City confident despite rude awakening to European big time

MANCHESTER CITY believe they have nothing to fear from their Champions League debut, despite being drawn in the hardest group of all English sides.

City must negotiate Bundesliga titans Bayern Munich, Spanish dark horses Villarreal and Napoli, who finished third in the Italian top flight last year, as they bid for a place in the last 16.

But football administrator Brian Marwood said: “We really believe we can go into this competition and do well. I genuinely believe there’s four teams who can compete for the two places.”

Chelsea summer signing Juan Mata will make a quick return to his former club Valencia after they were both drawn in Group E, along with Bayer Leverkusen and Belgian side RSC Genk.

Arsenal drew French runners-up Marseille, managed by former Chelsea star Didier Deschamps, Greek champions Olympiacos and the team no-one wanted from pot four, German title holders Borussia Dortmund.

Manchester United look to have the easiest route to the knockout rounds after being drawn with Benfica, Swiss outfit Basle and Romanian Champions League debutants Otelul Galati.

GROUP A

MAN CITY

Best: First round (1968)
Last year: Did not qualify

Fixtures:
14 Sep: Napoli (H)
27 Sep: Bayern Munich (A)
18 Oct: Villarreal (H)
2 Nov: Villarreal (A)
22 Nov: Napoli (A)
7 Dec: Bayern Munich (H)


Bayern Munich

Stadium: Allianz Arena
Capacity: 69,901
The four-time champions have struggled domestically in recent seasons but still pose a serious threat in European competition, as they showed by getting to the final in 2010.
Villarreal

Stadium: El Madrigal
Capacity: 25,000

The Yellow Submarine’s success or failure in this competition could depend on whether they can hang onto Giuseppe Rossi. The prolific striker is admired by a number of top sides.

Napoli

Stadium: San Paolo
Capacity: 60,240
The comeback kids of Serie A enjoyed a remarkable rise last season, thanks largely to their never-say-die attitude and often won games late on. Lost to Villarreal in the Europa League last year.

GROUP C

MAN UNITED

Best: Winners (‘08, ‘99, ‘68)
Last year: Runners-up

Fixtures:
14 Sep: Benfica (A)
27 Sep: Basel (H)
18 Oct: Otelul Galati (A)
2 Nov: Otelul Galati (H)
22 Nov: Benfica (H)
7 Dec: Basel (A)

Benfica

Stadium: Estadio da Luz
Capacity: 65,647

Not many teams will be able to call on divine intervention to help them this season, but Benfica coach Jorge Jesus may come close. The United clash will bring back memories of ‘68.

Basel

Stadium: St Jakob-Park
Capacity: 38,500

The Swiss champions regulary qualify for the group stages of the Champions League – and normally find themselves knocked out by Christmas. Alexander Frei will still pose a threat.

Otelul Galati

Stadium: Arena Nationala
Capacity: 55,600

The Romanians make their Champions League bow after winning their domestic title for the first time. Home games moved to the national stadium because their ground is unfit.

GROUP E

CHELSEA

Best: Runners-up (2008)
Last year: Quarter-finals

Fixtures:
Sep 13: Bayer Leverkusen (H)
Sept 28: Valencia (A)
Oct 19: Genk (H)
Nov 1: Genk (A)
Nov 23: Bayer Leverkusen (A)
Dec 6: Valencia (H)

Valencia

Stadium: Estadio Mestalla
Capacity: 55,000

The class of 2011 is weaker than previous years due to their debt problems. The two Davids, Villa and Silva, left last summer, and Juan Mata swapped Spain for west London this week.

Bayer Leverkusen

Stadium: BayArena
Capacity: 30,210

The 2002 finalists will be able to turn to former Blues midfielder Michael Ballack for the inside track on his old team-mates. Finished second behind Dortmund last season.

RSC Genk

Stadium: Cristal Arena
Capacity: 24,956

The Belgian club had goalkeeper Laszlo Koteleserder to thank for saving two penalties in their play-off win over Maccabi Haifa. Made the group stages once before in 2004.

GROUP F

ARSENAL

Best: Runners-up (2006)
Last year: Last 16

Fixtures:
13 Sep: Borussia Dortmund (A)
28 Sep: Olympiacos (H)
19 Oct: Marseille (A)
3 Nov: Marseille (H)
23 Nov: Borussia Dortmund (H)
6 Dec: Olympiacos (A)

Marseille

Stadium: Stade Velodrome
Capacity: 60,031

Yet to win a game in France this season, boss Didier Deschamps is also facing mutiny in the ranks with highly rated Ghana international Andre Ayew unhappy at his playing position.

Olympiacos

Stadium: Karaiskakis Stadium
Capacity: 33,334

The Greek champions will call on the Premier League experience of Olof Mellberg and Albert Riera to help them against Arsenal, and will no doubt be strong at home.

Borussia Dortmund

Stadium: Signal Iduna Park
Capacity: 80,720

Beat more fancied sides to the Bundesliga title last season and boast one of the Continent’s hottest and most coveted young talents in Germany playmaker Mario Gotze.