| The Champions League draw delivered tantalising prospect of Barcelona and Real Madrid meeting in final [GETTY]
Barcelona and Real Madrid were kept apart in the Champions League quarterfinals and semifinals draw on Friday, though the defending champions must first beat AC Milan before the Spanish giants can hope to meet in a potentially stellar final.
Barcelona will travel for the first leg against seven-time winners Milan, in a quarterfinals clash that reunites the two European powers after they met in the group stage.
Madrid, the nine-time winners, got the most favourable draw - playing away first against the competition's surprise team APOEL of Cyprus.
Chelsea will play away to Benfica first in their quarterfinal. Marseille were drawn at home first against Bayern Munich, who host the final on May 19.
Quarterfinals first-leg matches are played on March 27-28, and return matches are on April 3-4.
In the subsequent semifinals draw, Marseille or Bayern will host APOEL or Madrid in the first leg.
Benfica or Chelsea will play at home first against Milan or Barcelona. Semifinals first legs are played on April 17-18 and return matches on April 24-25.
"...we've improved since the last time we faced them, when we played a good defensive match in Barcelona and another just as good match in the return leg, even if we lost at home"
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri
Barcelona had the best of Milan in the group stage, drawing 2-2 at home before winning 3-2 in a high-class encounter at San Siro.
"It is a psychological advantage,'' said Barcelona director Amador Bernabeu, anticipating another meeting with Milan's former Barca forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"But to play Ibra is another thing. We respect him all the time.''
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said his players would face "the strongest team in the world.''
"But we can do well, because we've improved since the last time we faced them, when we played a good defensive match in Barcelona and another just as good match in the return leg, even if we lost at home,'' Allegri said.
Madrid arguably had most to be happy about - avoiding the drama of facing either Barcelona or a reunion for Real coach Jose Mourinho with his former team Chelsea.
"We are glad to avoid them, it's true, but it doesn't mean we are in the semifinals,'' Madrid director Emilio Butragueno said.
"APOEL is the big surprise. They have all our respect.''
Champions League draw
First Leg: March 27-28
Second Leg: April 3-4
APOEL (Cyprus) v Real Madrid (Spain)
Marseille (France) v Bayern Munich (Germany)
Benfica (Portugal) v Chelsea (England)
AC Milan (Italy) v Barcelona (Spain)