Olympiakos were seemingly blessed by the football Gods following what appears to be a relatively straight-forward draw for the group stage of the 2009/10 Champions League.
In Group H the reds will meet English Premier League guns Arsenal, Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar and Belgium’s Standard Liege.
Olympiakos will open its campaign at home to AZ on September 16 and will travel on Matchday Two to Arsenal on September 29.
Another positive for the reds is that they meet Arsenal on Matchday Six, the final Matchday, when Arsenal are likely to have already topped the group.
Given Manger’s Arsene Wenger’s penchant for fielding ‘reserve-strength’ teams following qualification, the match represents a likely three points for Olympiakos.
APOEL, in the group stage for the first time in the club’s history, will be given a baptism by fire when they line up in Group D against Spanish side Atletico Madrid, English team Chelsea and former Champions League winners FC Porto of Portugal.
The Cypriots will hope to score their first ever Champions League points when they travel to Atletico Madrid on September 15, Matchday One, while they will host Chelsea on September 30 on the second Matchday.
Champions League holders FC Barcelona will begin their trophy defence in Group F with games against FC Internazionale Milano, the Ukraine’s FC Dynamo Kyiv and Russian side FC Rubin Kazan while some long away trips are looming for Manchester United FC.
The 32 teams were split into eight sections of four with last season’s runners-up United drawn in Group B alongside CSKA Moscow, Besiktas and Wolfsburg, one of eight newcomers to this stage along with Rubin, AZ Alkmaar, Standard de Liege, Unirea Urziceni, Debreceni, Zurich and APOEL.
Real Madrid, who are hoping to reach the final at their home stadium, were second out of the hat in Group C, and will take on AC Milan, Olympique de Marseille and Zurich.
The group-stage fixtures will be played on 15/16 September, 29/30 September, 20/21 October, 3/4 November, 24/25 November and 8/9 December.
The group winners and runners-up will progress to the first knockout round in the spring, with the final to be staged at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Saturday 22 May 2010.
Teams finishing third in each section will transfer to the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.