Premier League clubs should be happy but cautious after Champions League draw

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Monaco. A city with a GDP per capita of over $153,000 - the highest in the world - and a city where some of the most famous figures come to visit for holidays, business trips and film shootings.

There were even more great stars attending the great city on Friday, but for a slightly different occasion - the small matter of the Champions League group stage draw.

Representatives from Europe's best clubs arrived at the Grimaldi Forum to find out which teams their respective clubs would be playing in the group stages of this year's competition. 

Despite them all coming to the same event, there was a plethora of emotions in anticipation of the draw. 

Real Madrid were hoping to become the first team to retain the Champions League since AC Milan in the summer of 1990. Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea were desperate to get their hands back on the famous trophy after triumphs in the past few years, and in the meantime hoping that the luck of the draw was on their side.

Meanwhile, there were entirely contrasting but exciting emotions for the relatively inexperienced group of Malmo, Maribor, BATE Borisov and in particular Bulgarian champions Ludogorets, who qualified in the most extraordinary manner by beating Steaua Bucharest on penalties, with centre-back Cosmin Moti saving two spot-kicks in the shoot-out after keeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off in extra time.


Yet most of the attention, in the UK anyway, was on how kind the draw would be for the four English teams in this year's competition. The result of the draw made Liverpool excited, Chelsea happy, Arsenal wary but Manchester City frustrated.

There were indeed some cracking ties pulled out by special guests Iker Casillas, Fernando Hierro and Karl-Heinz Riedle: Liverpool vs Real Madrid, Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich vs Man City, PSG vs Barcelona and last year's runners up Atlético Madrid vs Serie A champions Juventus.

Manchester City, for the third year running, were drawn a tough group. The Premier League champions face the familiar tasks of Bayern and CSKA Moscow, of whom they played last year, with a long trip to Moscow probably the last thing on manager Manuel Pellegrini's wish list. But it was the final draw of AS Roma, undoubtedly the toughest outfit from Pot 4, that provided the hardest blow on what was already a challenging group for City.

However, with the ominous nature of their impressive squad, strengthened by the summer additions of Fernando, Eliaquim Mangala, Willy Caballero and, more controversially, Frank Lampard, City will certainly back themselves to come out of Group E with flying colours. Whether they can go much further in the competition however, due to their record in previous seasons, is food for thought. Although, with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva in the squad, you wouldn't bet against them having their best season in Europe yet.


Liverpool, making their first appearance in the Champions League since 2009/10, must have feared the worst when their first opponents out of Pot 1 was European champions Real Madrid. However, with their next two opponents turning out to be FC Basel and Ludogorets, the tie against Los Blancos suddenly looked more romantic and exciting.

The Reds will certainly be confident of qualifying from Group B, despite the high profile departure of key man Luis Suarez to Barcelona for £75 million. Basel will be no pushovers, however, and if the Swiss champions can produce performances similar to the two victories against Chelsea in the group stage of last season's competition, they will be more than tricky opponents. A long trip to Bulgaria meanwhile, is something that Brendan Rodgers will have to contend with. Nevertheless, the former Swansea boss will be very content with the task that awaits them.

Arsenal were drawn against Borussia Dortmund for the third time in four seasons, meaning Messrs Arsène Wenger and Jürgen Klopp will be facing each other once again. This fixture has always provided superb entertainment in recent times with the Gunners being victorious in Dortmund last season thanks to Aaron Ramsey's winner and Robert Lewandowski's late strike clinching victory for the German club in the reverse fixture last time out.

But the spotlight is bound to be on the clash of two of the great managers of the modern game. Klopp's respect for Wenger is unquestionable. "He is really something," Klopp mentioned in November 2013. "I love him. He is Sir Arsène Wenger."


Their respective styles of football are less similar however, and as Klopp perfectly put it, Wenger has an "orchestra", "but I like heavy metal". One thing is for sure, the two encounters between these two sides will be well worth watching.

The Westfalenstadion won't be the only ferocious Cauldron that Arsenal will step into this campaign. The prospect of yet another trip to Turkey - but this time against Galatasaray in the 52,000 capacity Türk Telekom Arena - will not have gone down too well with Wenger, who isn't a fan of long voyages in Europe. And if the Gunners' qualifying encounter with Besiktas is anything to go by, it could be more than a potential 'banana skin'.

The final draw of Belgian champions Anderlecht and not Monaco or AS Roma however, will have proved Arsenal fans with much more comfort. Considering Anderlecht's record of failing to reach the knockout phase in their last seven Champions League campaigns, it should be a less tricky prospect for Arsenal, who will feel that their chances of qualifying and finishing top of Group D are much more favorable than last year's group.


Chelsea once again will be very happy with the group that awaits them. Pot 2 opponents Schalke were beaten 3-0 on both occasions by the Blues last year and despite the Germans boasting the exciting talents of Julian Draxler and Kevin-Prince Boateng, as well as the ever dependable Klass-Jan Huntelaar, manager Jose Mourinho will expect a familiar outcome this time out.

Fellow opponents Sporting Lisbon, buoyed by the return of fans favourite Nani, and Maribor - who beat Celtic to qualify - will provide stern tests for the Blues, especially at home.  But Mourinho will certainly be tempted to look beyond the group as he searches for his first Champions League triumph as Chelsea manager.

All four of the groups involving the English teams will be entertaining as ever, with superstars on show such as Aguero, Ozil, Ribery, Hazard, Reus, Bale and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, who's outstanding efforts in Europe where recognised in Monaco as he held off the challenge of Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer to win the coveted 'Best player in Europe' prize.

It is Ronaldo's Real Madrid side however, who - after last year's triumph - will be the team to beat, but with Bayern, Barcelona, Man City, Chelsea and Atletico hot on their heels, the 2014/15 race to Berlin should be compelling viewing.

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