The odds were pretty good that Celtic would get drawn against an English team in the Champions League group stages and they ended up with Manchester United. They last met in the group stages in 2006/07, with Celtic winning 1-0 at home but Manchester United edging the return fixture 3-2 at Old Trafford.
“It was a great event the last time we played,” said Manchester United chief executive David Gill. “Both clubs have passionate fans and we’re looking forward to it. “Last time they won (at Celtic) to qualify and we went down to the last game to ensure we went through.
Celtic chairman John Reid added: “It’s fabulous for Celtic fans. There are no easy groups, there are no free passes in Europe. “We’re just proud to be Scotland’s representative in there and to be playing the European champions.”
Also in this group is Spain’s Villarreal and Danish side Aalborg in Group E. If Celtic can show the same home form that they have in previous years, they could qualify from this group ahead of Villarreal.
The two other English teams got much harder draws. Liverpool who scrapped through against Standard Liege Wednesday will meet PSV, Marseille and Atletico Madrid in a tough group. Marseille and Atletico Madrid were amongst the strongest 3rd and 4th seeds in the draw.
Liverpool’s trip to Atletico Madrid will see Liverpool star Fernando Torres return to Madrid to play his former club.
Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry said after the draw: “It’s not easy but the three teams are fairly close by and there’s no challenging trips. There are no easy games – you just take it as it comes. We are just delighted to be in it.”
Arsenal fans will earn some frequent flyer miles in their group which includes Porto, Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev. Arsenal will have to travel to Turkey and Ukraine and director Danny Fiszman said: “”One of the big issues for Arsene Wenger is the distances we have to travel. They are long trips and that’s the most disappointing aspect of the draw. But we’re optimistic and confident we will get to the knockout stages.”
Spanish giants Barcelona were drawn in a relatively easy Group C along with Sporting Lisbon, Basle and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The group winners and runners-up will progress to the first knockout round in the spring, with the final to be staged at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on May 27, 2009
The first set of matches will be played on September 16th and 17th and we are waiting for the full schedule of games to be announced.
Full Champions League draw:
Zenit St Petersburg