Real Madrid's Champions League opponents assessed

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Real Madrid go into the group stages of the 2015/16 Champions League as slight favourites for Group A, but there's little doubt that Rafa Benitez and co. could've done with an easier passage.

After arch-rivals Barcelona took the crown last season to wrap up an unprecedented second treble, the pressure on Los Blancos to deliver something equally as special is immense.

Lest we forget that Carlo Ancelotti was fired to make way for Benitez, despite having the best win percentage of any Real manager in history and after delivering the longed-for "La Decima" 10th European Cup/Champions League in the season before his departure.


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Let's take a look at who is standing in their way in European football's premier competition...

Paris Saint-Germain

Playing against France's finest isn't quite a recipe for disaster but it's not far off.

Angel Di Maria will be fired up for this one for starters. Zlatan Ibrahimovic too has the opportunity to gain some kind of personal revenge for when a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal ruined the Swede's World Cup dream.

PSG have quality throughout the side and showed against Barcelona in their first meeting of four last season that they are not to be underestimated. Chelsea did so and look what happened.

Already this season the French champions have started off in the best possible way, winning five from five and conceding none in the process.

With Thiago Silva a threat from set pieces, Messrs Verratti and Matuidi shoring up the midfield and Serge Aurier ready to give Marcelo a run for his money, Real have to be decisive when handed the opportunity.

Shakhtar Donetsk

Although not quite the European force they once were - perhaps as a result of playing their home games some 750 miles from their home stadium due to civil war that still rages in Ukraine - Shakhtar will still pose a few questions.

Kiev, where the Ukrainian leg of the tie will be played, isn't the easiest of journeys at the best of times, and Benitez will have hoped to have secured qualification by then.

Mircea Lucescu's side are stocked with players who football connoisseurs will know well. Although now 32, ex-Arsenal man Eduardo has outscored the younger and generally more effective Taison so far in this campaign. Real should therefore be on their guard against either player.

Fred and Bernard are two of eight Brazilians in the side, giving the Ukranian's a samba feel in the middle of the park whilst Darijo Srna and Vyacheslav Shevchuk provide a wealth of experience at the back.

Expect Real to take the points, especially with the first group game coming at the Santiago Bernabeu. But it won't be easy and the notoriously hard-to-please Madridistas need to be behind their team throughout. 

Malmo FF

In the group stages at the expense of Scottish champions Celtic. Age Hareide is a wily old manager and although he has the exponents to spray the ball around, he may opt for an altogether more defensive display when Los Blancos come to town.

Set up to not get beat rather than to win. Such tactics could be considered negative, but plenty of teams in the past have won this way and Malmo could well do without a hammering to knock confidences.

The Swedes have only lost twice at home since last December so Real will have to ensure that going to the Swedbank Stadion is just a formality.

Only six outfield players are above 25 and the squad per se lack experience at the very top level. Real will therefore be confident in taking two wins from two here. 

Real Madrid fans, are you confident of securing passage to the knockout stages? Let us know in the comments box below.

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