Real Madrid have been drawn alongside five-time European Cup winners Liverpool in the group stages of the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League.
The defending champions are the top seeds in Group B, and face a mouth-watering tie against the English Premier League runners-up who are returning to Europe’s premier club competition after a five-year absence.
Between them they boast a whopping 15 titles, and they also met in the last 16 of the 2008/09 tournament with Rafael Benitez’s Reds emerging as resounding 5-0 aggregate winners.
Swiss side Basel and Bulgarian debutants Ludogorets make up the rest of the group.
Real’s city rivals and last year’s beaten finalists Atletico were also among the top eight seeds for the draw in Monaco, and they have been placed in Group A where they face competition from Serie A champions Juventus.
The La Liga winners were just seconds away from achieving a historic double in May, before Sergio Ramos’ equaliser paved the way for an onslaught in extra-time.
Diego Simeone’s men will be hoping to go one step better this year, though Juve, Greek champions Olympiacos and Swedish side Malmo will have other ideas in the group stages
Atleti beat Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the last campaign, and the Catalan giants will certainly be looking for a huge improvement under Luis Enrique this time around.
It will not be easy for Barca though in Group F, as they face competition from a wealthy and vast-improving Paris Saint-Germain, as well as Ajax and Cypriot side APOEL.
The other Spanish representative in the draw is Athletic Club, who earned their stripes by overcoming Italian heavyweights Napoli in the play-off round.
Despite reaching the UEFA Europa League final in 2011/12, they are making their first appearance amongst Europe’s elite since the 1998/99 season where they bowed out in the first group phase.
Allocated in pot three, they were drawn in Group H alongside Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Belarusian champions BATE Borisov.
Real should face a two-way tussle for top spot with Liverpool but given the way they have strengthened their squad this summer, you would expect them to go through as group winners.
Atletico should join them in the knockout stages, but they will definitely need their A-game in the meetings with Juventus if they are to eclipse them at the top of the group.
Barca should also be in the hat come December, but the clashes with PSG are certainly highlighted as six-pointers. The French champions look to be getting better all the time, and some of the world-class talent in their ranks will undoubtedly cause Barca problems.
Bilbao are back after a 16-year absence so they will just be happy to advance to the last 16. While Porto have been strong in recent years and pose the biggest threat, Shakhtar will be no pushovers with their Brazilian contingent pushing them up into the second pot for this draw.
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