Arsenal avoid Spanish threat

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The Independent Football

Arsenal will avoid Spanish opposition in today's draw for the Champions' League group stage after retaining their place among the élite group of top seeds.

Arsenal remain among the eight top-ranked sides despite a change in Uefa's seeding system. Manchester United are also among the top eight sides. United met the Romania champions Dinamo Bucharest at Old Trafford last night with a 2-1 lead from the first leg.

The current European champions Porto, four Spanish sides and Bayern Munich make up the other top seeds on the Continent for today's draw in Monaco.

Both Chelsea and Liverpool are among the second seeds. Celtic are likely to be among the third pot of seeds.

If Rangers managed to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg against CSKA Moscow at Ibrox last night they too will be in the third pot.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are already in the hat for the draw in Monaco.

Arsenal have yet to progress beyond the quarter-final stage in the competition but the manager Arsène Wenger has rejected claims that his defence let the side down at critical moments last season.

"Our defence has not been a problem in the Champions' League," he said. "You could criticise Manchester United's defence in 1999 or Real Madrid's but they still won the Champions' League.

"The Champions' League is a cup system. You should not over-rate its importance - a good side should win their domestic championship first.

"This [the Champions' League] is the only title we are missing, but I am not obsessed about it.

"Obviously only a great team is capable of winning it, but there are also a lot of great teams who will never win it.

Wenger deflected the pressure on winning Europe's biggest prize by concentrating on matters nearer to home.

"The domestic league remains for me the best way of putting a true value on a team."

Uefa have changed their coefficient system this summer to give more weight to an individual club's performances in Europe and less to how all clubs from a particular country have done overall.

The biggest effect has been on Liverpool, who were among the top seeds after qualifying for the Champions' League in 2002-3, but who fall in the ranking because they have only played in Europe's top club competition twice in the last five years.

Chelsea and Liverpool will be among the pot of second seeds along with Italian clubs Milan, Juventus, Roma and Internazionale.

UEFA's club coefficients 2004-05: 1 Real Madrid* 146.35; 2 Valencia 139.35; 3 Barcelona 134.35; 4 Manchester United* 119.51; 5 Bayern Munich 105.33; 6 Deportivo La Coruña 104.35; 7 Arsenal 103.51; 8 Porto 99.99; 9 Milan 99.53; 10 Liverpool 90.51; 11 Juventus* 84.53; 12 Internazionale 82.53; 13 Roma 78.53; 14 Lyon 70.95; 15 Chelsea 67.51; 16 PSV Eindhoven* 65.23.

Others: 19 Celtic 60.60; 25 Rangers* 42.60.

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