English clubs braced for Ronaldo reunion

Real Madrid lie in wait for Premier League sides in today's Champions League draw
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The Independent Football

Manchester United could find themselves facing Cristiano Ronaldo and his fellow Real Madrid galacticos when the draw for the Champions League group stage takes place in Monaco today.

All the English sides are guaranteed positions among the eight top seeds meaning they will avoid current European champions Barcelona, but could face Real Madrid, who are one of the eight second-ranked clubs.

There is also another intriguing possibility of Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea coming face to face with Jose Mourinho's Internazionale in a group; Inter will also be among the second seeds.

The draw will see 32 teams split into eight groups, each containing a top seed, a second seed, a third seed and a fourth seed. Bayern Munich, Milan and Seville are other top seeds, and there are plenty of tough opponents in the other pots. Lyons, CSKA Moscow and Juventus are among the second seeds, while Atletico Madrid, Bordeaux and Stuttgart are in the third pot.

Rangers were also set to be among the second seeds yesterday, dependent on Fiorentina's result against Sporting Lisbon last night. If the Italian side lost, the Scottish champions would be third seeds.

The team to avoid among the eight clubs in the fourth pot are Wolfsburg, who were champions of Germany last season. Such is the strength in depth of Europe's elite club tournament, that there is a possibility of any of the English clubs being drawn in a group with Real Madrid, Bordeaux and Wolfsburg.

Big-spending Real are the bookmakers' favourites and will view this year's tournament as almost a must-win – apart from the arrival of Ronaldo, Kaka and Xavi Alonso, the final in May will be at their home ground the Bernabeu.

As for last season's beaten finalists Manchester United, their striker Dimitar Berbatov insisted most clubs will fear being drawn against the English champions. "When you say the name Manchester United it inspires respect in a lot of people," he said. "Nobody will fancy playing us."

Berbatov said the taste of defeat in Rome has intensified the players' desire to go one better this time. "After what happened in last year's final I think we're even more determined in Europe this time around," he added.

"For me, losing in Rome was doubly frustrating because I wasn't at the club when the team won in Moscow – I've never won the Champions League so losing to Barcelona was very upsetting.

"This year our aim is to make it all the way to Madrid. The Bernabeu is one of the best stadiums in the world and I know we're good enough to make it back there and, this time, win it."