David Silva, right, and Manchester City will be glad to have avoided Barcelona and AC Milan in the groups stages of the Champions League.
David Silva, right, and Manchester City will be glad to have avoided Barcelona and AC Milan in the groups stages of the Champions League.

Challenging task awaits Manchester City in Champions League



Manchester City’s first taste of the Champions League has thrown up some fascinating ties with Roberto Mancini’s men set to face the German giants Bayern Munich, Spain’s Villarreal and the Italian side Napoli.

Brian Marwood, The Abu Dhabi-owned club's football administrator, expects his club to hold their own among Europe's elite.

“It’s a fantastic group with four fantastic sides,” Marwood said. “It’s going to be extremely competitive. I genuinely believe there’s four teams who can compete for the two places on an even keel.

“It’s a fantastic part of Manchester City’s history to be here for the first time in Europe’s premier club competition.

“We really believe we can go into this competition and do well with the spirit that we have.”

Jupp Heynckes, the Bayern coach, feels his side face a difficult task to qualify: “This is the toughest group of the whole draw,” he told his club’s website. “I know Villarreal and Napoli, and they are absolute top teams.

“As for Manchester City … they have boosted their squad and are desperate for European success. We will be challenged in every game and have to be fully focused.”

Barcelona will launch the defence of their Champions League title in a group which contains the Italian giants AC Milan.
Milan, who beat the Spanish side in the 1994 European final, finished runners-up in Serie A last season and were in pot two for yesterday's draw in Monaco.

Meanwhile, David Gill, the Manchester United chief executive, believes Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted after his side were handed a relatively easy draw for the group stages.

United’s bid to make amends for last season’s final defeat against Barcelona is unlikely to end at the first hurdle after they were pitted against Portugal’s Benfica, Swiss team Basel and the Romanian newcomers Otelul Galati.

“I’m sure [the United manager] Sir Alex Ferguson’s happy with that. We’ve had great success in the last few years in the competition and we’re looking forward to it,” Gill said.

United’s two matches against Benfica will evoke memories of the club’s 4-1 victory over the Lisbon club in the 1968 European Cup final at Wembley. “We have had great matches against them [Benfica] and Sir Bobby Charlton was reminiscing before the draw about that great match back in 1968,” Gill said.

Chelsea’s draw was a case of friends reunited as Andre Villas-Boas’s side were placed with Spain’s Valencia, German club Bayer Leverkusen and Belgium’s Genk.

For new signing Juan Mata, it means a return to his old club, Valencia, on September 28, just one month after his move from the Mestalla Stadium to Stamford Bridge.

Michael Ballack, the former Chelsea midfielder, will come face to face with his old teammates when his current club, Bayer Leverkusen, take on the last season’s quarter-finalists.

Steve Atkins, the Chelsea communications director, said: “Every draw throws up challenges and this is no different, and I have spoken to Andre Villas-Boas and he certainly feels that too.

“Valencia is a formidable team and a very difficult place to go with their support. Juan Mata will be returning there a little bit more quickly than he thought!”

Arsenal, who edged into the group stages after beating Udinese in a play-off, have been drawn with French club Marseille,

Greece's Olympiakos and Germany's Borussia Dortmund.
David Miles, the club's secretary, said: "The first priority was to get there but I think we are quietly pleased with dra

Group A

Bayern Munich (Germany)

Villareal (Spain)

Manchester City (England)

Napoli (Italy)

Group B

Inter Milan (Italy)

CSKA Moscow (Russia)

Lille (France)

Trabzonspor (Turkey)

Group C

Man United (England)

Benfica (Portugal)

Basel (Switzerland)

Otelul Galati (Romania)

Group D

Real Madrid (Spain)

Lyon (France)

Ajax (Netherlands)

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)

Group E

Chelsea (England)

Valencia (Spain)

B Leverkusen (Germany)

Genk (Belgium)

Group F

Arsenal (England)

Marseille (France)

Olympiakos (Greece)

B Dortmund (Germany)

Group G

FC Porto (Portugal)

Shakthar Donetsk (Ukraine)

Zenit St Petersburg (Russia)

APOEL Nicosia (Cyprus)

Group H

Barcelona (Spain)

AC Milan (Italy)

BATE Borisov (Belarus)

Viktoria Plzen (Czech Rep)

Group stage

Game 1 13-14 September

Game 2 27-28 September

Game 3 18-19 October

Game 4 1-2 November

Game 5 22-23 November

Game 6 6-7 December

Last 16

First legs start on 14 February

Quarter-finals

First legs on 27 March

Semi-finals

First legs on 17 April

Final

19 May, Allianz Arena, Munich

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

The Baghdad Clock

Shahad Al Rawi, Oneworld

If you go...

Fly from Dubai or Abu Dhabi to Chiang Mai in Thailand, via Bangkok, before taking a five-hour bus ride across the Laos border to Huay Xai. The land border crossing at Huay Xai is a well-trodden route, meaning entry is swift, though travellers should be aware of visa requirements for both countries.

Flights from Dubai start at Dh4,000 return with Emirates, while Etihad flights from Abu Dhabi start at Dh2,000. Local buses can be booked in Chiang Mai from around Dh50

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Nausea
Vomiting
Swollen glands
Rash

SPECS

Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 235hp
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Price: From Dh167,500 ($45,000)
On sale: Now

FROM THE ASHES

Director: Khalid Fahad

Starring: Shaima Al Tayeb, Wafa Muhamad, Hamss Bandar

Rating: 3/5


Abtal

Keep up with all the Middle East and North Africa athletes at the 2024 Paris Olympics

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      Abtal