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Football: Draw Held for Champions League

The draw has been held for this year's Champions League football (soccer) competition, with defending champion Liverpool in the same group as English League winner and archrival Chelsea.

Liverpool beat Chelsea in the semifinals of last year's Champions League competition, but needed a special exemption to defend its title. Liverpool had to qualify for the tournament because it finished fifth in the English Premiership and only the top four teams are guaranteed berths.

UEFA did not give Liverpool its country protection, which keeps teams from the same nation from being drawn in the same group. Liverpool and Chelsea share Group G with Anderlecht of Belgium and Real Betis of Spain.

Meanwhile, Arsenal of England, Ajax Amsterdam of the Netherlands, Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic and the Swiss club Thun were drawn in Group B.

Italian champion Juventus was drawn in the same group (A) as rival Bayern Munich of Germany, Brugge of Belgium and Rapid Vienna of Austria.

Nine-time champion Real Madrid of Spain was drawn in Group F along with four-time French champions Lyon, Norway's Rosenborg, and Olympiakos of Greece. Manchester United of England will play Villarreal of Spain, Benfica of Portugal and Lille of France in Group D.

Group winners and runners-up qualify for the knock-out stage. The competition kicks off September 13. The Champions League final is scheduled for May 17, 2006 at the Stade de France in Paris.