By Aidan Elder
The contrasting fortunes of the two Manchester clubs were amongst the two biggest talking points after the unnecessarily long-winded Champions League draw in Monaco this afternoon. In between all the backslapping, uncomfortable smiles and inane chatter, the blue and red halves of the city were handed very different assignments.
It’s good news for Manchester United who couldn’t have picked a better draw if Lord Fergie x-rayed each of the balls and plucked them at will. The three-times European Cup winners landed a plum draw and will face Sporting Braga from Portugal, Galatasray from Turkey and Cluj of Romania. After being 10/1 this morning, United were immediately cut to 7/1 for Champions League glory this season.
Roberto Mancini faces a tough task if Manchester City are to avoid another group stage exit. Drawing Real Madrid was bad enough, but the addition of German champions Borussia Dortmund and Dutch giants Ajax makes it a group with few soft touches. After being rated the most likely English team to win it this morning, City are now 10/1.
The defending champions, Chelsea, can be pretty happy with their draw, but it’s tricky enough not to be booking any tickets for the Round of 16 just yet. Shakhtar Donetsk will be difficult opposition, but it’s Italian champions, Juventus that look the main danger. Nordsjaelland of Denmark make up the numbers and the Blues remain 14/1 to make it back to back titles.
Olivier Giroud gets a quick-fire return to Montpellier thanks to the draws. Arsenal’s new recruit will travel to France as part of a Group B schedule that looks quite good for the Gunners. Schalke and Olympiakos won’t roll over and have their bellies tickled, but Arsene Wenger’s men have the quality to progress and they’ve been trimmed to 20/1 from 25/1 to win the competition.
Celtic also get a showdown with a familiar face, but that will be the least of their worries. They take on Aiden McGeady and Spartak Moscow, but it’s the headline act that will attract most attention. Barcelona are the big name and the Scottish champions 2012-16 will have a scrap on their hands trying to beat Benfica and the Russians to the runners-up spot. At 250/1, Celtic weren’t fancied to win it earlier this morning, but they remain 250/1 now, so they’re fancied about as much as they were before the draw. Not much.