Chelsea to face Juventus in Champions League group

Champions League winner Chelsea will begin the defense of its

title at home to Italian giant Juventus, while Real Madrid will

face Manchester City in the tournament’s toughest group.

Thursday’s draw for the group stage pitched the holders against

a Juventus side that stormed to the Serie A title and was unbeaten

in all competitions last season apart from the Italian Cup final.

Group E also includes Shakhtar Donetsk and Champions League

debutant Nordsjaelland of Denmark.

Madrid has been handed the toughest draw – with three league

champions in Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in Group

D. The Spanish champion beat Ajax 3-0 both home and away in last

season’s competition.

It begins its bid for a record 10th title at home to Premier

League champion City.

”We didn’t have much luck but I’m sure our rivals will think

the same,” Real Madrid director and former playing great Emilio

Butragueno said. ”It’s a very tough group, all of the games are

going to be very close, very competitive, very tense.

”We have to prepare. We’re Real Madrid and we aspire to reach

the end of this competition.”

With all four teams winning their respective leagues last year,

it is no surprise Group D has been pinpointed as the toughest


”This group is a fantastic story. It gives you goose bumps,

cramps your nerves,” Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said. ”Of

course Real and City deal in (financial) sums that we cannot match.

But this is not going to inhibit us.

”We want to be an uncomfortable opponent. We don’t want to

compete in the sense who is prettier, who is bigger, who is more


Juventus should qualify for the knockout stage, along with

Chelsea, which knocked the Serie A side out of the competition in


”We’re happy to be back on this stage,” Juventus general

director Giuseppe Marotta said. ”All in all we’re satisfied with

this group, although we’re full of humility and we’ve got total

respect for our opponents.”

Meanwhile, Nordsjaelland is expected to do little more than make

up the numbers in Group E, but the team is keen to enjoy its time

in the competition.

”It is a great group,” midfielder Mikkel Beckhmann said. ”It

has got to be the second hardest group, but also the second

greatest, so I am pleased. Juventus are my favorite team, and I am

really looking forward to the away match there and the one against

Chelsea. ”

Bayern Munich, last season’s runner-up, is in Group F with

Valencia – which it beat on penalties in the 2011 final – as well

as Lille and BATE Borisov.

”We were in the final last season, we have to advance from the

group stage,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said. ”I see Valencia

as our toughest rival but our duty is to advance and to be first in

the group.”

Four-time winner Barcelona faces Benfica, Spartak Moscow and


”It looks like a footballing group, with historic teams and

teams with different styles,” Barcelona sport director Andoni

Zubizarreta said. ”It might not have the big names like the other

groups but it’s still interesting.”

Manchester United, which failed to clear the group stage last

season, also has a relatively weak group with Braga, Galatasaray

and Cluj.

”We have the experience of playing against Galatasaray in the

past and we will always remember the `Welcome to Hell’ banners,”

United manager Alex Ferguson said. ”So it’s always a difficult

type of match.

”Obviously, we’ve never played Cluj before but, after the

experience of last year, we don’t want to make any stupid errors

this time. We will play our strongest team to make sure we get


Seven-time winner AC Milan was drawn with Zenit St. Petersburg,

Anderlecht and Malaga – another Champions League debutant.

Milan has had a difficult offseason with the departure of

several star players, but should still progress to the knockout


”They are three difficult teams, we have to be careful not to

undervalue these opponents,” Milan director Umberto Gandini said.

”Milan is a squad which needs self-esteem and these kind of

opponents can help it and make it grow.

”They should be faced with the right attitude. We are a

different AC Milan, but we are always AC Milan.”

French champion Montpellier makes its debut in the competition

against Arsenal, Schalke and Olympiakos. Arsenal striker Olivier

Giroud scored 21 goals for Montpellier last season, finishing as

the joint top scorer in the French league.

Montpellier winger Anthony Mounier said: ”The group features

teams with a lot of experience and it won’t be easy. Arsenal are

obviously frightening but we were expecting to come up against big


Arsenal beat Olympiakos 2-1 at the same stage last season before

losing the final group game 3-1. It also met the Greek team in


Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain returns to the Champions League

after an eight-year absence and will play Porto, Dynamo Kiev and

Dinamo Zagreb.

”We will do our best to reach the last 16. It’s a new

experience for the club,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ”Teams

like Porto, Kiev and even Zagreb have a certain amount of

international experience.

”All the matches are special in the Champions League, there is

a lot of motivation, a lot of commitment. I hope we reach the last

16 and why not finish first in the group.”