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
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
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
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
”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
”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
”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.”