Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain has welcomed a blockbusting Champions League draw that paired the club with his and new manager Pep Guardiola’s former team, Barcelona.
Borussia Moenchengladbach and Celtic join City and Barca in a fiercely competitive group, but it is the return of Guardiola – and to a lesser extend Begiristain and boardroom colleague Ferran Soriano – to Catalonia that offers the most mouth-watering prospect.
“It’s not a nightmare draw at all because we are in a wonderful competition and we are really happy to be here, but we know it won’t be easy,” said Begiristain, who is also a former Barca player.
“It’s good for Pep because he knows Borussia very well from his time at Bayern – and Barcelona as well. He had been back to Barca before with Bayern Munich so it’s not the first time he’s been returned to the Camp Nou. Barcelona will start as favourites for the group but that is nothing new – they are a fantastic side.”
Tottenham and Arsenal will have few complaints about their draws, while champions Leicester could hardly have asked for a kinder group on their debut in European football’s top club competition.
The Foxes, who were among the top seeds and therefore avoided big hitters such as Barca, Bayern, Real Madrid and Juventus, will meet Porto, Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen.
Spurs drew one of the less threatening teams from pot one in Russian champions CSKA Moscow, though Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen will pose a threat and Monaco are far from pushovers.
Arsenal will meet Paris Saint-Germain in European competition for the first time since the Gunners’ triumphant Cup Winners’ Cup run of 1994, along with Basel and Bulgarians Ludogorets Razgrad.
A trip to PSG – Arsenal’s opening fixture – also sees manager Arsene Wenger face a team whose coaching role he has been repeatedly linked with for the first time since his days in charge of Monaco.
Holders Real Madrid face Borussia Dortmund, Portuguese league runners-up Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw, who qualified after beating Ireland’s Dundalk in a play-off this week.