Monte Carlo - Champions Real Madrid will play five-time former winners Liverpool
while fellow Spanish giants Barcelona plucked big-spending Paris
Saint-Germain as the Champions League group stage draw was made in
Monaco on Thursday.
Real and Liverpool will be confident of
progressing from Group B where debutants Ludogorets of Bulgaria, who
were only formed in 2001 and whose stadium holds just 8 000 fans, and
Swiss outfit Basel, who knocked out Manchester United at this stage
three years ago, await.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers told his
club's website: "Hopefully it was great for the supporters to sit and
watch the draw for the first time in five years.
"To be back in it
again, no matter who we were going to play, it was always going to be
exciting. But to have Real Madrid in your group, the champions last
season, is going to be special.
"I'm already thinking of Anfield on that night."
Real are relishing the trip to Merseyside.
"Liverpool are an historic club of this great competition," Real director Emilio Butragueno said.
are a great club and they have a stadium which is one of the cathedrals
of football, therefore at Anfield they are especially strong.
"The support of their fans is extraordinary and they will be a very dangerous opponent."
added: "It is an additional challenge for our players to be able to
break this tradition of the holders not being able to retain the
trophy."- familiar foe -
Group F sees four-time
winners Barcelona come up against PSG, who recruited Brazilian
centre-back David Luiz from Chelsea in the close season.
He will be meeting a familiar foe in new Barca signing Luis Suarez, the former Liverpool forward.
Four-time former winners Ajax, another of Suarez's previous sides, are alongside the pair as well as Cypriots Apoel.
Another money draw saw 2013 champions Bayern Munich paired with Manchester City, Roma and CSKA Moscow in Group E.
It is the third time in four years that Bayern and City will have faced each other in the group stages.
English Premier League winners City, who failed to progress from the
group stages in two of the last three years, it continues a run of tough
draws at this stage of Europe's premier club competition.
2011/12 they were paired with Bayern and Napoli and missed out on the
knock-out stages after failing to beat the Italians at home.
A year later they finished bottom of a group containing Real, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax as they failed to win a single game.
last year, when they were also thrown in with Bayern, did City manage
to get through the group stages and this time their job will not be
There was a kinder draw, on paper at least, for 2012
champions Chelsea, who poached Germans Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon of
Portugal and Slovenia's Maribor in Group G.
Arsenal, bidding to
reach the knock-out stages for the 12th year in a row, plucked Borussia
Dortmund, the 2013 finalists, in a tough Group D with Galatasaray, who
beat them in the 2000 UEFA Cup final, and Belgian giants Anderlecht.
captain Mikel Arteta tweeted: "Dortmund again and two new and tough
teams. I love playing Champions League. Come on Gunners."
year's runners-up Atletico Madrid, the Spanish champions, pulled Italian
champions Juventus out of the hat in Group A, along with Greeks
Olympiakos, who regularly struggle at this stage, and Swedes Malmo, the
European Cup runners-up from 1979.
Portuguese pair Porto and
Benfica were given manageable draws, the latter getting Ukrainians
Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao of Spain and Belarus representatives
BATE Borisov in Group H.
Benfica, the twice former winners, were
drawn against Russians Zenit St Petersburg, coached by former Porto boss
Andre Villas-Boas, Bayer Leverkusen of Germany and Russian-backed
Monaco in Group C.
The fairytale appearance meanwhile of Bulgarian
minnows Ludogorets in Group B is due in large part thanks to the
heroics of defender Cosmin Moti.
He was forced into goal in the
last minute of extra-time of their play-off second leg 1-1 draw with
Romanians Steaua Bucharest after goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was
dismissed in the final minute.
The game went almost immediately
into penalties where not only did Moti score his side's first spot-kick
but he saved two of the Romanians to send the Bulgarians into the
lucrative group stages.
Collated draw for the 2014/2015 European Champions League group stages made in Monaco on Thursday:
Atletico Madrid (ESP)
Real Madrid (ESP)
Zenit St Petersburg (RUS)
Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Bayern Munich (GER)
Manchester City (ENG)
CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Schalke 04 (GER)
Sporting Lisbon (POR)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Athletic Bilbao (ESP)
BATE Borisov (BLR)