Manchester City’s unhappy knack of being handed tough Champions League draws continued on Thursday, when they were placed into a group alongside last season’s runners-up Juventus, Sevilla and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The Premier League’s other entrants could be more content, even though Arsenal will face their recent bogey opponents, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United pulled Wolfsburg, the Bundesliga runners-up from last season, out of the fourth and final pot. The stand-out tie in Chelsea’s section sees them paired with Porto, the manager José Mourinho’s former club.
It was City who could bemoan their luck at the lavish draw ceremony, in which Uefa’s new seeding system was implemented for the first time. Previously, the top eight had been decided by recent performances in the competition but this time, they came from the champions of the continent’s top-ranked leagues, meaning that Arsenal were bumped down into the second pot with the Manchester clubs.
It could have been worse for City in terms of their pot one opponents but not much, given Juventus’ power, even though they have lost Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal over the summer. Yet the real blow was drawing Sevilla, the Europa League winners, from pot three and, although they dodged Wolfsburg, they got Mönchengladbach – the third-placed team in last season’s Bundesliga.
Arsène Wenger and Arsenal are looking to advance into the knockout phase for the 16th season in succession and their hearts might have jumped when they were paired with Bayern – who have eliminated them in two of the past three seasons. But the blow was softened when they subsequently drew Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb. Arsenal have meet Olympiakos three times previously and on each occasion, they have lost the away tie, although it has always been the final fixture of the group when they have already qualified.
Manchester United could be happy at how they fared, as they return to the competition proper after the hiatus of last season, even though Wolfsburg was arguably the toughest opponent that they could have got from pot four. Louis Van Gaal, the manager, will return to his native Holland to face PSV Eindhoven and the club’s other opponents will be CSKA Moscow.
Chelsea have a good record against Porto – they have never failed to score against them – while their group was completed by Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmo
PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg
Benfica, Atlético Madrid, Galatasaray, Astana
Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Mönchengladbach
Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma, Bate Borisov
Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Olympiakos, Dinamo Zagreb
Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Zenit Saint Petersburg, Valencia, Lyon, Gent