With this season’s Champions League draw throwing up all the usual controversy and debate, RadioTimes.com take a look at the four encounters which may spell trouble for the English hopefuls.
Liverpool v Real Madrid – 22 October 2014
Whether it’s because they’ve won the Champions League more than any other side (that’s nine times by the way) or because they have a player who can score 255 goals in 250 games, nobody ever wants to meet Real Madrid in the group stages. Unfortunately for Reds fans, one glance at Group B’s cruel schedule reveals that Liverpool face the task of playing Los Blancos twice in one fortnight.
Liverpool will undoubtedly be wary of Madrid for their recent and historical prominence in the competition. However, the Spanish giants have traditionally struggled against the five-time winners of Merseyside. Liverpool have won all three of their European encounters with Real and, in their last meeting in 2009, defeated the current champions 4-0 to progress to the quarter finals.
History will, however, act as nothing more than an added incentive for Carlo Ancelloti’s side when the teams line up at Anfield on 22nd October.
Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal – 16 September
Although Borussia Dortmund have lost some of the key players who stunned Real Madrid on their way to the 2013 final, Jurgen Klopp’s side remain a great threat in the Champions League. While not yet giants of the competition, Dortmund have climbed the ranks of European football to become runners up in 2013, losing out to Bayern Munich in an all-German final at Wembley.
Arsenal will rely on the likes of Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez to contribute with goals after Oliver Giroud was ruled out for four months with injury. Giroud scored Arsenal’s only goal when the teams met at the Emirates Stadium last October and, in his absence, the Gunners will need to find alternative ways of breaking through Dortmund’s efficient defence.
Arsenal will hope to repeat last season’s 1-0 victory when they open their UCL campaign at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park stadium on 16th September.
Bayern Munich v Manchester City – 17 September
The draw that all City supporters were dreading sees the Premier League title holders take on the reigning Bundesliga champions in the first week of the Champions League schedule. Despite a remarkable 3-2 win in their last meeting at the Allianz, City finished second to Munich in last season’s group stages. After a sizzling World Cup for Bayern’s star players it’s hard to foresee the outcome of Group E going any other way. That said, Pellegrini will be wary of Russian giants CSKA Moscow stealing the show.
In Brazil, Mario Gotze scored the winning goal in the final, Manuel Neuer picked up the Golden Glove award and Thomas Muller became only the second player in World Cup history to score 5 goals at consecutive tournaments. Throw Arjen Robben into the mix and you have a rather frightening proposition.
City will travel to Munich with fingers crossed and nails bitten as they kick off their European quest for silverware with the sternest of tests on 17th September.
Chelsea v Schalke 04 – 17 September
Having finished third behind Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League, Chelsea should consider themselves extremely fortunate to land a group with only one league winner, Maribor. But when identifying potential banana skins, The Blues will look beyond the Slovenian champions and turn their attention to German side Schalke.
Having progressed from the group stages two years running, Schalke may have felt they deserved a place in Pot 2. But after finishing third in the Bundesliga (and 30 points behind Munich!) they can hardly be considered a superpower of European football.
Schalke almost pipped Chelsea for top spot in Group E last season but, despite the threat of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Julian Draxler remaining very strong, Jose Mourinho won’t lose too much sleep over this one.
Champions League games will be broadcast in the UK on ITV and Sky Sports