Holders Inter face Spurs, Real up against Milan

MONACO, Aug 26, 2010 (AFP) - The Champions League group stage draw held here Thursday pitted titleholders Inter Milan against Tottenham with Real Madrid, now coached by Inter's former boss Jose Mourinho, facing AC Milan.

Inter, now in the care of former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, also have German side Werder Bremen and Dutch champions FC Twente for company in Group A along with Spurs, making their debut in the world's most lucrative club competition.

Real Madrid football team coach Portuguese Jose Mourinho gives a press conference after a training session at Real Madrid's sport City in Madrid on August 23, 2010. AFP PHOTO

Inter president Massimo Moratti was relieved not to have been paired with nine-time winners Real Madrid.

"It's a very tough group with no weak teams," he told the club's official website.

"It's a balanced group and we have to get off to a good start. I am happy that we avoided Real Madrid. I don't know whether it would have been better to face them now or later, and maybe I thought that we were going to get them, but we didn't."

Werder Bremen's director of sport Klaus Allofs admitted Werder Bremen face an uphill task.

"This is a tough group. Inter are the clear favourites, but we are ninth in the UEFA rankings and we want to prove ourselves and finish second in the group."

Group B features last season's semi-finalists Lyon, Schalke, Benfica and Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Three-time European champions Manchester United have a trip across the border to play Scottish giants Rangers, with Spanish outfit Valencia and Bursaspor of Turkey completing Group C.

United and Rangers were drawn together at the same stage in 2003/2004 with United winning 3-0 at home and 1-0 at Ibrox.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who played for Rangers in the 1960s, will be back on familiar territory as Rangers' Ibrox stadium is in the Glasgow district of Govan where the United manager was born.

"(Rangers manager) Walter Smith's already been on the phone, talking about tickets for Old Trafford! Like me, he's really looking forward to our games against each other," Ferguson told United's website.

The 2009 winners Barcelona, one of eight top seeds, were thrown into Group D with Greek outfit Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen, and Russian league winners Rubin Kazan.

Bayern Munich, last season's beaten finalists at Mourinho's new home, the Bernabeu stadium, will have to extricate themselves from Group E where they face Roma, Basel and CFR Cluj.

Bayern coach Louis van Gaal admitted he was relieved at the relatively kind draw.

"It could have been much worse. But we also need to address this group with plenty of concentration," said the Dutchman, who was above all delighted to have been "spared the very long flights".

Chelsea, defeated by United in the Moscow final in 2008, are in Group F with Marseille, the only French team to lift the trophy, Spartak Moscow and Slovakian side Zilina.

Group G looks the toughest of all with three former winners, Real, AC Milan and Ajax.

Real and AC Milan are facing each other at this stage of the competition for the second season in a row.

Completing the cast list for this mini-league are surprise package from France, Auxerre.

The road to the 2011 final at the new Wembley stadium starts next month with four English Premier League sides in the mix, and the last of this quartet Arsenal were put in Group H.

The Gunners face a long trip to Ukraine to play Shakhtar Donetsk, and will also tackle Sporting Braga and Partizan Belgrade.

The rules of the draw are such that none of the English sides can play each other before the quarter-finals.

The first round of group games will take place on September 14 and 15, with the final taking place at Wembley on May 28 2011.

English bookmakers make a Spanish team 11-10 favourites to lift the trophy with an Enlgish side next best in the betting at 2-1.

An all-Spanish final is rated a 7-2 chance, and all-English final 11-2 and an all-Italian finale 33-1.

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