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Big guns await Champions League draw

Inter Milan players and family celebrate their victory in last season's Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Inter Milan players and family celebrate their victory in last season's Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Champions League draw being made in Monaco on Thursday
  • 32 sides have qualified for the group stages led by title holders Inter Milan
  • The teams are split into eight groups of four teams with the top two going through
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(CNN) -- Inter Milan will learn their early group opponents as they begin their defense of the Champions League crown when the draw is made in Monaco on Thursday.

Milan, who beat Bayern Munich in last May's final, are in the same top-seeded pot with the Germans.

They are joined by British trio Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, Spanish giants Barcelona, city rivals AC Milan and French side Lyon.

Inter could face Real Madrid, now managed by Jose Mourinho, who led them to their triple Serie A, Champions League, Italian Cup triumph last season before departing to the Bernabeu.

Real are in the second pot as are Spanish rivals Valencia.

Another potentially tricky hurdle might be English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, who are in the third pot of eight.

Tottenham qualified for the Champions League group stages with a thumping 4-0, aggregate 6-3 win, over Young Boys of Berne.

Under Champions League rules they cannot face either of the other three English clubs at the first stage.

Scottish champions Rangers are also in pot three, while the favorites will also want to avoid Portuguese side Braga, who put out La Liga's Sevilla in the result of the third qualifying round this week.

Pot four contains the likes of Russian champions Rubin Kazan and Dutch title winners FC Twente.

The 32 qualified teams are drawn into eight groups of four teams, with the top two from each group going through to the last 16 knockout stages.

Each group will contain a top seed, plus one club each from the second, third and fourth pots.

The opening set of group games will take place on September 14 and 15, with the final scheduled for England's famous Wembley stadium on May 28, 2011.