Tough draw takes Leeds back to Istanbul

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The Independent Online

The "naive young manager" and his "babies" will have to grow up fast if Leeds United are to progress in the Champions' League this season. Yesterday's draw presented them with four daunting football matches and two highly charged ones.

The "naive young manager" and his "babies" will have to grow up fast if Leeds United are to progress in the Champions' League this season. Yesterday's draw presented them with four daunting football matches and two highly charged ones.

Group H, as well as pairing David O'Leary's team with Barcelona and Milan, also sends them back to Istanbul, where two Leeds supporters lost their lives last year. Though they do not face Galatasaray, whose supporters clashed with those of Leeds and Arsenal last season, they play their local rivals Besiktas whose Inonu stadium, on the shores of the Bosphorus, is likely to be just as intimidating as the Ali Sami Yen.

Peter Ridsdale, the chairman of Leeds, said: "It already looked a tough draw and then Besiktas came out which brought up a lot of other issues. I am hoping it is the opportunity for everyone to show football should prevail."

The other English clubs have received kinder draws. Manchester United will have to make a tricky trip to the Ukraine, to play Dynamo Kiev, but the 1999 semi-finalists are not the force they were when Sergei Rebrov and Andrei Shevchenko were leading the attack. United will also meet the champions of the Low Countries, Anderlecht and PSV Eindhoven, both of whom also have more glorious pasts than presents.

Arsenal, having been partnered with Lazio early in the 30-minute draw, which was held in Monaco, were reasonably satisfied with their eventual grouping. Sparta Prague and Shaktar Donetsk, the surprise qualifiers from the Ukraine, make up the section.

Galatasaray, meanwhile, were drawn with Rangers. The Scottish champions, who also meet Monaco and Sturm Graz, will fancy their chances of progressing. The French title-holders lost Fabien Barthez and David Trézéguet during the summer while Graz were only runners-up in the weak Austrian league.

The attention, when the programme opens on September 12 and 13, will be on Leeds. They open with a visit to the Nou Camp, then host Milan. Quite an introduction for O'Leary and his young team.

While Leeds have never played Besiktas the other pairings evoke contrasting memories. A 2-1 victory over a Barcelona side including Johan Cruyff in the 1975 European Cup semi-final remains one of Elland Road's greatest nights. The subsequent 1-1 draw in the Nou Camp, despite the dismissal of Gordon McQueen, put Jimmy Armfield's side through to a final lost to Bayern Munich.

Less joyous are the memories to two years previously when Don Revie's team met Milan, in Salonika, in the European Cup-Winners' Cup final. Norman Hunter was one of two players sent off as the Italians won 1-0 in a match which has long featured when the subject of "fixed" games is discussed.

Leeds are likely to be without Harry Kewell, through injury, and Mark Viduka, through Olympic call-up, for the early matches, but hope both will be available for the trip to Besiktas. They end their programme at San Siro on 8 November.

While Milan is likely to be chilly that time of year it will not be as cold as the eastern Ukraine where Arsenal, snow permitting, will have played the previous evening. Dennis Bergkamp will obviously not be with them then, nor is the non-flying Dutchman likely to travel to Rome or Prague which will increase Arsenal's desire to both secure Sylvan Wiltord's signature from Bordeaux and persuade Kanu to forgo the Olympics.

"Lazio are the super favourites and the rest may be between us and Sparta," said Arsÿne Wenger. "It will be a tough battle and that is why the first game [in Prague] is very important. On paper it was more difficult last year [when Arsenal failed to qualify] but Czech football is good. Donetsk is unknown, Oleg Luzny [Arsenal's Ukrainian defender] tells me it is a hostile place and it will be freezing."

The Arsenal manager added: "It is our best chance in three years because we have more experience and we are playing at Highbury rather than Wembley."

Manchester United open their campaign with a repeat of their first home tie in Europe, 44 years ago. While a repeat of the 10-0 victory they achieved over Anderlecht that night is unlikely Steve McClaren, the club's assistant manager, said: "It's a good draw for us. Kiev will be hard as there will be a lot of travelling but we are very confident we can come through."

Next month's visit to PSV Eindhoven is fortuitous as it may provide the chance to check on Ruud van Nistelrooy's rehabilitation, PSV having banned the striker from visiting Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson's weekend invitation to him.

United's group is the only one in which all four teams are actually champions of their domestic leagues, only half the teams having so qualified. Four clubs, Bayer Leverkusen, Lyon, Heerenveen and Shatkar Donetsk, have never won their national titles.

Champions' League Groups

Group A: Real Madrid; Spartak Moscow; B Leverkusen; Sporting Lisbon

Group B: Lazio; Sparta Prague; Arsenal; Shakhtar Donetsk

Group C: Heerenveen; Valencia; Lyon; Olympiakos

Group D: Sturm Graz; Monaco; Galatasaray; Rangers

Group E: Deportivo Coruna; Hamburg; Juventus; Panathinaikos

Group F: B Munich; Rosenborg Trondheim; Paris St-Germain; Helsingborg

Group G: Anderlecht; PSV Eindhoven; Dynamo Kiev; Manchester Utd

Group H: Besiktas; Barcelona; Leeds United; Milan

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