Real Madrid will look to be the only club in the history of the competition to win the cup back-to-back but will face stiff competition in their group from the likes of Liverpool, who made it back into the Champions League after a five-year hiatus, Swiss giants FC Basel and Bulgarian title holders PFC Ludogorets. English champions Manchester City face German champions Bayern Munich for the second year running as the teams played each other in the group stages in the previous season. Manchester City will aim to earn a better spot and finish top of group E but should be wary of in-form Italian side AS Roma and Russian side CSKA Moscow.

The 2013/14 runners up Atlético Madrid will face Italian champions Juventus as well as Greek side Olympiacos in group A as the Spaniards hope to get to the final and ensure that the trophy stays in Madrid. Also in group A are Swedish champions Malmo, which makes this group interesting as all the participants won their respective domestic leagues in 2013/14.

Group F is arguably the toughest as big money spenders PSG meet Luis Suárez’s new club Barcelona as well as his former club Dutch champions Ajax. Zlatan Ibrahimovi?, who currently plays for PSG, has represented both Ajax and Barcelona in the competition before. Ajax marketing director Edwin van der Sar said that, “It’s good for the fans to get a tough Champions League group and play the best teams.”

Borussia Dortmund, the 2012/13 finalists, will face Arsenal once again as the teams find themselves in the same group three out of four seasons. Arsenal made it to their 17th consecutive Uefa Champions League group stage after the ten-man side defeated Newcastle1-0 on aggregate in the qualifying round. Group D also consists of former Arsenal player Emmanuel Eboué’s side Galatasary as well as Anderlecht. José Mourinho’s side Chelsea will face German side Schalke, Portuguese side Sporting and Slovenian champions NK Maribor. Chelsea beat Schalke 3-0 last season and if that is anything to go by, they are favourites to win the group and even book a place in the finals now that Spanish striker Diego Costa and Belgian Thibaut Courtois have joined the club, making them a stronger club than they were last season.

French side Monaco find themselves in group C alongside Benfica, Bayern Leverkusen and Zenit Saint Petersburg. Monaco are hoping to progress past the group stage and show that they aren’t suffering from the departures of James Rodríguez to Real Madrid and Radamel Falcao on loan to Manchester United.

The final group, group H, consists of Portuguese side FC Porto, Athletic Bilbao, Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and Belarusian champions FC BATE. Porto will be hoping to improve their home display as they failed to win any of their three home fixtures in this competition last season.

 

Image: up.ac.za

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