Groups drawn for UEFA Champions League

Defending champions Barca are grouped with seven-times winners Milan while Chelsea's new signing Mata faces old club.

    Barcelona will be the favourites to win the tournament despite being drawn against AC Milan in group stages [Reuters]

    Holders Barcelona have been drawn with seven-times European Cup winners AC Milan plus outsiders BATE Borisov of Belarus and Viktoria Plzen of Czech Republic in the group stage of the Champions League.

    Manchester United, beaten in last season's final at Wembley Stadium, were drawn on Thursday with Benfica, the team they beat in the 1968 final at Wembley, Basel and Romanians Otelul Galati who are making their debut in the competition.

    Manchester City, the world's richest club thanks to owner Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi and playing in the Champions League for the first time, were drawn with four-times European Cup winners Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Napoli.

    New boy Sergio Aguero, City's record $61.81m signing, faces a trip to Napoli, the former club of father-in-law Diego Maradona.

    Real Madrid, European champions a record nine times, face perennial opponents Olympique Lyon along with Ajax Amsterdam and Dinamo Zagreb, back in the competition after a 12-year absence.

    Trabzonspor, brought in on Thursday after the Turkish FA withdrew Fenerbahce because of match-fixing allegations, will play in the same group as 2010 champions Inter Milan, CSKA Moscow and Lille.

    Arsenal's tricky start to the season with star players Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri leaving the Emirates stadium for pastures new was eased by their defeat of Udinese in the play-offs.

    And the Gunners' reward for securing their 14th Champions League campaign was a match-up against Didier Deschamps' Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Olympiakos.

    Chelsea, the fourth representative from the Premier League and last season's quarter-finalists are in Group E with Valencia, Chelsea new recruit Juan Mata's old club, Bayer Leverkusen and Genk.

    The long road to the final at Bayern's Munich stadium starts on September 13 with the opening salvoes of this season's group stages.

    The top two placed teams in each group advance to the first knockout round, with the third-placed teams dropping down to the Europa League.

    Champions League group stages in full:

    Group A

    Bayern
    Villarreal
    Man. City
    Napoli

    Group B

    Inter
    CSKA Moskva
    Lille
    Trabzonspor

    Group C

    Man. United
    Benfica
    Basel
    Otelul

    Group D

    Real Madrid
    Lyon
    Ajax
    Dinamo Zagreb

    Group E

    Chelsea
    Valencia
    Leverkusen
    Genk

    Group F

    Arsenal
    Marseille
    Olympiacos
    Dortmund

    Group G

    Porto
    Shakhtar
    Zenit
    APOEL

    Group H

    Barcelona
    Milan
    BATE
    Plzen

    SOURCE: Agencies


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