draw was completed by the clashes between Galatasaray (200/1) and Schalke (66/1), Valencia (80/1) and Paris St-Germain (20/1), and Porto (50/1) and Malaga (50/1).
However, the focus will inevitably fall on United’s collision with Real Madrid, which is a veritable bonanza for bwin punters, considering our sponsorship deals with both teams (expect plenty of exclusive content and ticket offers in the coming weeks).
The sub-plots – Ferguson renewing acquaintances with Jose Mourinho, the man who could yet replace him when the Scot retires, and former United star Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford, to name but two – are fascinating.
The clash will also rekindle memories of the two previous Champions League knock-out meetings between the sides, both of which were eventually won by Real.
Roy Keane’s own-goal and a Raul brace helped the Spaniards to a 3-2 win in Manchester and a subsequent triumph by the same aggregate scoreline in 2000.
Then three years later, after a 3-1 victory over the Red Devils at the Bernabeu, Real sneaked through despite losing a pulsating second leg 4-3 at Old Trafford.
That game, of course, will always be remembered for (the original) Ronaldo scoring a stunning hat-trick and receiving a standing ovation from the home fans when he was replaced by Santi Solari after 67 minutes.
Whatever happens in the latest instalment of this rivalry between two of Europe’s traditional powerhouses, there’s bound to be plenty of twists and turns – just sit back and enjoy the ride.
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