Sep 092012

Barcelona, as usual seemed to draw an relatively easy group and should qualify without too much difficulty, indeed with the Catalan club always keen to give their youth factory valuable experience, so it may also well help them regain their local Spanish championship from Real Madrid, being able to rest valuable players against much weaker opposition during Champions League weeks. Real Madrid, on the other hand, were handed a tough draw in Monaco, with Jose Mourinho’s side  set to take on Dutch champions Ajax and Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund and English Premier League champions Manchester City in Group D.

Malaga will find it difficult to reach the quarter finals with an experienced group and as newcomers, will have probably the same teething problems as the Citizens did last season.

Valencia, hopefully, will be disputing the leadership of their group with an always difficult Bayern Munich in CL, with their new signing, Javi Martinez, one of this summer’s soap operas, who Bayern paid 40 million euros for. Lille may put up a fight, but Valencia will hope to go through.

Chelsea will meet Serie A champions Juventus in Group E as the Blues look to defend their European crown, with Roberto Di Matteo’s side also braced for demanding trips to Shakhtar Donetsk and Danish side Nordsjælland.

Manchester United were given a seemingly more straightforward draw, with Braga, who knocked Liverpool out of the Europa League in 2011, likely to offer the biggest challenge for top spot in Group H. However, an easy group last year did not save then form being eliminated. The Red Devils can expect a vociferous welcome at the Turk Telecom Arena where they will take on Turkish champions Galatasaray, with Romanian outfit Cluj completing Group H.

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud can look forward to an emotional return to his former employers Montpellier in what could prove a tricky group for Arsène Wenger’s side. The Gunners will take on Schalke, fronted by attacking duo Klass-Jan Hunterlaar and Peru striker Jefferson Farfar, while also facing on Olympiacos for the second successive season in Europe.

Scottish champions Celtic were rewarded for finally ending their four-year wait to qualify for the Champions League group stage with a mouth-watering trip to Camp Nou. Neil Lennon’s side will come up against a familiar opponent in Spartak Moscow’s Aiden McGeady – the winger spent six years at Parkhead – with Portugal’s Benfica completing Group G.

Clive Jagger

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