KEIR RADNEDGE in MONTE CARLO: Benfica face the longest journey ever thrown up by the Champions League after being drawn with newcomers Astana of Kazkhstan in the group stage.
Astana became the first Kazakh club to reach the mini-league round after defeating APOEL of Nicosia 2-1 on aggregate in the playoff round.
Lisbon to Astana is 7,000km, from the western extreme of the European federation’s ‘kingdom’ to a city which represents UEFA’s furthest eastern outpost.
Group C was completed by Atletico de Madrid and Turkey’s Galatasaray.
A balanced draw saw holders Barcelona defending the crown won in June in Berlin against Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov.
Manchester United’s return to the Champions League stage means new signing Memphis Depay has been handed an instant return to his old club PSV Eindhoven whom he left for Old Trafford during the summer. Their Group B was wrapped up by CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg.
Another meeting of old friends will come in Group G with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho returning to Porto with whom he won the Champions League for the first time. The two will be favourites to progress to the knockout stage ahead of Kiev Dynamo and Maccabi Tel-Aviv;
Olympiacos of Greece, controversially allowed into the competition despite matchfixing allegations back home in Greece, were matched in Group F with Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb.
The final will be in the Stadio Meazza, at San Siro, Milan, next May 28.
Group A: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmo;
Group B: PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg;
Group C: Benfica, Atletico de Madrid, Galatasaray, Astana;
Group D: Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Mg;
Group E: Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Roma, BATE Borisov;
Group F: Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb;
Group G: Chelsea, Porto, Kiev Dynamo, Maccabi Tel-Aviv;
Group H: Zenit St Petersburg, Valencia, Lyon, Gent.
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