Manchester City face tough Champions League draw

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The Independent Online

Manchester City are likely to be handed a tough introduction to life in the Champions League when the draw for Europe's elite club competition takes place tomorrow.

Roberto Mancini's side are set to be among the group of third seeds in the draw in Monaco - meaning the strongest sides in Europe outside of England are all potential opponents.

The other English clubs in the Champions League draw are all among the top seeds, alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Porto and Bayern Munich.

The worst-case scenario for City would be to drawn into a group with reigning champions Barcelona, AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund.

There is also the possibility of a more straightforward task for City, with a possible group of Porto, Marseille and APOEL from Cyprus.

For the rest of Europe it will be Mancini's men who are the team to avoid, such is the size and strength of the squad that the Italian has assembled at vast expense.

Mancini has made it clear he intends to rotate his squad to ensure the side are capable of challenging in Europe and the three domestic competitions.

"[Rotating] is no problem for me," said Mancini. "The problem is if you don't have good players.

"For the manager it is not easy because all the players want to play every game.

"But when you play in four competitions and have a match every three days, there is space for everyone. It is impossible to play a top game every three days.

"And the Champions League is very hard. It is different from the Europa League.

"For this we need a good team, with good players and a good mentality."

UEFA's rules for the draw will see the 32 qualified teams allocated into eight groups of four teams. Each group will contain a top seed, plus one club each from the second, third and fourth pots.

Each pot is determined by a club's UEFA ranking but even the fourth pot contains some teams the English clubs would hope to avoid such as Dortmund - though the Germans could still be among the third seeds depending on tonight's results - and Napoli and Dinamo Zagreb.

The top two in each group will go through to the knock-out phase of the Champions League, and the third-place side to the knock-out phase of the Europa League.

Likely pots for tomorrow's Champions League draw: Pot one: Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Arsenal*, Real Madrid, Porto, Inter Milan.

Pot two: Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon*, Villarreal, AC Milan, Valencia, Marseille, CSKA Moscow, Benfica*.

Pot three: Zenit St Petersburg, Man City, Olympiakos, Ajax, Bayer Leverkusen, Fenerbahce, Basle, Lille.

Pot four: Borussia Dortmund, BATE*, Dinamo Zagreb, Napoli, APOEL, Genk, Otelul Galati, Viktoria Plzen*.

*If they qualify tonight.

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