Munich - Germany's very own Fantastic Four are mixing it up in the UEFA Champions League in quite unprecedented style. For the first time ever in European football's elite club competition, four Bundesliga clubs have made it through to the last 16.

There, the next challenges awaiting Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04 cover a pretty wide spectrum, on paper at any rate.

'I'd rather have drawn Zenit'


An excited murmuring filled the assembly room of UEFA's Nyon HQ last Monday (16 December) as former World Football of the Year Luis Figo plucked Arsenal FC out of the bowl as FC Bayern's next hurdle in the defence of their title. “We could certainly have drawn easier opponents there,” was club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's initial response, “and I'd rather have been up against Zenit St. Petersburg.”

Instead, it is last season's beaten finalists Dortmund who take on the club from the northern Russian metropolis while their Ruhr district rivals FC Schalke will have to find a way past Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo et al. For their part, Leverkusen will be trying to keep tabs on another on-form superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, when they go up against French champions Paris Saint-Germain FC. The first leg games are scheduled for 18/19 February and 25/26 of the same month, with the return meetings on 11/12 and 18/19 March.

'Have to give it our all'


“We're going to have to be on tip-top form to progress,” Rummenigge warned, while Bayern head coach Pep Guardiola acknowledged that it was “a very tough draw. But I'm happy, because it's fascinating to play against the very best teams. We know we're going to have to give it our all.” Speaking from Morocco, where the European champs are taking part in the FIFA Club World Cup, director of sport Matthias Sammer let it be known that, “We'll take it as it comes. And it's all one to me whether or not the first leg's in England.”

Skipper Philipp Lahm meanwhile is looking forward to the duel with national team colleagues Mesut Özil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski while under no illusions that, “It's the toughest draw we could have got against the best of the group runners-up.”

To Russia with love


Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke relativised the task facing his own side insofar as, “When I look at who the other German teams are up against, we came out of the draw pretty well.” Head coach Jürgen Klopp has “never been to Russia” and is relishing the prospect, saying, “We'll be taking a very close look at the Zenit team over the coming weeks. Anyone who gets through the group phase of the Champions League has to be a quality side.”

BVB's near-neighbours Schalke are quite content with their underdog status against the might Real Madrid. “This is an absolute Champions League highlight. I've always dreamed of playing Real Madrid in the Bernabeu Stadium. We could hardly have it any tougher, but we're up for the challenge,” young Royal Blues midfield star Julian Draxler asserted.

Völler full of excitement


Bayer Leverkusen are also looking forward to their own home-and-away tussle with Paris Saint-Germain. “It's a real cracker,” said sporting director Rudi Völler, “Paris have a whole bunch of world-class players, not just Ibrahimovic. We're the underdogs to a certain extent, but we've definitely got a chance all the same. It's a bonus assignment for us, and we're going to tackle it head-on.”

Drawmaster Luis Figo didn't omit to sing the praises of the Bundesliga at the ceremony, the former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Portugal star noting that, “It supplied both the finalists last season, and there's still a lot of potential there. The domestic league provides the foundations for international success.” Whether that success will extend to all four German clubs progressing to the quarter-finals this time around remains to be seen.

Eagles flying away


Meanwhile the Bundesliga's sole remaining representative in the UEFA Europa League, Eintracht Frankfurt, have been pitted against FC Porto in the Round of 32 - “Really tough opponents,” as chairman Heribert Bruchhagen conceded.

Should the Eagles nonetheless overcome their battle-hardened Portuguese counterparts, they would next take on the winners of the duel between SSC Napoli and Swansea City.