Villas-Boas backs City to win European Cup on debut

Chelsea manager talks up Mancini's side as United get easiest draw of English clubs

According to Andre-Villas Boas, Manchester City can win the Champions League on their debut. First, however, Roberto Mancini's men have to escape from the group stage.

While Manchester United were handed a straightforward group, and the capital clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea, were given tricky ones, the lower-seeded City were paired with Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Napoli in the toughest, but most attractive, of the eight groups.

Four-time winners Bayern are always contenders and look very dangerous in attack with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry floating on the flanks and Thomas Müller given a free role. They are less sound at the back where former City defenders Jerome Boateng and Daniel van Buyten feature.

Napoli, back in the competition for the first time since Diego Maradona's days, will be formidable in the San Paolo and have sharp attackers in Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi. If Villarreal can hold on to their much-coveted former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi they could also cause problems. "I think that's a tough group," tweeted City's Argentinian defender Pablo Zabaleta.

Nevertheless, given the investment at Eastlands, City manager Roberto Mancini will be expected to qualify. Speaking before the draw, Villas-Boas said of City: "They are Champions League contenders. Why not? They have joined together the best talent in the world. It's something unbelievable. It shows what they want to achieve, and they have a winning coach as well, a coach who won three titles in a row at Inter. I don't see why they wouldn't have the drive and qualities to go all the way through.

Chelsea themselves have a logistically good group, but will need to remain focused against Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen, and maybe even Genk since Belgian football is on the rise. It will be a quick return to La Mestalla for Juan Mata, Chelsea's new £23m signing, while the Leverkusen ties will involve a reunion with Michael Ballack.

Without sounding arrogant Villas-Boas is already looking further ahead in the competition, to the challenge of dethroning Barcelona. "They are the reference [point] for everyone but we can challenge them. We have [reached] semi-finals and finals. We want to have that breakthrough this year."

The Chelsea manager said he was pleased Arsenal had qualified, adding he did not feel their manager, Arsène Wenger, "deserved to be put under so much pressure". But any release Wenger felt after winning at Udinese may well have diminished when, in the final act of the draw in the Grimaldi Forum, Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund were dropped into Arsenal's group.

The 1997 winners were in the bottom pot of seeds after several years of limited European involvement but Jürgen Klopp's bright young team could be a handful. Cash-strapped Olympiakos and Didier Deschamps' Marseilles make up the quartet. "Hard group but we proved last night what we can do in Europe," was Jack Wilshere's reaction.

Manchester United should cruise through after being placed with Benfica (poignantly drawn by Sir Bobby Charlton, who scored in the 1968 final between them), Basle and Otelul Galati of Romania. United's chief executive, David Gil,l said: "I got a text from Sir Alex [Ferguson] and he is happy. We are comfortable with the draw." Wayne Rooney tweeted: "Think the draw today is a good draw for us."

Elsewhere Barcelona and Milan were drawn together but Group H went from potential Group of Death to one of safe passage for the giants as BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen joined them.

Group A: Man City, Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Napoli

Bayern Munich

The richest club in Germany, Bayern have an impressive European Cup pedigree. They won three consecutive European Cups when they had Franz Beckenbauer in the 1970s. Since then they have won it once more, in 2001, but have painfully lost finals in 1999 and 2010. They play in the Allianz Arena, which is hosting this year's final.

Coach Jupp Heynckes

Now starting his third spell as Bayern manager, 66-year-old Heynckes won two Bundesliga titles there in 1989 and 1990, and the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998.

Star man Arjen Robben

The Dutchman, when fit and on form, is, Cristiano Ronaldo aside, arguably the best wide player in the world. He has won the domestic leagues in the Netherlands, England, Spain and Germany.

Villarreal

Based in a city of only 50,000 people just north of Valencia, Villarreal have never won a major trophy. But they are famously well run and regularly finish in the top positions in La Liga. They finished fourth last year and arrive in the group stage via a play-off defeat of Danish side Odense.

Coach Juan Carlos Garrido

A career coach with no real playing career, he was promoted to the job in February 2010, having previously been in charge of the reserve team.

Star man Giuseppe Rossi

Rossi scored 32 goals in all competitions last season, attracting interest from some of Europe's higher-profile clubs. Now 25, Italian international Rossi is showing the potential which led to Manchester United taking him on as a teenager.

Napoli

Napoli were one of the teams to avoid in Pot 4. Most famous for a successful spell led by Diego Maradona, they went bankrupt in 2004 but have rebuilt their status, and finished third in Serie A last season.

Coach Walter Mazzarri

Has led Napoli's rise into Champions League football since replacing Roberto Donadoni in 2009. He started his coaching career as an assistant in Naples.

Star man Edinson Cavani

The 24-year-old Uruguay international striker scored 33 goals last term, and signed a new contract in the summer.



Fixtures to be played on 13/14 Sept, 27/28 Sept, 18/19 Oct, 1/2 Nov, 22/23 Nov, 6/7 Dec.

Group C: Man Utd, Benfica, Basle, Otelul Galati

Benfica

Another giant of the European game, Benfica, inspired by the great Eusebio, won the European Cup in 1961 and 1962, and since then have lost the final five times. One of the most prestigious teams in Europe, they have a stadium to match in the Estadio da Luz.

