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Barca v Inter, United tackle Wolfsburg, Real face Milan
Published : 27 Aug 2009 10:55:00
MONACO (AFP) - Thursday's European Champions League group stage draw threw up a host of appetising contests as holders Barcelona drew Inter Milan, while moneybags Real Madrid pulled AC Milan and Manchester United get a crack at German surprise package Wolfsburg. This season will see nine former champions and eight Champions League debutants go into action in the 32-team format split into eight groups of four while the quartets of teams from England and Spain will battle for an historical 13th triumph, both countries having polished off a round dozen to date. Group A pits four-time champions Bayern Munich against two-time holders Juventus, French champions Bordeaux and Maccabi Haifa of Israel. In Group B, Manchester United, European champions in 1968, 1999 and 2007 and beaten finalists last year, will go up against German champions Wolfsburg, Turkey's Besiktas and CSKA Moscow. Cristiano Ronaldo's nine-times winners and summer megaspenders Real Madrid will have to joust with seven-time champions AC Milan in Group C, meaning an early return to San Siro for Brazilian Kaka. Marseille - the only French side ever to lift the trophy, and outsiders FC Zurich of Switzerland complete the group. Chelsea, the 2007 finalists and bidding for a first crown under former AC Milan handler Carlo Ancelotti, veteran of 91 Champions League matches, are seeded in Group D where they meet two-time champions Porto, Atletico Madrid and Cypriots APOEL Nicosia. Liverpool, who humiliated Real last season, will play in Group E along with French side Lyon, who have never been past the quarters, Fiorentina of Italy and Debrecen of Hungary. Holders Barcelona will play in Group F along with Italian champions Inter Milan, who won the last of their two European crowns in 1965 and are coached by former Barca assistant and ex-Chelsea handler Jose Mourinho. Those encounters also mean a swift return to the Nou Camp for Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, who twice lifted the Cup with the Catalan club. Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who went the other way, will likewise get to renew old acquaintances back at the San Siro. Dynamo Kiev and Russian champions Kazan complete the group, where both look like makeweights. Seville of Spain will compete in Group G alongside Glasgow Rangers, Germany's VfB Stuttgart, and Romanian champions Unirea Urziceni. Arsenal were drawn in Group H alongside AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands, Greek side Olympiakos and Belgium's Standard Liege, whom the Gunners thrashed 7-0 away 16 years ago in the old Cup Winners Cup.