Against the odds, the Champions League group-stage draw in Monaco yesterday provided no battles of Britain, with all four teams from England and both from Scotland in separate pots, but threw up the unwelcome possibility of the renewal of other hostilities.
Manchester United were drawn in Group F alongside Roma, just months after violence marred their quarter-final tie in this competition in April. A United fan was stabbed in Rome when they met in the first leg on 4 April, and there were also scuffles outside Old Trafford before United's 7-1 win in the second leg.
That victory at least bodes well in sporting terms for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, who will also face Sporting Lisbon and Dynamo Kiev in their section.
Liverpool, runners-up in this year's final in Athens in May, will meet Porto, Marseille and Besiktas in Group A. Chelsea have avoided any long-haul trips into Eastern Europe and will face Valencia, Schalke 04 and Rosenborg in Group B. Arsenal's section, Group H, provides arguably the most arduous assignment for any of the English sides. As well as Steau Bucharest and Slavia Prague, they will come up against Seville, the Uefa Cup winners for the last two seasons, or AEK Athens. That pair will complete their delayed third qualifying round tie on Monday.
Celtic, who won their place in the draw thanks to a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Spartak Moscow on Wednesday, have been drawn with familiar names in the form of the holders, Milan, and Benfica, in Group D. Celtic exited last season's tournament at the first knockout stage to Milan, but only in extra time. Benfica were in Celtic's group-stage section last season and both sides won their home games 3-0. Shakhtar Donetsk complete Group D this time, adding an onerous trip east to what will already be a tough assignment for Gordon Strachan's side.
Rangers were rewarded for coming through two qualifying rounds with the double-edged prize of being drawn in Group E with Barcelona, who will no doubt provided two memorable games but offer up little hope of points. Lyon and Stuttgart, the reigning German champions, complete the section. Rangers faced Stuttgart in the 2003-04 Champions League, winning at Ibrox but losing away to finish bottom of their group.
Group C contains Real Madrid, Werder Bremen, Lazio and Olympiakos and the draw was completed by Group G, containing Internazionale, PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce.
Before the draw, the Uefa president, Michel Platini, outlined his plans to reform the competition in future seasons, confirming that he wants to award domestic cup winners with a place in the Champions League.
Platini said he would seek approval for the move from Uefa's executive committee in October. Under the proposed shake-up discussed by Uefa's new Professional Football Strategy Council, England, Spain and Italy would be given an extra automatic spot in the group stage.
But their fourth representatives would need to come through a competition between 16 winners of domestic cups.
"This is not a revolution, but evolution," Platini said. "Of course there is some disagreement but I am just delivering on the promise I made, which was to revamp the Champions League and open it up to lesser teams and smaller countries."
Last month the European Professional Football Leagues – representing the Premier League, the Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga, among others – rejected the plans on the grounds it would devalue their competitions.
Platini also said that he wants the Champions League final to take place at the weekend rather than on a Wednesday night. "At the final in Athens in May I was astounded there were no families and children at the match. This would change if it was played at the weekend."
Platini also said he wanted 75 per cent of people attending the major Uefa competitions' finals to be fans, not invitees, and that he wanted the European Cup finals to be played in stadiums with a capacity of 70,000-plus to solve security issues. No changes will be made to the format or the scheduling of the tournament before 2009-10.
Champions League draw
Liverpool, Porto, Marseilles, Besiktas
Chelsea, Valencia, Schalke, Rosenborg
Real Madrid, Werder Bremen, Lazio, Olympiakos
Milan, Benfica, Celtic, Shakhtar Donetsk
Barcelona, Lyon, Stuttgart, Rangers
Manchester United, Roma, Sporting Lisbon, Dynamo Kiev
Internazionale, PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce
Arsenal, Seville/AEK Athens, Steaua Bucharest, Slavia PragueReuse content