Thursday, 28 August 2008

[CL] 2008-09 Group Stage Draw

Fiorentina and Juventus returned to the UEFA Champions League this week but the pair have been handed tough groups, while Roma will be satisfied and Inter must be delighted with their opponents in the group stage.

UEFA Champions League DrawInter were the only top seeded Italian side for the draw in Monaco and they reaped the rewards by drawing Germans Werder Bremen, Greeks Panathinaikos and Cypriots Anorthosis Famagusta in Group B.

It is an inviting draw for new coach Jose Mourinho who knows he needs to deliver European Cup success this term, with three consecutive Scudetto's not enough to save Roberto Mancini in the job.

Returning after a two-year absence following the Calciopoli scandal, Juve were met with a testing draw in Group H.

Claudio Ranieri's men secured their place in the group stages with a comfortable preliminary round win against Artmedia Bratislava but must now negotiate Spanish champions Real Madrid, UEFA Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg from Russia and Belarus minnows BATE Borisov.

Roma have avoided holders Manchester United this year but they will be severely tested by last year's other English finalists Chelsea as they look to reach the Champions League final on home soil.

However, Luciano Spalletti's men won't mind seeing French league runners-up Bordeaux and Romanian champions Cluj on their fixture list.

Fiorentina had the most to fear as they were unseeded for the draw and Cesare Prandelli's side, who beat Slavia Prague in the qualifiers, have been handed a real challenge.

The Viola will need to display the grit they showed in last term's UEFA Cup when they take on French champions Lyon, German champions Bayern Munich and Steaua Bucharest from Romania.

The draw with Bayern will also see Luca Toni take on his former club for the first time.

Elsewhere, Manchester United begin the defence of their trophy in Group E against Villarreal, Celtic, and Aalborg.

Barcelona were handed a favourable draw with Sporting Lisbon, FC Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk making up Group B. Liverpool have been joined by PSV Eindhoven, Marseille and Atletico Madrid in Group D, and Arsenal face FC Porto, Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev in Group G.

The group stage kicks off with the first matchday on September 16 and 17.

The group winners and runners-up will progress to the first knockout round in the spring, with the final to be staged at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on 27 May 2009.

Teams finishing third in each section will have the consolation of going into the UEFA Cup Round of 32.

Champions League Draw
[Group A] Chelsea, Roma, Bordeaux, Cluj.
[Group B] Inter, Werder Bremen, Panathinaikos, Anorthosis Famagusta.
[Group C] Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon, Basel, Shakhtar Donetsk.
[Group D] Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven, Marseille, Atletico Madrid.
[Group E] Manchester United, Villarreal, Celtic, AaB Aalborg.
[Group F] Lyon, Bayern Munich, Steaua Bucharest, Fiorentina.
[Group G] Arsenal, Porto, Fenerbahce, Dynamo Kiev.
[Group H] Real Madrid, Juventus, Zenit St Petersburg, BATE Borisov.

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