MONACO - European champions Chelsea will face former winners Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine and Danish newcomers FC Nordsjaelland at the start of their title defence following The Champions League group stage draw on Thursday, Aug. 30.
An intriguing series of games is in prospect in Group D with
nine-times European champions Real Madrid grouped with English
champions Manchester City, Dutch league winners Ajax Amsterdam
and German champions Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern Munich, who lost to Chelsea in last season’s
Champions League final, will face Valencia, Lille and BATE
Borisov of Belarus in Group F.
Chelsea were placed in a tough group with Juventus, Shakhtar
Donetsk and Nordsjaelland.
“It is not going to be easy. Manchester United thought they
had an easy passage last season and went out early. You cannot
afford to make that mistake,” Chelsea club secretary Dave
Barnard told reporters.
Real director Emilio Butragueno told Spanish television His
team had not had much luck after being drawn with Manchester
City, Ajax and Dortmund.
“It’s a very tough group, every game will be very tight with
a lot of tension,” he said. “We need to prepare very well. City
are a very strong team after an enormous investment in recent
years and they will be a rival of the highest level.”
Bayern Munich, runners-up to Dortmund in the Bundesliga last
season, face Valencia, who they beat on penalties in the 2001
Champions League final, Lille and BATE.
“I see Valencia as our strongest opponents in this group,
but in any case its our duty to reach the quarter-finals,
preferably by winning the group,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm
Barcelona, the strong favourites last year until they lost
to Chelsea in the semi-finals, face their old rivals Benfica,
Spartak Moscow and Celtic.
The rivalry between Barcelona and Benfica goes back to the
early days of European club soccer and the 1961 final when
Benfica beat Barcelona 3-2 in Berne to win the first of their
two European Cups, a game still remembered as a classic.
Barca skipper Andres Iniesta, in Monaco and named as UEFA’s
Best Player in Europe last season, told guests in the
auditorium: “The Champions League is an incredibly difficult
competition to win, and we will respect every side that we have
to face in it.”
Lionel Messi, who scored 73 goals for Barca last season and
was also in Monaco, added: “Sometimes luck helps decides the
Champions League as Chelsea discovered last season. It’s a tough
draw but hopefully we can do better this season than last.”
Manchester United, the three-times European champions who
failed to get past the group stage last season but are back for
a record 18th appearance in the competition, will face Braga,
Galatasaray and CFR Cluj and should progress comfortably
The draw included 11 former European champions as well as
holders Chelsea, 20 teams who competed last season and three
newcomers including Montpellier, who won the French League for
the first time.
They were drawn in the same group as Arsenal, Schalke 04 and
“Arsenal are a European great, Olympiakos’s fans are among
the hottest and Schalke represent the German seriousness,”
Montpellier coach Rene Girard said. “Obviously, we will fight as
hard as we can, we did not do all this for nothing.”
Paris St Germain, who finished as runners-up to Montpellier
and are back in the competition for the first time since
2004-05, will play Porto, Dynamo Kiyv and Dinamo Zagreb.
“The group is quite open, it could have been much more
complicated,” PSG captain Christophe Jallet said. “We escaped
from the big fishes. We have our chances to move through, so we
hope we’ll qualify. We should beware of Porto, they are the
favourites. But there is an opportunity to take.”
The competition starts on Sept. 18-19 with the group stage
ending in the first week of December.
The final is being staged at Wembley for the second time in
three seasons on May 25 as part of the celebrations marking the
150th anniversary of the founding of the English FA, the world’s
oldest, in 1863.