Manchester City’s Champions League curse returned to haunt them after they were drawn with last season’s finalists Juventus and Europa League winners Sevilla for the group stage of the competition.
City, who have suffered tough draws in the last four seasons of the Champions League, were selected in Group D – with the other team being Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.
Arsenal also face a tough task in Group F against Bayern Munich, who have eliminated the Gunners from the competition in two out of the last three seasons – but have more straightforward opposition from Greek side Olympiakos – who are in the middle of a match-fixing scandal – and Dinamo Zagreb from Croatia.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will have a return to a former side Porto, whom he took to Champions League glory in 2004, and his team should have little trouble in Group G with Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Manchester United’s return to the competition after last year’s absence should also not trouble manager Louis van Gaal too much, with the opponents in Group B being PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and German side Wolfsburg.
Manchester City’s head of football administration Brian Marwood admitted the club seemed to experience bad luck in Champions League draws.
He said: “It’s the best 32 clubs in Europe so you have to expect there will be some tough games in there and we do always seem to draw very difficult groups, but it is what it is, we have to deal with it and we’ll hopefully progress. I’m sure they are looking at us and seeing the talent we have in our squad, and you’d like to think they are not happy about drawing us.”
Marwood refused to state what the club regarded as a minimum target for manager Manuel Pellegrini however.
He added: “We have our internal targets and they will be kept internal, but of course we are very ambitious; we want to get as close to winning it as we possibly can, of course we do. We’re in it to compete, not just to get through the group stage; it has to be more than that.”
Arsenal’s group has a familiar look to it for the Gunners. As well as the Bayern connection Arsenal and Olympiakos have now been drawn together in the group stage for the fourth time in seven seasons.
David Miles, Arsenal club secretary, admitted to feeling a chill when the Gunners were put into Bayern’s group.
He said: “The draw started ominously when we were picked in Bayern’s group but overall I think we can we relatively pleased with how it turned out. Bayern have knocked us out twice so it is about time we returned the favour – let’s hope so anyway.”
This time however there have been questions marks over the Greek side’s participation – Uefa only confirmed Olympiakos’ participation on Monday after sport’s highest court rejected an appeal by Greek rivals Panathinaikos. Panathinaikos had challenged a Uefa appeals body decision in June to admit Olympiakos, whose owner Vangelis Marinakis was banned from football in June by a Greek magistrate. He was released on bail as investigations continue into allegations that a criminal organisation is controlling the domestic game – but he was present at the draw in Monaco. Uefa says neither the Greek FA “nor the criminal courts in Athens have rendered any final decision against Mr Marinakis or the club.”
Carlo Cudicini, global ambassador for Chelsea, insisted that the Stamford Bridge club did not have an easy draw. He said: “Porto is a club that Jose knows very well of course, and they are a club that does very well in the transfer market – they sell a lot of players but keep replacing them with other good players and stay in the Champions League every year. This not an easy draw at all – I don’t think going to Tel Aviv and Kiev are easy trips.”
Manchester United’s draw will see Memphis Depay return to his former club PSV Eindhoven, while Real Madrid and Paris St Germain will meet in Group A along with Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo.
The holders Barcelona are in an easy-looking Group E along with Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov from Belarus.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW
Paris St Germain
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Zenit St Petersburg