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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 20 April, 2018


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FOUR PREMIER LEAGUE sides were in the pot for the Champions League group stages draw.

Manchester City were hoping to avoid a possible ‘group of death’, Arsenal were involved for a 16th straight season and both Manchester United and Chelsea were looking to add to past trophy hauls. Glasgow Celtic were included in Pot 4 after their late, late drama against Shakhter Karagandy.

  • Tough draws for Arsenal and Glasgow Celtic
  • Manchester City paired with the cup holders
  • David Moyes and Jose Mourinho will be pleased with their team’s draws

Leo Messi is in Monaco for the glitzy draw and his bodyguard looks like former Hull City [now Southend] boss Phil Brown.

Here are the eight teams in each of the four pots:

POT 1: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, Porto, Benfica.

POT 2: Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, AC Milan, Schalke, Marseille, CSKA Moscow, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus.

POT 3: Zenit St Petersburg, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Basel, Olympiacos, Galatasaray, Bayer Leverkusen.

POT 4: FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic, Steaua Bucharest, Viktoria Plzen, Real Sociedad, Austria Vienna.

Your hosts for the draw, when the fanfare and slow-mo replays die down, are Pedro Pinto and Melanie Winiger. They welcome former Celtic captain Billy McNeill to the stage. He captained the Scots to the European Cup in 1967:


Here comes one of Portugal’s finest. Luis Figo takes his place on stage ahead of the Pot 1 draw.

“It’s always a dream come true when you have a chance to win this trophy,” said Figo.

Gianni Infantino stresses UEFA’s commitment to a zero tolerance policy towards racism before he cranks up the ball-trundler. Oh, hold up, some more explanations coming. We’re almost ready. Almost.

This glitzy stage is missing one Back to the Future-style blackboard with crazy chalk etchings and lightning bolts striking town clocks.

“We are ready for the draw,” says Infantino.

Pot 1 is first up. All the big hitters involved.

McNeill gets some help from Gianni before he announces Arsenal in Group F.

Poor old Billy is struggling to open the balls but he gets there and Chelsea are next. Winners of the cup, on penalties, in 2012. The Londoners are in Group E.

Real Madrid are the next taxi off the rank. Former Real playmaker Figo reveals they are in Group B.

Bayern Munich, the holders, are up next. They lead the way in Group D. Billy and Gianni are going to split the Scot’s pay-cheque, it has been agreed. Barcelona are drawn in Group H and Benfica get Group C.


Porto are up and they land in Group G. Here comes Manchester United, last but not least, and Group A is their home for the next few months in Europe.

POT 1 is history.

Billy McNeill takes his seat and next up for the drawing of the Pot 2 balls is Johan Cruyff. He won the cup on numerous occasions, as player and coach.

“Football is to enjoy yourself,” says Cruyff. The English sides will be hoping to avoid the big guns, including PSG, and enjoy the draw. The Dutchman opens his first ball like a pro.

Marseille are up first out of POT 2. They are in Group F with Arsenal.

Here are AC Milan. Seven-time champions. Figo pairs the Italians with Barcelona in Group H.

Schalke, aus Deutschland, are landed in Group E with Chelsea.

Here are the big spenders. Paris Saint Germain are out in the open but where will they parachute into? Luis Figo, feeling the pressure, now as he struggles to open his ball. PSG are in Group C with Benfica.

CSKA Moscow are drawn by Cruyff. They get Bayern Munich in Group D.

Atletico Madrid get Group G and Porto. Here comes Juventus and Real and Manchester United are left. They get the Spanish side.


Shakhtar Donetsk are paired with Manchester United in Group A.

Here comes Mr Magic. Michael Owen is in Monaco and ready to crack out some of his famed insight into the European game.

Michael Owen is helping out with POT 3, which contains Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax.

Gianni is some man for the jokes. His first task is to call out FC Basel (or Basle). Luis feeds the Swiss to Chelsea in Group E.

Olympiacos are in play. This is getting serious. The Greeks will have Benfica and PSG to play with in the European crib.

The Turkish side Galatasaray are in Group B with Real and Juventus.

Leverkusen get the Michael Owen treatment — best ball drawer so far — and they get Manchester United in Group A. David Moyes will be liking this.

Zenit St Petersburg get Group G. The English striker-turned-pundit plucks out Ajax of Amsterdam next. They are in with AC Milan and Barcelona. Group of death forming before our very eyes.

Manchester City in Group D with CSKA and Bayern Munich. Last year’s finalists, Dortmund, get Arsenal and Marseille in Group F.

Group F and Group H looking spicy so far. Glasgow Celtic in POT 4 will hope to avoid both of them.

Paulo Sousa looks George Clooney-esque in his dapper grey suit:


Paulo draws Napoli out first and they are in Group F with Arsenal, Marseille and Dortmund. Ouch!

Real Sociedad are in Group A with Manchester United & co.

Alex Ferguson will be punching the arm of a sofa somewhere in New York right now.

Anderlecht get Group C. Glasgow Celtic are drawn in Group H with Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax. That’s gotta sting.

Romanian side Steaua are in Group E with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

FC Copenhagen are dropped into Group B with heavyweights Real and Juventus. Plzen, from the Czech Republic, hover into Group D with Bayern Munich and Man City.

The last team up and out is Austria Vienna. They are in Group G with Porto, Atletico Madrid and Zenit.

Here are your final groups:

A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad.

B: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen.

C: Benfica, PSG, Olympiacos, Anderlecht.

D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, Viktoria Plzen.

E: Chelsea, Schalke, Basel, Steaua.

F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli.

G: Porto, Atletico, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna.

H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Glasgow Celtic.

Journalists in Monaco, get voting for your European-based Footballer of the Year.

Melanie runs a tight ship:

Cristiano Ronaldo is not in Monaco for the awarding of this trophy. Franck Ribery and Leo Messi are. No crazy suit jackets from the Argentine today.

What did you make of that draw? How did your team fare?

Messi’s Dad is a mix of Dustin Hoffman and the little Barca genius himself. Award time…

Franck Ribery wins! ‘Best Player in Europe 2012/13′ is the bauble.

Franck looks as shocked as just about everyone else in the room. In fairness, he did win a hat-load of trophies with Bayern Munich last season.


OK, that is your lot from Monaco. Many of you out there will still be reeling from the worst possible luck your team has ever been dealt. Others (like Chelsea and Manchester United fans) will be pretty pleased with themselves.

About the author:

Patrick McCarry