English Premier League Champions Manchester City have been drawn into the group of death in the European Champions League. They face nine-time winners Real Madrid, Dutch powerhouse Ajax and Borussia Dortmund from Germany.
All four teams won their respective premier leagues.
Last season Manchester City were unable to make it out of their bracket, falling in their last game to Napoli. Manager Robert Mancini believes his team of expensive stars are now better prepared for European competition.
Champions League holders Chelsea also have a tough task. The London team begin their defence against Italy’s Serie A champions Juventus. Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and Denmark’s FC Nordsjaelland round out the group. Chelsea last season with aging stars were unlikely winners, playing a defensive game to surprise favorites Barcelona in the semi-finals and German’s Bayern Munich in the finals. Russian owner Roman Abramovich opened the purse strings this summer, buying Belgian Eden Hazard for $48 million, young Brazilian super-star Oscar and Victor Moses from Wigan so expect to see a more powerful team this season.
Manchester United, runners-up to their Manchester neighbor in the Premier League last season face Turkish champs Galatasaray, SC Braga from Portugal and Romania’s FC Cluj. On paper it should be an easy task for the Red Devils to advance, but Sir Alec Ferguson will be wary after his team seriously underperformed last season, failing to get out of what was probably the weakest group,
Arsenal, who qualified in third place in the Premier League have Schalke, the third-placed Bundesliga team, Greek champ Olympiakos and Montpellier, who took league honors in France. The North London team is heavily favored to make the play-off round, probably along with Schalke.
Scottish champions have a tough task ahead of them. They meet Barcelona and then travel to Portugal to play Benfica. Russia’s Spartak Moscow rounds out the group.
What Manchester City players said on Twitter
“Looks like we’re not going to get any easy games again this year but it is certainly a good group for the fans. I’m looking forward already!” – Captain Vincent Kompany
“Group D highlights the fact why it’s called Champions league. #TitleWinnersOnly” – Defender Joleon Lescott
“What a group Real Madrid, Ajax and Dortmund so excited to play those big games.” – Midfielder Samir Nasri
“Very motivated to play the Champions. And even more in @MCFC’s group. Big rivals for a great competition.” –Striker Sergio Augero
Celtic manager Neil Lennon said the draw with Barcelona would be a test for his team, but would add a touch of “real glamour” to their European campaign.
“We are familiar with the three teams, and have recent history with all three under [former manager] Gordon Strachan,” Lennon said. “It’s a tough, tough group but all the teams play good football, so they will be attractive games to watch.”
The group stages run from 18 and 19 September through to 4 and 5 December.
Champions League groups:
Group A: Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris St Germain, Dinamo Zagreb
Group B: Arsenal, Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier
Group C: AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga
Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund
Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, FC Nordsjaelland
Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov
Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic
Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj