MONACO • Manchester City could probably be forgiven for leaving the auditorium in Monaco with a stifling sense of deja vu.
This is the fifth season that City have appeared in the Champions League. And in every year but one, they have ended up with the closest there is to a Group of Death, with the serious potential for rigor mortis to set in.
They should be used to it by now. But Manuel Pellegrini, just like Roberto Mancini before him, might also be entitled to cast an envious glance at the way everything has fallen for the other English clubs.
His own team must take on Juventus, last season's runners-up, as well as the Europa League champions, Sevilla, and Borussia Moenchengladbach, who finished third in the Bundesliga.
City captain Vincent Kompany put on a brave face on Twitter.
"Good games against great teams, happy with that," he wrote.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri warned: "Hard and fascinating games but we can do it."
Even in 2013, when the group draw was a fraction kinder than normal, City were lumbered with Bayern Munich.
The season before that, it was Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Real Madrid - or, to put another way, the champions of Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
Last season, there were Bayern, Roma and CSKA Moscow.
One of the City directors, starting to feel like a jinx, deliberately stayed away this year.
It made no difference and the latest draw is reminiscent of City's first season in the competition in 2011-12. Then, they were also pitted against teams from Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga.
Like City, neighbours Manchester United were also in the second pot but their fates could not be more different.
Louis van Gaal's team were arguably the beneficiaries of the new Uefa rules that guarantee a top seed in Pot One to the national champions of the eight highest-rated countries.
It meant that they ended up facing Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven whereas, under the previous system, it could have been Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid.
Memphis Depay returns to face his old side, who have been weakened by Georgino Wijnaldum's move to Newcastle United.
CSKA Moscow present the usual challenges in terms of logistics and weather. But, other than reacquiring Seydou Doumbia after his spell with Roma, they have been quiet on the transfer front.
Wolfsburg, runners-up in the Bundesliga, present a more intriguing hurdle though they may be without Kevin de Bruyne, last season's player of the year in Germany.
Bizarrely, City could be the ones doing United a favour. The Belgian midfielder is set to move to the Etihad Stadium before the transfer window closes on Tuesday.
Arsenal are experts at qualifying for the knockout rounds.
However, behind City, they have the toughest draw of the four English clubs.
Arsene Wenger's team have gone out to Bayern in two of the past three seasons, and have drawn them in Group F.
Their other opponents are Olympiakos and Dynamo Zagreb.
Chelsea should dominate Group G, although former club Porto are always dangerous opponents with a knack of replenishing the team after selling their top players.
Porto, however, are by no means certain to get the better of Dynamo Kiev, having recently sold Alex Sandro, Danilo and Jackson Martinez.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, who are making their first Champions League appearance in a decade, complete the group.
Barcelona's quest to become the first team to retain the European crown began smoothly as Lionel Messi and company were grouped with Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and Bate Borisov in Group E.
The Champions League begins on Sept 15.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS