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Celtic star McDonald savours Battle of Britain

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 28 Aug 2008

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Celtic striker Scott McDonald can't wait to savour the Battle of Britain atmosphere after his side were pitted against Manchester United in Thursday's draw for the Champions League group stages.

Gordon Strachan's Scottish champions will face Champions League holders United in Group E and Australian star McDonald is already counting down the days to the first clash.

It will be the second time in three years that the teams have met in Europe but McDonald was a Motherwell player in 2006-07 so this is his first taste of the unique occasion.

“They are going to be fantastic games. The rivalry is there between Scotland and England. We played against them a couple of years ago and got a victory. It promises to be a great atmosphere in both games,” he told Sky Sports News.

“Our home form is very good, it's just our away form that has been very poor. If we can get that right it will go a long way to getting through to the next round.”

Manchester United chief executive David Gill believes United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted with the draw.

“Everyone's pretty pleased,” he said. “We don't have to travel far and the fixtures have fallen nicely. We've got a home game against Villarreal inbetween the games against Liverpool and Chelsea.

“I remember the last game at Celtic distinctly. They beat us to qualify and the atmosphere from their fans was unbelievable. They will be two huge games.”

Celtic's chairman John Reid has already set his sights on meeting United again in the latter stages.

“It's a big one. We seem to make a habit of drawing the European champions,” he said. “We've had Man Utd, AC Milan and Barcelona three years in a row. There's no free passes in Europe but it's great for the fans.

“Wouldn't it be fabulous if we could get through and meet United later on in the competition.”

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry believes Fernando Torres's return to Atletico Madrid will be the centre of attention in League Group D.

Torres moved to Anfield from Atletico last year and enjoyed a superb first season in the Premier League.

Now he gets the chance to show his former club what they lost in a pair of matches that will also send Liverpool's Spanish boss Rafa Benitez back home.

“With our Spanish contingent that will be a couple of very big games and there will be a lot of attention focused on those,” Parry said.

“They've got some very good players and if there's one team in the last pot we didn't want to sign it was them.”

Liverpool also face Marseille, who won at Anfield last season, and Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

“We know all of the teams quite well for different reasons,” Parry said. “It's not easy but there's no challenging trips.”

Chelsea secretary David Barnard claimed his club's stars have made Champions League victory their top priority this season.

The Blues, who lost in the final to United last season, face Roma, Bordeaux and Romanian club CFR Cluj in Group A.

“If you come down to the training ground you will see the boys are totally focused on the Champions League,” Barnard said. “We have always been the bridesmaids. We've been to four semi-finals and a final. We want to go one better this year.”

“It's an interesting draw. A bit of mixed bag. The Romanian team is interesting because I'm not aware of them. We'll have to do our homework.”

Arsenal director Danny Fiszman admitted Arsene Wenger will be unhappy with the draw as it sends the Gunners on two long trips to Fenerbahce in Turkey and Dynamo Kiev in the Ukraine.

Fiszman, whose side also face Porto in Group G, said: “One of the issues for Arsene is the distances we have to travel. They are long trips and he prefers more local matches so we get back a little sooner.

“We are used to it but that is the only disappointment.”

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