Champions League: Tough draw for Arsenal

UPHILL TASK: Jack Wilshere (left) and his Arsenal teammates may have advanced after beating Fenerbahce, but the Gunners have their work cut out in Group F.

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Arsenal were handed a devastating Champions League draw on Thursday when they ended up with some of the brightest attacking sides in Europe.

There wasn't a minnow to be seen in Group F and this will take some doing.

Arsene Wenger's side fought hard through the final furlongs of last season to reel in Tottenham, then had to overcome Fenerbahce in a preliminary round.

This is scant reward for those efforts.

Gunners' fans may have felt a twinge of relief when their second pool opponents were revealed to be Marseille; difficult but by no means impossible.

That relief was short-lived.

Out came last year's runners-up Borussia Dortmund and Rafael Benitez's Napoli.

If there weren't enough reasons already to rapidly reinforce their ranks, this draw shouts their requirements from the rooftops.

Anyone who gets out of this group has nothing to fear elsewhere.

Once again, Manchester City's low co-efficient cost them dearly.

For the third year in a row, they will have to work very hard to get out of their group.

They are doomed to play the holders of the Champions League, Bayern Munich, as well as CSKA Moscow.

There will be lots of familar faces for Bayern boss Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium where Ferran Soriano and Txixi Begiristan now reside.

Perhaps they once thought he was going to join them. They were wrong.

At least some relief arrived for City in the form of Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic.

It didn't get a lot easier for David Moyes.

Manchester United will face the might of Eastern Europe when they play Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Ukrainian giants lost Henrikh Mkhitaryan over the summer to Borussia Dortmund, but they acquired the latest Brazilian hot property, Bernard.

There's also a chance to re-acquaint themselves with Bayer Leverkusen who famously denied Sir Alex Ferguson the chance to contest the Champions League in Glasgow in 2002.

Real Sociedad complete a challenging foursome.

Chelsea had by far the easiest draw, landing the more favourable teams from every pool.

Good fortune

Nothing is certain at this level, of course, and due respect must be paid to all opponents, but the Blues certainly had a stroke of good fortune when they landed Schalke, a team in flux and currently languishing near the bottom of the Bundesliga with just a single point.

They also avoided any of the landmines in the third pot by drawing Basel while Steaua Bucharest should present no serious obstacle.

Jose Mourinho won't admit it, but this was as near to a perfect draw as he could have hoped for.

Celtic performed miracles in qualifying for the second stage last season, but their chances will be rather slimmer this year.

They will face Barcelona again, whom they famously beat last year, as well as Italian giants AC Milan and the Dutch champions Ajax.

Manager Neil Lennon railed against the press for writing his team off last year, but there won't be many people who back his side to progress here.

But this year, more than ever before, it's Arsenal who have been left with the nightmare task.

That is a horrible, horrible group.


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