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Champions League Round of 16 Set: Marseille A Good Draw for Manchester United?

The draw for the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League was made this afternoon at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, and Manchester United have drawn French champions Marseille.

It’s the third time in five seasons that United will face French opposition in the round of 16, and they’ll be looking to make it third time victorious, after a 2-0 aggregate victory over Lille in the 2006/07 season and a 2-1 aggregate win over Lyon the following season on the way to conquering Europe.

It’s Marseille’s first foray into the Champions League knockout rounds after finishing no better than third in the group stage in each of their previous five appearances in the current incarnation of the competition. They qualified for the round of 16 by finishing second behind Chelsea in Group F, with four wins and two defeats in their six group ties. Their final win was a 1-0 home win over a strong Chelsea side last Wednesday in what amounted to a dead rubber after both assured their progress to the round of 16 with victories the previous matchday.

Didier Deschamps’ side is currently a disappointing fifth in Ligue 1, with 27 points (7-6-4) from 17 matches. But they’re very much in the thick of the title race, as they sit only four points back of leaders Lille (8-7-2).

Given who United could have faced in the round of 16, this is one of the more favorable draws. It certainly would have been nice to draw FC Copenhagen, as Chelsea have, but United did avoid reigning champions Inter Milan (Bayern Munich), AC Milan (Tottenham), and experienced Lyon and Roma sides.

That doesn’t mean that Marseille can be overlooked, as their attack could certainly cause some problems for United. Former Porto star Lucho Gonzalez is arguably the danger man of danger men for Marseille, but United will also have their hands full with striker Loic Remy and attackers Andre Ayew and Mathieu Valbuena, to name a few.

Oh, and we also get to see Gabriel Heinze make his return to Old Trafford. Defense would appear to be an afterthought here though, as given what both sides offer in attack, this tie will likely see more goals than the ties against Lille and Lyon did.

United didn’t exactly breeze by Lille and Lyon, and this projects to be a tough tie as well. However, United should be clear favorites, and advancement is to be expected.

As for the other seven round of 16 matchups, there are some tasty ties, with Inter and Bayern Munich meeting in a rematch of last season’s Champions League final, Barcelona facing off against Arsenal in a tie that should see no shortage of goals, Real Madrid going up against Lyon, who knocked them out at this stage last season, and knockout round debutants Tottenham taking on seven-time European champions AC Milan.

Are you happy with how the draw turned out for United?