Chelsea to face Juventus in Champions League group

Champions League winner Chelsea will begin the defense of its

title at home against 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 against the

Premier League champions.

”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 leagues last year, it is no

surprise Group D has been pinpointed as the toughest group.

”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.

”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 as well as Lille and BATE Borisov.

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.

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

Anderlecht and Malaga – another Champions League debutant.

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.

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

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

Dinamo Zagreb.