Man City to meet Juventus

MONACO - Big-spending Manchester City, striving to join European football's aristocracy, will face one of its oldest members when they meet Italians Juventus in the group stage of the Europa League following Friday's draw.

Manchester City football administrator Brian Marwood told reporters here: "It's quite daunting to think we will be facing one of the greatest teams ever to have played European football but we are looking forward to the challenge.

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"Everyone knows we have invested in the team and have bought a lot of top-quality players and it's fixtures like the Juventus game that we want to be playing on a regular basis."

Juventus chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc told reporters: "City are a club which has enormous ambitions. It's not a case of investing one year and then nothing. There is a continuity and a clear will shown to make the club a European great."

Salzburg of Austria and Lech Poznan of Poland complete Group A while holders Atletico Madrid will face Bayer Leverkusen, Rosenborg Trondheim and Aris Salonika in Group B.

Five-time European champions Liverpool, who qualified for the competition proper with a 3-1 aggregate win over Trabzonspor in the playoff, will face former European champions Steaua Bucharest, past UEFA Cup winners Napoli and Utrecht in Group K.

The top two teams in each of the 12 groups, which also include former European champions Porto and PSV Eindhoven, advance to the Round of 32 where they will be joined by the eight clubs that finish third in their Champions League groups.

Porto, European champions in 2004 and winners of this competition when it was the UEFA Cup in 2003, will face Besiktas of Turkey, CSKA Sofia and Rapid Vienna.

PSV, European champions in 1988 and also past UEFA Cup winners, will face Sampdoria, Metalist Kharkiv of Ukraine and Debrecen of Hungary.

The competition starts on September 16 with the final in Dublin on May 18 next year.

STANDOUT GAME

The standout match in the draw pits newly-enriched Manchester City and their Italian manager Roberto Mancini against "La Vecchia Signora" (The Old Lady) of Italian football, twice Europan champions Juventus.

It will be their first meeting since 1976/77 when Juventus won a UEFA Cup tie 2-1 on aggregate.

Much has changed at both clubs since then. City owner, Arab billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayan of Abu Dhabi, has spent more than 300 million pounds transforming the club into one capable of challenging Europe's elite.

City have spent more than 120 million pounds during this transfer window alone including 24.0 million on Italian international striker Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan, who was subjected to racist abuse when he played for Inter at Juventus two seasons ago, resulting in sanctions being taken against Juve by the Italian FA.

Despite their long and