Coach Jorge Jesus

He won the Portuguese league and the league cup in 2009-10, his first season in charge, but could not match Andre Villas-Boas's Porto last year.

Star man Oscar Cardozo

The big Paraguayan averages better than a goal every other game since signing for Benfica in 2007. Powerful with his head and from range, he is an unmanageable prospect for defenders.

FC Basle

They have won the Swiss Super League for the last two years and their overall record of 14 league championships make them one of the most successful club sides in Switzerland. Basle play at the 38,500-capacity St Jakob-Park and wear striking red and blue stripes.

Coach Thorsten Fink

The former Bayern Munich star took over in June 2009, just a few months after being sacked as coach of German side FC Ingolstadt 04.

Star man Alexander Frei

He was the top scorer in the Super League last year, netting 27 times. The 32-year-old striker has also earned 84 caps for the Swiss national team.

Otelul Galati

Otelul Galati claimed their first ever top-flight Romanian title last season, guaranteeing passage directly into the group stages. Nicknamed the Oterlarii (Steelworkers) after their steel-working heritage, they wear red, white and blue striped home shirts. Galati is on the Eastern tip of Romania, close to Moldova and the Black Sea.

Coach Dorinel Munteanu

Capped 134 times for the national team as a player, during a career in which he starred for Köln and Wolfsburg, he has been in charge of Otelul since 2009.

Star man Branko Grahovac

Bosnian goalkeeper Grahovac conceded fewer than 25 league goals last year, but may face a sterner test at Old Trafford.

Fixtures to be played on 13/14 Sept, 27/28 Sept, 18/19 Oct, 1/2 Nov, 22/23 Nov, 6/7 Dec.

Group E: Chelsea, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Genk

Valencia

Financial pressures consistently force them to sell their best players – Juan Mata has gone this summer – but they still managed to finish third in La Liga last year. The Mestalla is one of the hardest places to go in Europe.

Coach Unai Emery

Valencia's young coach has done well to achieve two second places despite financial turmoil.

Star man Roberto Soldado

Signed from Getafe last summer as a cheap replacement for David Villa, Soldado more than paid back his €10m fee with 25 goals.

Bayer Leverkusen

Jokingly nicknamed the "runners-up" after finishing second in cups and leagues all through the last decade. Most famously, they lost the 2002 Champions League final to Real Madrid.

Coach Robin Dutt

Took charge this summer. Previously managed SC Freiburg for four years, helping them secure promotion back to the Bundesliga in May 2009.

Star man Michael Ballack

He returned to Leverkusen on a free from Chelsea in June last year. The 34-year-old midfielder provides a wealth of experience.

Genk

Formed in 1988, Genk or "Racing Genk" are a Belgian club based in Limburg. Genk play their football in the Belgian Pro League and since 1998 have won three domestic and three cup competitions. They are one of five Belgian clubs to have reached the Champions League.

Coach Pierre Denier and Hans Visser

In caretaker charge since the departure of Franky Vercauteren.

Star man Laszlo Koteles

The goalkeeper was the hero whose saves in Genk's shoot-out win over Maccabi Haifa earned them a place in the Champions League.

Fixtures to be played on 13/14 Sept, 27/28 Sept, 18/19 Oct, 1/2 Nov, 22/23 Nov, 6/7 Dec.

Group F: Arsenal, Marseilles, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund

Marseilles

After a long period in Lyons' shadow, Marseilles won their first French title since 1992 in 2010. They are still the only French side to win the Champions League. In the Stade Vélodrome, they have the most intimidating stadium in France.

Coach Didier Deschamps

Deschamps won a Champions League with Juventus and Marseilles and World Cup with France before coaching.

Star man Mathieu Valbuena

Valbuena is a diminutive attacking midfielder, capable of beating opponents and shooting powerfully from distance; the closest Marseilles have come to replacing Samir Nasri.

Olympiakos

The most successful Greek team, having won the League 38 times. Based in Piraeus, Olympiakos play their games at the 33,000-capacity Karaiskakis Stadium, a ground renowned for its intense atmosphere.

Coach Ernesto Valverde

The former Barcelona forward is in his second spell in charge of Olympiakos, leading them to titles in 2009 and 2011.

Star man Albert Riera

The Spanish left-winger joined from Liverpool in 2010, and once had a brief spell with Manchester City.

Borussia Dortmund

This is the first appearance back in the Champions League group stage since 2002 for the 1997 champions. Brought an end to seven years in the wilderness by winning the Bundesliga last season.

Coach Jürgen Klopp

The 44-year-old was plucked from lowly Mainz, and won the Bundesliga by seven points last season.

Star man Mario Götze

Just 19, the attacking midfielder broke through last year, scoring eight goals. He already has seven Germany caps.

Fixtures to be played on 13/14 Sept, 27/28 Sept, 18/19 Oct, 1/2 Nov, 22/23 Nov, 6/7 Dec.

The other groups

Group B Internazionale, CSKA Moscow, Lille, Trabzonspor

Group D Real Madrid, Lyons, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb

Group G Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg, Apoel Nicosia

Group H Barcelona, Milan, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen

Odds to win

Barcelona 15/8; Real Madrid 9/2; Man Utd 13/2; Chelsea 9/1; Man City 12/1; Arsenal 20/1; B Munich 20/1; AC Milan 25/1; Internazionale 28/1; Borussia Dortmund 33/1

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