AC Milan gets relatively easy draw

Defending champion AC Milan was given a relatively easy draw for the group stage of the Champions League on Thursday.

updated: September 01, 2007 16:11 IST
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Monte Carlo, Monaco:

Defending champion AC Milan was given a relatively easy draw for the group stage of the Champions League on Thursday, while Manchester United and Chelsea will revisit quarterfinal rivals.

Milan claimed its seventh European title in May with a 2-1 win over Liverpool. The Italian team was drawn into Group D with Benfica, Celtic and Shakhtar Donetsk.

"It's certainly a manageable group," AC Milan organizing director Umberto Gandini said. "Taking everything into account, Milan should be able to qualify."

Manchester United will face AS Roma in Group F, along with Sporting and Dynamo Kiev.

United beat AS Roma 7-1 at Old Trafford in the second leg of last season's quarterfinals - a night which manager Alex Ferguson called his greatest in European soccer.

"We've all wanted revenged ever since that loss," AS Roma team manager Antonio Tempestilli said.

That series was marred by violence during the first leg, with some United fans hurt before the game after attacks from Roma fans, and inside the stadium when Italian riot police fought with spectators.

"They were unacceptable scenes. I believe our fans were blameless," United chief executive David Gill said. "The important thing is to note we will work with UEFA, with Roma, to ensure there is no repeat of that.

"We want our fans, who are fantastic following us around in Europe in their thousands, we want them to be able to go to the game in comfort, in safety."

The Red Devils then lost to AC Milan in the semifinals.

Chelsea and Valencia played in another quarterfinal last season, and the Blues won with 90th-minute goal from Michael Essien in the second leg. The Blues lost in the semifinals to Liverpool on penalty kicks.

Joining them in Group B are Schalke and Rosenborg.

Barcelona, Lyon grouped

FC Barcelona, the 2006 champion, was drawn in Group E with six-time defending French champion Lyon, Stuttgart and Rangers, while five-time champion Liverpool was drawn in Group A alongside 2004 winner FC Porto, Marseille and Besiktas.

"It's clear when you look at some of the other groups that ours could have been easier," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "I am always confident we can qualify but as ever the key will be winning the home games and picking up results away."

Marseille knocked Liverpool out of the 2004 UEFA Cup, and former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse will be ready to show Benitez that he was wrong to sell him to Marseille.

Real Madrid was joined in Group C by Werder Bremen, Lazio and Olympiakos, and Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce were drawn into Group G.

Arsenal, a finalist in 2006, has 1986 champion Steaua Bucharest and Slavia Prague in Group H. Slavia Prague beat four-time champion Ajax in qualifying.

"I don't think any draw is straightforward in Champions League football," Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman said. "They are tough venues to play football in. You've got a very partisan crowd you're playing against. We're quietly confident we've got a very good team. I think we're on the verge of yet another team of outstanding young players."

They'll be joined by either Sevilla or AEK Athens. The two play the second leg of their series on Monday.

The match was originally scheduled to be played Tuesday, but it was postponed because of the death of Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta and the devastating forest fires in Greece. Sevilla, which has won back-to-back UEFA Cup titles, leads 2-0 and also plays AC Milan in the Super Cup on Friday in Monte Carlo.