UEFA made the draw for the 2011-12 Champions League group stages Thursday. Last year’s winners Barcelona will kick-off their defense of the title against AC Milan, while the runners-up Man United will face Benfica, FC Basel and Otelul Galati.
AP - Champions League winner Barcelona will begin its title defense against AC Milan, BATE Borisov of Belarus and Czech newcomer Viktoria Plzen after UEFA conducted the group stage draw Thursday.
Four-time winner Barcelona’s stellar fixtures with the seven-time champion - a rematch of the 1994 final which Milan won 4-0 - will also send forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the Nou Camp, where he was harshly judged to be an expensive failure two seasons ago.
Manchester United, last season’s runner-up, is top-seeded with Benfica, Switzerland’s FC Basel and Romanian newcomer Otelul Galati. Man United beat Benfica when it won its first title in 1968.
Bayern Munich, whose stadium will stage the final next May, got a tough group with Villarreal, big spenders Manchester City and Napoli.
Real Madrid, the nine-time European champion, faces Lyon, four-time winner Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb.
Inter Milan, the 2010 winner, is top-seeded in a group with CSKA Moscow, Lille and Trabzonspor. The Turkish club already lost to Benfica in the qualifying rounds but was reprieved by UEFA less than 24 hours before the draw when Turkey’s federation barred title-winning Fenerbahce while it is investigated in a match-fixing scandal.
Arsenal was rewarded for a tense passage through the playoff round with a group including Marseille, Olympiakos of Greece and Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund, the No. 4 seed all teams wished to avoid.
Chelsea will face Valencia having just bought the Spanish club’s star forward Juan Mata. Group E is completed by Bayer Leverkusen and Belgian champion Genk.
Two-time winner FC Porto faces long trips to face Group G rivals Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine and Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg. APOEL of Cyprus completes the group.
Each team plays six matches in a program scheduled from Sept. 13 through Dec. 7.
The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout rounds starting in February, and the eight third-placed teams join the Europa League competition in its knockout phase.
The 32 teams are set to share ¤754 million ($1.09 billion) in prize money and bonuses distributed by UEFA.
Date created : 2011-08-25