The UEFA Champions League group stage gets underway this week. Read on for Icons preview of the four English team's groups, as well as Barcelona and Real Madrid's. Will Barca reclaim their title? We can't wait to find out!
Barcelona – Group H – AC Milan, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen
Holders Barcelona kick off their Champions League defence against reigning Serie A champions AC Milan in the standout fixture of the group stages. No side has achieved back to back Champions League wins since Milan in 1990, but this year Barcelona are huge favourites to replicate that feat.
Seven-times Champions League winners Milan have outstanding European pedigree, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic making a return to his old club, the battle for top spot in Group H promises to be an interesting one.
Two minnows make up the rest of the group. Serbia striker Mateja Kezman, formerly of Chelsea, is the biggest name on the books at BATE Borisov, whose home ground holds just 4,500. The Belarusian side reached the group stage in 2008/09, but this is completely unknown territory for Viktoria Plzen. The Czechs saw off Rosenborg and FC Copenhagen in qualifying, however, and could push BATE for 3rd-place Europa League qualification.
Manchester United – Group C – Benfica, Basel, Otelul Galati
Sir Alex Ferguson will have been pleased with this draw. With key players David Luiz and Fabio Coentrao recently departed to Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, Benfica are not as strong as in recent seasons. Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo remains a threat for the Portuguese runners-up, but a rampant Manchester United, with 18 goals in their last four games and Wayne Rooney in irrepressible form, will be confident of overpowering them.
United new boys Ashley Young and Phil Jones will be making their Champions League bows, but Sir Alex's new look young team still has enough experience in its ranks to ensure that the transition is easy.
Swiss Champions Basel are the group's pot three representative, and unknown Romanians Otelul Galati make their debut appearance in the competition having won their first Romanian title last season.
Real Madrid – Group D – Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb
Jose Mourinho was brought to the Bernabeu to overhaul Barcelona both domestically and in Europe. It's a tough ask, but Real Madrid's group draw shouldn't give him too much to worry about.
Although the summer passed without a marquee signing, Real Madrid have the resources to win this group without too much difficulty. Lyon have proved a testing opponent in the past, but depsite being unbeaten in Ligue 1 this season, they may not prove as dangerous as they once were. Eredivisie champions Ajax are capable of playing attractive football and, like Lyon, they will fancy their chances of finishing second in the group. Dinamo Zagreb - the club from which Spurs' Luka Modric and ex-Arsenal man Eduardo da Silva emerged - will be hostile hosts in Croatia, but they would do well to threaten the top two.
Chelsea – Group E – Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, KCR Genk
In Group E Michael Ballack will make a return to Stamford Bridge with Bayer Leverkusen. Chelsea, who have won seven out of nine Champions League openers, will be hoping Fernando Torres can continue to build on his improved form this season, despite being dropped for their game against Sunderland at the weekend.
Unai Emery's Valencia will be their toughest opponent. The Spaniards have started strongly this term, taking six points from their opening two La Liga games. Their biggest threat is former Getafe striker Roberto Soldado, who scored 24 goals in his first season with Valencia. He has notched four in two games this time around, including an opening day hat-trick against Racing Santander. Juan Mata, meanwhile, will be returning to the Mestalla just weeks after departing for West London. Belgian side Genk are the fourth side in the group, meaning Chelsea have avoided any long distance away trips.
Manchester City – Group A – Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Napoli
With four wins from four in the Premier League and a debut Champions League campaign in the offing; these are exciting times for Manchester City. What's more, with six goals for his new club already, £38m signing Sergio Aguero has taken no time at all to settle in. As newcomers to the Champions League, however, they were placed in pot three for the draw, meaning a tricky group was always on the cards.
2009/2010 runners-up Bayern Munich have started the season under new manager Jupp Heynckes in unstoppable form, and their 7-0 demolition of Freiburg at the weekend made it four wins in a row for them too. Towering striker Mario Gomez has smashed an incredible seven goals in his last two games.
Villarreal and Napoli are the other teams in Group A, meaning there will be no easy games for City. For Spanish side Villarreal, former Manchester United striker Guiseppe Rossi continues to attract interest from Europe's top clubs with his excellent scoring record. Napoli's main threat, meanwhile, is Uruguay striker Edison Cavani.
Arsenal – Group F – Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund
For all the negativity that currently surrounds Arsenal, it should be noted that this is their 14th year in a row in the Champions League group stage. Only Real Madrid and Manchester United boast better records.
Group F provides some tricky away games for Arsenal's young squad, but with new signings Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker adding some experience and know-how, the Gunners will be confident of progressing to the knock-out stages.
Arsenal travel to Bundesliga champions Dortmund for their first game, where 19-year-old German prodigy Mario Goetze pulls the strings in midfield, and Neven Subotic and Mads Hummels keep it tight at the back. Didier Deschamps' Marseille will be another difficult away test. The Velodrome is renowned as one of Europe's most intimidating grounds, but as a connoisseur of French football, Arsene Wenger will be aware of the threat posed by L'OM. Greek champions Olympiakos, despite being drawn in pot three, are the weakest team in Group F.