Man City handed nightmare European draw

PREMIER League holders Manchester City face a difficult task if they are to avoid another early Champions League exit, while Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United will all be hopeful of progressing to the latter stages following yesterday’s group stage draw.

City were placed in the fabled Group of Death, with Roberto Mancini’s side taking on Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.

The three other English sides were handed considerably easier tasks overall, although Chelsea will have to take on Juventus in addition to Shakhtar Donetsk and Danish first-time participants Nordsjaelland, while Manchester United face a tough trip to Galatasaray, with unfancied sides Braga and CFR Cluj making up their group.

Arsenal, who are in the group stages for the 15th consecutive season, will be confident of overcoming Schalke, Olympiacos and Montpellier. Celtic, though, are likely to face an uphill struggle, having been placed in Group G alongside Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Barcelona, whose midfielder Andres Iniesta was yesterday named European player of the year, fending off competition from Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barca team-mate Lionel Messi.

ENGLISH TEAMS IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

GROUP B
Arsenal
Hoping to better last year’s last 16 finish

Schalke 04
Huntelaar should fill void left by Raul

Olympiacos
Rafik Djebbour provides firepower

Montpellier
Maiden participation for Giroud’s ex-club

GROUP E
Chelsea
Hoping for repeat of miraculous success

Shakhtar Donetsk
Solid side with several experienced players

Juventus
Ageing Pirlo makes Old Lady tick

Nordsjaelland
Expected to be whipping boys of group

GROUP D
Real Madrid
Nine-time winners seeking to end Euro wait

Manchester City
Hoping to avoid another group stage exit

Ajax
Rich history not matched by current side

Borussia Dortmund
Free-flowing football expected once again

GROUP H
Manchester United
Seeking a fourth Champions League crown

Braga
Scraped through qualifiers, not a force

Galatasaray
Possess several ex-Premier League players

CFR Cluj
More than likely heading for an early exit