Group D pegged group of death in Champions League draw
MONTE CARLO, Monaco (AP) -- Champions League winner Chelsea will begin the defense of its title at home against Italian giant Juventus, while Real Madrid will face Manchester City in the tournament's toughest group.
Thursday's draw for the group stage pitched the holders against a Juventus side that stormed to the Serie A title and was unbeaten in all competitions last season apart from the Italian Cup final. Group E also includes Shakhtar Donetsk and Champions League debutant Nordsjaelland of Denmark.
Madrid has been handed the toughest draw - with three league champions in Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in Group D. The Spanish champion beat Ajax 3-0 both home and away in last season's competition.
It begins its bid for a record 10th title at home against the Premier League champions.
"We didn't have much luck but I'm sure our rivals will think the same," Real Madrid director and former playing great Emilio Butragueno said. "It's a very tough group, all of the games are going to be very close, very competitive, very tense.
"We have to prepare. We're Real Madrid and we aspire to reach the end of this competition."
With all four teams winning their leagues last year, it is no surprise Group D has been pinpointed as the toughest group.
"This group is a fantastic story. It gives you goose bumps, cramps your nerves," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said. "Of course Real and City deal in (financial) sums that we cannot match. But this is not going to inhibit us.
"We want to be an uncomfortable opponent. We don't want to compete in the sense who is prettier, who is bigger, who is more expensive."
Juventus should qualify for the knockout stage, along with Chelsea, which knocked the Serie A side out of the competition in 2009.
"We're happy to be back on this stage," Juventus general director Giuseppe Marotta said. "All in all we're satisfied with this group, although we're full of humility and we've got total respect for our opponents."
Meanwhile, Nordsjaelland is expected to do little more than make up the numbers in Group E.
"It is a great group," midfielder Mikkel Beckhmann said. "It has got to be the second hardest group, but also the second greatest, so I am pleased. Juventus are my favorite team, and I am really looking forward to the away match there and the one against Chelsea. "
Bayern Munich, last season's runner-up, is in Group F with Valencia as well as Lille and BATE Borisov.
Four-time winner Barcelona faces Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Celtic.
"It looks like a footballing group, with historic teams and teams with different styles," Barcelona sport director Andoni Zubizarreta said. "It might not have the big names like the other groups but it's still interesting."
Manchester United, which failed to clear the group stage last season, also has a relatively weak group with Braga, Galatasaray and Cluj.
"We have the experience of playing against Galatasaray in the past and we will always remember the `Welcome to Hell' banners," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "So it's always a difficult type of match.
Seven-time winner AC Milan was drawn with Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht and Malaga - another Champions League debutant.
French champion Montpellier makes its debut in the competition against Arsenal, Schalke and Olympiakos. Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud scored 21 goals for Montpellier last season, finishing as the joint top scorer in the French league.
Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain returns to the Champions League after an eight-year absence and will play Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Dinamo Zagreb.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Ducks fend off Blackhawks for shootout victory
Hurricanes stage surprising rally against Sharks