Aris to face Man City, PAOK take on CSKA Moscow
Tough draws for Greek sides in Europa League
The two Greek sides left in the Europa League face a massive task if they are to progress from the last 32 of the tournament after the draw on Friday pitched PAOK against the considerable might of CSKA Moscow and Aris against the billionaires of Manchester City.
Given the hard work that both Thessaloniki sides put into qualifying from the group stage, often at the expense of their league form, they would have hoped to be handed negotiable ties but in both cases, the Greek teams will have to step up another level to make it through to the last 16.
Even in last 16, though, Aris and PAOK face daunting tasks should they qualify. Aris would be up against Besiktas of Turkey or Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine, while PAOK would face Sevilla of Spain or Porto of Portugal.
There is a long way to go until the Greeks can start worrying about who their next opponents might be. For the time being, Aris and PAOK have to focus on facing Man City and CSKA Moscow in February.
Aris will host the Blues of Manchester at the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium in Thessaloniki on Tuesday, February 15 before the return leg at the City of Manchester Stadium on Thursday, February 24.
City, who are third in the Premier League and unbeaten in nine games, are clear favourites to go through over the two legs but they will be aware that Aris were responsible for knocking out the Europa League holders Atletico Madrid after beating the Spaniards 1-0 at home and 3-2 away.
Like City, Aris are under the guidance of a former Inter Milan manager in Hector Cuper. They are currently in fifth place in the Greek Super League.
The Argentinean has extensive experience in Europe, having previously managed Mallorca, Valencia, Real Betis and Parma.
"They have a very experienced coach who has done very well in Europe with Valencia and Inter Milan," City's football administrator Brian Marwood told BBC Radio 5 live.
"But we feel we have a very strong group of players. The aim was to do well both domestically and in Europe and the squad is developing game-by-game and the balance is getting better."
PAOK will welcome CSKA to the Toumba Stadium on Thursday, February 17 before the long trip to Moscow on Tuesday, February 22.
The black and whites also face a huge task if they are to overcome CSKA, who won Group F and posses some real talent in the form of young midfielder Alan Dzagoev, Japanese playmaker Keisuke Honda, Brazilian frontman Vagner Love and Ivory Coast striker Seydou Doumbia.
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