As champions of Europe, Inter Milan may well have been hoping for an easy passage through to the Champions League knockout phase.
However, Thursday afternoon’s draw in Monaco was not to kind to the Italian giants, dealing them arguably the second toughest opponents behind rivals AC, who have been pitted against Real Madrid, Ajax and Auxerre.
Having said that, it would be a massive shock if Rafa Benitez’s Inter do not escape the group as winners.
After all, the Spanish manager has inherited a talented squad from Jose Mourinho – one that scooped all the awards on offer at Thursday’s draw with Julio Cesar, Maicon, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito claiming the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward gongs respectively.
Despite losing the services of Mourinho, replacement Benitez is an astute tactician and he will have one eye on the final at Wembley in May.
A potential banana skin for the Italians could be second seeds Werder Bremen, who in recent seasons have disposed of Juventus, Milan, Udinese and Inter in European competitions.
Expect goals in every tie featuring the German club, who with the likes of Claudio Pizarro and Aaron Hunt in their ranks have no trouble finding the net. Their downfall could be at the other end however, as Thomas Schaaf’s side tends to push the self-destruct button in defence.
The English representation in Group A comes from Tottenham Hotspur, competing among Europe’s elite for the first time in almost half a century.
Under the stewardship of Harry Redknapp, Spurs had a fantastic league campaign last year and they will be gunning to make an impression on the biggest stage.
Redknapp has a solid squad at his disposal, but they lack the know-how at this level and that could ultimately cost the chance of progression.
Dutch club FC Twente, like Inter, begin this campaign as champions of their country.
The Reds have not only lost a number of key players from their title winning squad over the summer break, but also their manager Steve McClaren who transformed the club during his stint in charge.
New manager Michel Preud’Homme has brought in replacements, but it looks unlikely they will be up to the demands of Champions League football.
Manager: Rafael Benitez
Key Man: Wesley Sneijder
Manager: Thomas Schaaf
Key Man: Aaron Hunt
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Key Man: Rafael Van der Vaart
Manager: Michel Preud’Homme
Key Man: Douglas
1. Inter Milan
2. Werder Bremen
3. Tottenham Hotspur
4. FC Twente