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Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 17:51 UK

Man Utd to face Celtic in Europe

Louis Saha (left) and Shunsuke Nakamura were match-winners the last time the clubs met
Louis Saha (left) and Shunsuke Nakamura were match-winners the last time the clubs met

Champions League holders Manchester United were drawn with Scottish champions Celtic in the group stages of this year's competition.

The British pair will also face Spaniards Villarreal and Danish side Aalborg in Group E.

Chelsea were drawn with Roma, Bordeaux and Romanian minnows CFR Cluj, while Liverpool will meet PSV, Marseille and Atletico Madrid in a tough group.

Arsenal will play Porto, Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev in Group G.

The four English sides were guaranteed to be kept apart after being made top seeds, but Celtic could have faced any one of them after being drawn in the third pot of clubs.

They will get their chance to test themselves against the English champions in two mouth-watering clashes.

The fixtures will pit Celtic manager Gordon Strachan against his one-time boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

The pair met in the Champions League group stages in 2006/07, with Celtic winning 1-0 at home but Manchester United edging the fixture 3-2 at Old Trafford.

"It was a great event the last time we played," said 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.

"The players and the fans will already be looking to that fixture on the calendar."

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."

United star Cristiano Ronaldo was at the draw in Monaco, where he was named Uefa's European Club Footballer of the Year.

Ronaldo scored eight goals in the competition last season and also won the award for the forward of the year.

The other awards went to rivals Chelsea, with Petr Cech (goalkeeper), John Terry (defender) and Frank Lampard (midfielder) all voted the best at their position.

Chelsea, who lost last season's final to United, were the first side out of the hat and look to have been given the easiest task of progressing through to the knockout stages.

Among Chelsea's opponents will be French side Bordeaux, who are managed by former Manchester United defender and World Cup winner with France, Laurent Blanc.

Blues secretary David Barnard said: "It's a mixed bag but any team that reaches the group stages has to be given respect.

"We are totally focused on Champions League, the determination is there and they are completely focused on making the final again this year."

Man Utd celebrate Champions League victory in 2008
Manchester United will begin the defence of their trophy next month
Both Liverpool and Arsenal, who came through qualifying to make the group stages, face difficult opposition if they are to progress to the last 16 of the competition.

The draw means striker Fernando Torres will play against his former club Atletico for the first time since his move to Anfield in the summer of 2007.

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry said: "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 will have to travel to Turkey and Ukraine and director Danny Fiszman said: "One of the big issues for Arsene 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."

All five British clubs will be pleased to have avoided the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus, who were potential opponents in the second pot of teams.

The first set of matches will be played on 16/17 September.

Full Champions League draw:

Group A
CFR Cluj

Group B
Inter Milan
Werder Bremen
Anorthosis Famagusta

Group C
Sporting Lisbon
Shakhtar Donetsk

Group D
PSV Eindhoven
Atletico Madrid

Group E

Group F
Bayern Munich
Steaua Bucharest

Group G
Dynamo Kiev

Group H
Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg
Bate Borisov

Games will be played on the following dates:
16/17 September
30 September/1 October
21/22 October
4/5 November
25/26 November
9/10 December

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see also
Terry aiming for European glory
28 Aug 08 |  Chelsea
Celtic 1-0 Man Utd
21 Nov 06 |  Europe
Man Utd 3-2 Celtic
13 Sep 06 |  Europe
Arsenal 4-0 FC Twente (agg 6-0)
27 Aug 08 |  Europe
Liverpool 1-0 S Liege (1-0 agg)
27 Aug 08 |  Europe

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