Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Champions League 2014/15 draw: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City learn group stage fate

Real Madrid goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas lifts the UEFA Champions League Trophy
Real Madrid goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas lifts the UEFA Champions League Trophy

The draw for the group stage of the Champions League has taken place, with the four English teams - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City - being handed tough matches but not being entered into any 'groups of death'.

With the likes of PSG and Borussia Dortmund among the second seeds and Roma and Monaco among the fourth, there were fears that terribly tough looking groups could lie in wait.

Liverpool, on their return to the Champions League for the first time since 2009/10, will face reigning champions Real Madrid in perhaps the pick of the ties in the group stage. Despite drawing the strongest team in the competition, Brendan Rodgers will be hopeful of progressing having also been paired with Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad. Liverpool will also point to the fact they beat the Spanish side 5-0 on aggregate last time they met.

Arsenal will take on German giants Borussia Dortmund - one of the hardest teams they could have been drawn against from Pot 2. The sides met at this stage of the competition last year with the teams beating each other on the others home ground. Arsenal will also play Galatasaray and Anderlecht.

Manchester City will feel unlucky to have been paired with Roma. The Serie A side were among the teams in Pot 4, despite being rated much above that. It also means a quick return to England for former Chelsea defender Ashley Cole. Manuel Pellegrini's side also face German champions Bayern Munich in what will be a great test of their credentials. The other side in their group is CSKA Moscow.

Chelsea have arguably the easiest draw. Jose Mourinho's side, among the favourites for the competition, have been paired with Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon and Maribor.

Barcelona and Paris St Germain should dominate Group F, where they were drawn with Ajax and APOEL from Cyprus, while last season's beaten finalists Atletico Madrid are in Group A with Juventus, Olympiacos and Malmo.

Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco make up Group C while in Group H Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao and Belarus side BATE Borisov will battle it out.

Liverpool's opponents Ludogorets enjoyed a charmed passage to the group stage after the most unlikely of wins over Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest in the play-off.

Defender Cosmin Moti went in goal after keeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off and saved two shoot-out penalties to send his club into the group stage for the first time.

The 29-year-old even scored the first spot-kick himself, while still wearing his gloves, before going in goal to provide more heroics.

Ludogorets had been trailing Steaua 1-0 from the first leg but forced extra-time thanks to a stunning last-minute volley from substitute Wanderson.

FULL DRAW...

  • Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos, Malmo FF
  • Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, LIVERPOOL, Ludogorets Razgrad
  • Group C: Benfica, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco
  • Group D: ARSENAL, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
  • Group E: Bayern Munich, MANCHESTER CITY, CSKA Moscow, Roma
  • Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL
  • Group G: CHELSEA, Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor
  • Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov

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