Champions League draw: British teams avoid Euro giants

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The Independent Football

Manchester United, last year's losing finalists, were drawn against CSKA Moscow, Besiktas and Wolfsburg in today's Champions League group stages draw in Monaco.

The Premier League champions were placed in Group B and will be happy to have avoided Real Madrid, and former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who were among the second seeds.

Chelsea, beaten in the semi-finals last year by eventual winners Barcelona, were grouped with Porto, Atletico Madrid and Apoel Nicosia in Group D.

Premier League runners-up Liverpool face Lyon, Fiorentina and Debreceni in Group E and Arsenal tackle AZ Alkmaar, Olympiacos and Standard Liege in Group H.

Scottish champions Rangers were drawn against Sevilla, Stuttgart and Romanian champions and Champions League newcomers Unirea Urziceni in Group G.

Holders Barcelona will face Inter Milan, Dynamo Kiev and Rubin Kazan in Group F.

AC Milan were drawn against nine-times winners Real Madrid, Marseille and FC Zurich in Group C, and Bayern Munich were joined by Juventus, Bordeaux and Maccabi Haifa in Group A.

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon felt the draw had been kind to the Blues.

Contemplating the challenge presented by Porto, Atletico Madrid and Cypriot outfit Apoel Nicosia, Kenyon told Sky Sports: "We're reasonably pleased with the draw.

"There is not too much travel in the group, and we've managed to avoid one of the big ones."

Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow - reflecting on a Group E draw pitting the Reds against Lyon, Fiorentina and Debreceni - was also satisfied with the outcome.

"We're pretty happy with that," he told Sky Sports News.

"We have two very well-known European opponents, who will not bring us any surprises."

Asked if he anticipated a flurry of transfer activity by the Reds before the transfer window deadline next Tuesday, he replied: "I wouldn't bank on it".

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, responding to a draw against CSKA Moscow, Besiktas and Wolfsburg, told "These are difficult ties, especially the trips to Russia and Turkey.

"CSKA have developed strongly in the last few years, and games in Turkey are always difficult.

"We also know the quality that we're up against with Wolfsburg, with what they achieved in the Bundesliga last season."

United chief executive David Gill told Sky Sports: "Overall we have got to be happy with it."

United face long trips to Istanbul and Moscow but Gill saw no reason why that should impact on the Reds' Premier League title defence.

"You can get too psyched out by those sort of things," he said, before reflecting on United's penalty shoot-out triumph over Chelsea in Moscow in the 2008 final.

"We are looking forward to going back to Moscow after those great scenes in 2008."

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis was in no mood to underestimate the challenge facing the Gunners against AZ Alkmaar, Olympiacos and Standard Liege.

"Some might look at it (Group H) and see it as an automatic pass but we don't see it like that," Gazidis said.

"We think it will be very tough. But we won't lose our focus. We have a very determined group.

"It is good to have relatively short travel times and we would like to get off to a good start (at home to Standard Liege). We would also like to qualify as early as we can out of the group phase."

Group A

Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux, Maccabi Haifa

Group B

Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg

Group C

AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich

Group D

Chelsea, FC Porto, Atletico Madrid, APOEL

Group E

Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debrecen

Group F

Barcelona, Inter Milan, Dinamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan

Group G

Sevilla, Rangers, Stuttgart, Unirea

Group H

Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege