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August 29, 2009

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Spain-Italy ties top Champions draw

EUROPEAN champion Barcelona will quickly renew acquaintances with its former striker Samuel Eto'o when it begins the defense of its trophy at Inter Milan in their opening Champions League match next month.

The draw, made in Monaco, also brought together AC Milan and nine-time European champion Real Madrid in another mouth-watering Italian versus Spanish clash with Brazil forward Kaka facing his old club at his new Bernabeu home on Match Day Three.

Eto'o left Barcelona for Inter in the close season in a swap deal worth 66 million euros (US$94.14 million) with Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving in the opposite direction.

The Cameroon forward scored for Barcelona in the Champions League final of 2006 and last May when it won the trophy for the third time and, just like his Swedish counterpart, will now be looking to put one over on his former teammates.

"It will be emotional having Samuel Eto'o back at the Nou Camp and Ibrahimovic at the San Siro," Barcelona President Joan Laporta told Italian Sky television.

"That's football. It was destiny."

Kaka, the subject of another seismic transfer in the close season when he left Milan to join Real for 67 million euros, will also relish facing his former club.

Kaka won the European Cup with Milan in 2007, but is now set on bringing Real a 10th European title in it own Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, the venue for this season's final on May 22.

Real hosts Milan on October 21 with the return leg in Madrid two weeks later.

Drawn alongside Milan and Real in Group C are former European Cup winner Olympique Marseille, which beat the Italian side in the 1993 final, and FC Zurich, back in the elite competition for the first time in 28 years.

Barcelona and Inter will also face Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine and Russian newcomer Rubin Kazan in Group F.

Manchester United, last season's finalist, faces three clubs for the first time in Group B namely CSKA Moscow, Besiktas and VfL Wolfsburg.

Chelsea, bidding to win the competition for the first time under new coach Carlo Ancelotti -- a previous winner as player and coach with Milan -- will meet Porto, Atletico Madrid and APOEL Nicosia, which is taking part for the first time.

Another intriguing battle will take place in Group A with former winner Bayern Munich taking on Juventus while Girondins Bordeaux and Maccabi Haifa complete the group.

Liverpool will begin its quest for a sixth European title against Olympique Lyon, Fiorentina and Hungary's Debreceni, the only national champion in the quartet.


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