Manchester City eye Euro glory despite tough draw

Manchester City face a baptism of fire in the Champions League – but with their football administrator insisting they can go all the way in Europe’s top club competition.

City avoided a group of death in their first Champions League draw but Roberto Mancini’s side will still come up against three tough opponents in Group A against Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Napoli.

Manchester United were given a much easier draw, in Group C alongside Benfica, the club they beat to secure their first European Cup in 1968, as well as Swiss champions Basel and unknowns Otelul Galati from Romania, who are making their bow in the competition.

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Arsenal have to overcome Marseille, Greek champions Olympiakos and a potentially tricky test against Borussia Dortmund in Group F.

Arsenal club secretary David Miles said: “I’m pleased we don’t have to travel too far, to the far off eastern European clubs. Arsene [Wenger] will see that as a big bonus.”

Chelsea will face Valencia, the former club of latest new signing Juan Mata, Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen and Genk from Belgium in Group E.

City, among the pot of third seeds, could have been drawn against reigning champions Barcelona or Real Madrid but still ended up in the toughest-looking group. Although Bayern and Villarreal both had to come through a play-off to qualify, both clubs have plenty of Champions League experience.

Brian Marwood, City’s football administrator, said: “It’s a very competitive group, four teams with great experience in Europe who have won honours at the highest level. But we feel we have a very competitive squad who can compete at this level.”

Asked if he believed City could even win the competition at the first attempt, he said: “You start out in a competition thinking you can win it of course, it would be wrong for me to say anything other than that. I genuinely do believe that we can compete at the highest level.”

United’s group appears the easiest on paper, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s men kick off the European campaign away against Benfica. Ferguson said: “It’s an interesting draw with no real travel difficulties. We’ve played Benfica in the past and they’re always great games, and there’s great history between the two clubs.”

Group H looked the one to avoid with both Barcelona and AC Milan, and BATE Borisov from Belarus and Czech side Viktoria Plzen were the unlucky ones. Real Madrid face Lyon, Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb in Group D, Inter Milan, CSKA Moscow, Lille and Trabzonspor will fight it out in Group B, while Europa League winners Porto are in Group G with Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg and APOEL from Cyprus.