Arsenal have been handed a difficult group in the UEFA Champions League.
Arsene Wenger prides himself on leading the Gunners to the knockout stages of the premier club competition in European football, having advanced through the group phase in 14 of the last 15 occasions since 1998/99. However, rarely have they been given as tough a test as the one which awaits them when this season’s edition begins next month.
Arsenal have been placed in Group F, and will face last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund, as well as Rafael Benitez’s Napoli, who of course include Gonzalo Higuain, one of Wenger’s top targets earlier this summer, in their ranks. There is also a potentially tricky double header with French side Marseille, who have won all three of their Ligue 1 games so far this term.
Manchester City have faced similarly tough groups in each of the past two seasons, and although they have failed to progress from each, they may be more optimistic this time round despite being in Group D which contains current European champions Bayern Munich. But Manuel Pellegrini will surely fancy his chances of guiding his side past CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen.
David Moyes’ first experience of life in the Champions League sees his Manchester United side in Group A, along with Bayer Leverkusen, who have won their last eight Bundesliga matches. Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the Ukraine treble last term, and Spaniards Real Sociedad make up a group which may prove more difficult than some may currently expect.
As for Chelsea, they could well have handpicked their opponents themselves. Jose Mourinho’s side are in Group E along with Schalke, FC Basel and Steaua Bucharest.
Celtic, meanwhile, face the hardest task of all. Not only do they have to face tournament favourites Barcelona in Group H, the Scots must also take on Italian giants Milan and Dutch outfit Ajax.
Elsewhere, Carlo Ancelotti and his Real Madrid side will face Juventus, whom he coached from 1999 to 2001, Galatasaray and Copenhagen in Group B. Benfica, Paris St Germain, Olympiakos and Anderlecht are in Group C, and Group G contains Porto, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg and Austria Wien.