LONDON: Manchester City’s first taste of the Champions League has thrown up some fascinating ties as Roberto Mancini’s expensively-assembled squad face German giants Bayern Munich, Spain’s Villarreal and Italian outfit Napoli.
Arsenal, who edged into the group stages after beating Udinese in a play-off, have been drawn with French club Marseille, Greece’s Olympiakos and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund.
Chelsea’s draw was a case of friends reunited as Andre Villas-Boas’ side were placed with Spain’s Valencia, German club Bayer Leverkusen and Belgium’s Genk.
For Chelsea winger Juan Mata it means a return to his old club Valencia on September 28 just one month after his move from the Mestalla Stadium to Stamford Bridge, while former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack will come face to face with his old teammates when his current club Bayer Leverkusen take on the Blues.
Meanwhile, Manchester United’s bid to make amends for last season’s final defeat against Barcelona is unlikely to end at the first hurdle after the draw which pitted the Premier League champions against Benfica, Swiss outfit Basel and Romanian newcomers Otelul Galati.
United’s two matches against Benfica will evoke memories of the club’s 1968 victory in the European Cup final at Wembley. Inspired by Bobby Charlton and George Best, Sir Matt Busby’s team were able to beat Eusebio’s Benfica 4-1 in extra-time to win their first European Cup.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.