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José Mourinho dented Porto's chances of retaining the Champions League by leaving them in the summer, and he will hope to inflict an even more severe blow by returning in the autumn after Chelsea drew his former club in Thursday's draw for the group stages of the Champions League.

But if that fixture catches the eye, just as intriguing will be Chelsea's games against CSKA Moscow, who are sponsored by Sibneft, one of the companies owned by Roman Abramovich.

CSKA were derided for their “elephant football” a local term for ponderous and inelegant play in winning the Russian title last season but did for Rangers in the third qualifying round. Paris Saint-Germain, runners-up in France last season, complete Group H.

“European football is something special,” Peter Kenyon, Chelsea's chief executive, said, “but these dimensions add a bit more to each game. You look around before the draw and decide which teams you'd like, and overall we are happy.”

There will be a return of equal magnitude at Celtic Park, which will be visited by Barcelona and Henrik Larsson. “It's a wonderful tie,” Brian Quinn, the Celtic chairman, said, “and it has the added spice of Henrik returning. He's a hero to Celtic and he has a devoted following.”

Celtic beat Barcelona in last season's Uefa Cup but it would take something extraordinary if they were to progress from a group that also includes the Italian champions AC Milan and the rapidly improving Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine.

Arsenal, desperate to turn domestic dominance into European silverware, have an easier task, having been drawn with Panathinaikos, who ended Olympiakos' seven-year stranglehold on the Greek title last season, PSV Eindhoven and Rosenborg. “We're not unhappy,” said board member Danny Fiszman. “But this is the one big trophy we haven't been able to win and to make our mark on the world of football we have to win it.”

Manchester United face the Turkish champions Fenerbahce, who in 1996 became the first side ever to beat them in a European tie at Old Trafford, but they will look at a group that also includes Lyon and Sparta Prague and know they could have fared far worse.

There was good news also for Liverpool. Deportivo la Coruña will be expected to top Group A, but Rafael Benitez's team should have nothing to fear from Monaco, who reached the final last year but have since lost the key figures of Ludovic Giuly and Fernando Morientes, or the declining Olympiakos.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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