Galatasaray handed tough draw in Champions League

Galatasaray handed tough draw in Champions League

MONACO - Agence France-Presse
Galatasaray handed tough draw in Champions League

board shows the draw for the 2014/2015 European Champions League group stages, on Aug. 28. AFP Photo

After Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, it will be Galatasaray's turn to battle out with Arsenal in the top European competition as the Champions League group stage draw was made in Monaco on Aug. 29. The Gunners have will travel for a third time to Istanbul within a year and will have consecutively faced Turkey's three big football clubs. It will also be the first rematch between the two clubs since the 2000 UEFA Cup final.

2013 finalists Borussia Dortmund and Belgian giants Anderlecht complete the Group D. Galatasaray Chairman Ünal Aysal stressed the presence of many Turkish fans in Germany and Belgium, expressing hope to advance into the next round for the third consecutive year. "The group is tough, but we are strong enough to deal with it," he said.

"I'm looking forward to a very interesting group,"  the Gunners' German star Mesut Özil tweeted, while 
Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc described the group as "balanced." "It promises a lot of excitement," he said.  
Real to face Liverpool

Meanwhile, champions Real Madrid will play five-time former winners Liverpool while fellow Spanish giants Barcelona plucked big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.

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 alos relishing the trip to Merseyside. "Liverpool are an historic club of this great competition," Real director Emilio Butragueno said. "They 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."       

Butragueno 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."               

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 Barça 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.

For 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. In 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. Only 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 simple.

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.

Last 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.